Auckland housing: Is now the time to buy?

Is now the time to buy a house in Auckland?

First-home buyers, looking to get a foot in the door, could be in with a shot, after a new report shows prices plunging.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) study shows prices have fallen by 3.2 percent year-on-year to $850,000 - the largest decline since December 2010.

REINZ CEO Bindi Norwell says this will improve the prospects of young buyers.

"With the Unitary Plan now in full force, we're seeing more apartments, units and terraced homes come onto the Auckland market, which will absolutely make it easier for first-time buyers to get a foot on the property ladder," she says.

"We're already seeing an increase in inventory - the number of properties available to buy - across much of the country and we expect this to lift again, as we come into summer, when activity traditionally picks up.

"Anecdotally, we're already hearing from our members that activity has increased in November, so we may see an uplift in volumes going forward."

The fall has been driven down by the large number of apartments being sold in the old Auckland City boundary.

REINZ says Kiwis should keep an open mind, and be willing to consider starting off in an apartment or government-built home.

"The reality is that apartments, units and terraced housing are likely to be more affordable properties as a first home," Ms Norwell says.

"One other option to be aware of is that the Government's KiwiBuild programme has outlined that a portion of the properties built in the future will include affordable homes, so this is likely to be a great option for first-time buyers."

While the Reserve Bank introduced lending restrictions to help cool Auckland's housing market, it has also been blamed for creating deposit levels above what first-home buyers can save for.

REINZ is looking forward to the bank reviewing these.

"REINZ has been calling for LVRs to be reviewed for first-time buyers for a few months, especially now our data has shown that volumes have declined," Ms Norwell points out.

"REINZ welcomes the RBNZ's comments that an announcement will be made shortly, with regards to reviewing the LVR restrictions."