House price confidence still high

Nick Tuffley
Nick Tuffley
House price expectations remain elevated in the latest ASB Housing Confidence Survey with a net 47% of respondents expecting house prices will increase.

The survey results, to the three months ended January, were a slight fall from the preceding quarter's survey but was still a high reading, ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said.

''The housing market remains tight with the level of house listings remaining well below demand. The resulting imbalance will continue to place upward pressure on house prices.''

It was understandable some respondents were expecting some moderation after the prices recorded over the last year or so, he said. It was also in line with the view house price growth would be slower this year than last.

Expectations of house price gains were still the strongest in Canterbury although not quite as bullish as a year ago.

A net 62% of Canterbury respondents expected house prices would increase. The figure was as high as 86% in early surveys.

North Islanders, including Aucklanders, still expected gains but the net percentage expecting prices would lift had pulled back, Mr Tuffley said.

It appeared Aucklanders, and more broadly North Islanders, were more cautious than those in the South Island.

House prices were higher in Auckland than elsewhere, so there might be some caution about how much more growth was possible. A net 48% of Auckland respondents expected prices would increase, down from 60% in the previous quarter.

For the rest of the North Island, a more conservative 40% of respondents expected price gains compared to 53% previously, Mr Tuffley said.

Across Cook Strait the difference was significant. A net 62% expected house prices would lift in the three months to January compared to 65% previously.

For the rest of the South Island, the figure was a net 58% expecting gains, unchanged from the previous quarter.

''An increase in the official cash rate [OCR] at the Reserve Bank's March 13 meeting seems a near certainty - barring an external shock or a marked and sudden deterioration in New Zealand's prospects.''

The Reserve Bank gave a strong hint in January in referring to the need to start returning interest rates to more normal levels ''soon'', he said.

ASB expected a 0.25% rise in the OCR in March, taking it to 2.5%, followed by a gradual series of 0.25% rate hikes to take the OCR to 4% by late 2015.

''The Reserve Bank's message that higher rates are coming has been getting through loud and clear.''

Expectations of higher rates continued to lift modestly in the latest survey, Mr Tuffley said. There was also an adaptive aspect to the responses as longer-term mortgage rates had been lifting already in anticipation of Reserve Bank rate hikes.

Once the OCR was lifted, the floating rate typically went up in lockstep with each increase. Long-term interest rates were also influenced by developments in global interest rate markets, particularly in the United States Treasury market where rates had been living over the past year.

The combination of high house prices and expectations of higher interest rates was not great for house affordability. The mix had seen a further deterioration in confidence and even more people thinking now was not a good time to buy, he said.

A net 9% of respondents believed it was a bad time to buy, a deterioration from the previous survey.

Views on the merit of buying a house tended to reflect the degree of balance in the housing market, with a tight market seen as a poor time to be buying, Mr Tuffley said.


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