One in four homes purchased by first-home buyers

Home affordability in Queenstown (pictured yesterday) and Wanaka remains the worst in the country...
One in every four houses sold in New Zealand last month went to a first-time buyer - a level not seen since prior to the Global Financial Crisis. Photo: Joshua Walton
First-home buyers are increasingly jumping back into the housing market as near-record low interest rates and predicted price falls help them rekindle the Kiwi dream of home ownership, experts say.

One in every four houses sold in New Zealand last month went to a first-time buyer - a level not seen since prior to the Global Financial Crisis in 2006-07, analysts CoreLogic reports.

It means first-home buyers have now snapped up an increasing share of houses in each year since 2014, housing data showed.

Many are being encouraged back into the market by stagnant house prices and plummeting interest rates.

HSBC's current low rate of 3.99% on a 1-year fixed term is at a level likely not seen since the 1960s, Loan Market mortgage advisor Bruce Patten says.

"They are the lowest rates we've seen for the longest time," he said.

But if first-home buyers have finally found a way back into the market after being locked out by a near-decade run of skyrocketing prices, it seems their good fortune has come at the cost of investors.

Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens was among experts tipping Auckland prices to fall as new Government restrictions stung investors and forced some out of the market.

He predicted house prices to drop by about 2% per annum over the next few years as most foreign buyers were barred from the housing market and new taxes targeted investors.

Stephens said investors had long enjoyed an advantage over first-home buyers by being able to write off more of their property expenses as tax deductions.

The new restrictions would now "erode but not completely destroy this large tax advantage", he said.

This meant first-home buyers could now outbid more property investors, who were "no longer willing to pay so much" for properties that may not make speedy capital gains or earn high enough yields through rents.

CoreLogic NZ head of research Nick Goodall said investors had surprised most pundits by still being active in the property market recently, but agreed first-home buyers were increasingly busy.

Evidence for this lay not only in the number of sales made to first-home buyers, but also in the 34,343 people who withdrew money from their KiwiSaver fund in the 12 months to June to put towards their first home purchase, he said.

While acknowledging that high house prices remained a significant barrier to first-home buyers, Loan Market's Patten still agreed the current market best suited them.

"Although house prices aren't ideal, they aren't likely to become significantly cheaper," he said.

"And young people can afford to stretch themselves because they are just starting their careers and should expect to see pay increases.

"Whereas someone in their late 40s-early 50s is probably in a job where their income is going to be fairly stable for the foreseeable future and they may not be as willing to take on a big mortgage."

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