Is now a good time to buy a house?

Confidence in the Auckland housing market is the lowest in eight years.
Confidence in the Auckland housing market is the lowest in eight years. Photo credit: File

Aucklanders have almost no confidence in the housing market, but real estate companies say it's an ideal time to buy.

So who's right?

According to the latest ASB Housing Confidence Survey released on Thursday, confidence in the Auckland housing market is the lowest it's been in eight years.

However national manager of Century 21, Geoff Barnett, says now is a good time for Aucklanders to buy property.

"Many could be pleasantly surprised when comparing their weekly rent commitment to mortgage repayments, and realise it may be the best time for them to buy in recent years if they can come up with a deposit," he said in a media release.

According to Mr Barnett, interest rates will remain low and with more houses coming onto the market, buyers have more choice now than at any other point in the last year.

"It's arguably a great time to get into the market," says Mr Barnett. 

Barfoot & Thompson agrees with Century 21, although spokesperson Peter Thompson also told Newshub it's "always a good time to buy".

He says policies from the new Government mean greater certainty for Auckland home buyers, and that spring always brings new real estate opportunities.

But economist Shamubeel Eaqub says don't believe the hype.

"When sales are falling you'll inevitably see real estate agents saying it's a great time to buy a house, because it needs to be either a buyer's market or a seller's market or they're not making money."

He told Newshub that while there's a lot of stock in the market, individual house prices haven't fallen much.

"It's all well and good for people to say it's a great time to buy a house, but I don't think it's possible for most young people to have a deposit that's big enough and still be able to get a mortgage," he says.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub.
Economist Shamubeel Eaqub. Photo credit: The AM Show

"It is a good time to buy if you've got the money, but it's always a good time to buy a house if you've got money."

Auckland house prices have fallen for the first time in 6 years, but three months ago the expectation prices would keep rising was at 32 percent. 

Mr Eaqub says our expectations for the market are "entirely backwards-looking".

"Right now we know that over the last 12 months house sales have been falling and things are really slow, house prices are now going to fall which is exactly what you'd expect. Usually with a lag of about six to 12 months, we tend to see what's happening in sales turning up in prices."

"That's just how the human psyche works. If you can see lots of your neighbours buying and selling houses, and all the reports say things are going well, you'll expect that to happen."

He also says first home buyers shouldn't get their hopes up for the Reserve Bank to relax the loan-to-value ratio restrictions, currently a 20 percent deposit.

"If you think about a three percent house price fall, that's really not enough for [the Reserve Bank] to be comfortable."

"It's also a bit of a falsehood that's been floating around the markets that the LVR restrictions have had such an impact," he says.

"The biggest driver of the slow in the housing market is because banks are less willing to lend money."