Mixed messages in Auckland housing data

Phil Twyford (Getty)
Phil Twyford (Getty)

There is conflicting information out this week on the direction the Auckland property prices are heading.

The Massey University Home Affordability Report suggests the Reserve Bank's efforts to cool the market are starting to kick in, but figures from the city's biggest real estate company beg to differ.

Barfoot & Thompson says the median price in March was $798,000, up 8.1 percent on February and 12 percent higher than a year ago.

But Massey says properties are now 3.1 percent more affordable than last year -- unlikely to be the result of growing incomes alone.

The contradictory figures show Massey's findings are just a "statistical blip", says property investor and financial advisor Olly Newland.

"Affordability is as far away from first-home buyers as ever," he told Newshub.

"You ask people who are trying to buy a house in the Auckland market whether the so-called 3 percent difference is going to make any difference to them."

The time period covered by the Massey report ended in February, which did see average sale prices in Auckland briefly dip from a record December high.

Report author Dr Susan Flint-Hartle says the effect of predicted interest rate cuts "remains to be seen"; Mr Newland is convinced they'll only make affordability worse.

He wants the Reserve Bank to rethink its strategy, saying its current efforts to reign in prices have only had the effect of hurting first-home buyers and pushing prices up in markets outside of Auckland.

"Once you're not a first-home buyer it doesn't matter anymore -- prices go up for the house you're sitting in, and the next house you buy the price is higher, you're just swapping equity. It doesn't matter. It's just the first-home buyer who's getting hard-done by."

Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford isn't even sure the Reserve Bank can be thanked for any perceived improvement in affordability.

"No one really knows what policies are having what effects because there are so many variables," says Mr Twyford, suggesting the Chinese government's crackdown on its citizens moving money out of the country is likely to be having a bigger effect.

Homeowners in places outside of Auckland should be wary of any capital gains they're making, Mr Twyford calling it "fool's gold".

"It's making these regions' housing quite unaffordable for first-home buyers, making it more difficult for people to get into the housing market. That is simply going to increase this decline in home ownership that we're seeing."

Kiwi home ownership peaked in 1991, the year of then-Finance Minister Ruth Richardson's 'Mother of all Budgets', and has been declining ever since.