'Encouraging': First home buyers take biggest share of new mortgages in June

Real estate agents say first home buyers are dominating the housing market.
Real estate agents say first home buyers are dominating the housing market. Photo credit: Getty

By Eva Corlett of RNZ

First home buyers took out a bigger share of new mortgages than property investors in June, Reserve Bank figures show, the first time this has happened.

Real estate agents say the two groups are dominating the housing market post-lockdown, but existing homeowners are sitting on their hands.

Dale is about to become a homeowner for the first time, providing nothing scuppers his agreement.

"It feels like the market is so volatile at the moment," he said.

"It's like cryptocurrency - it's really good one day and really bad the next day.

"Between when we put the offer in, and now, the CV has gone up a little bit, so I'm sort of just holding my breath and waiting until [the owner] signs the sale and purchase agreement.

"Then we can pop some champagne."

Dale's not the only one showing a strong interest in buying now.

"We had a look at one place in deep West Auckland. There were 40 people turning up as we were turning up, and another 40 when we were leaving," he said.

"It seems like the market is pretty hot at the moment."

He said many of those at the viewings were younger people.

Tommy's Real Estate in Wellington is seeing houses get multiple offers on them, many of those from people looking to buy their first home.

Sales consultant Nicki Cruickshank said with fewer than half the usual number of listings, buyer demand is strong.

"Instead of getting three or four offers on a place, as we were in March, we're getting seven to 10 on properties at the moment. It's encouraging and promising, but I don't know how long it will last," she said.

Investors are also snapping up properties, she said, including some town-house development selling out to investors.

"People are looking for something that's low maintenance and a better return than putting your money in the bank with a return of 1.5 percent."

With improved weather in Wellington in the past week, more would-be sellers are seeking appraisals for their homes and that could increase the stock for sale over spring, she said.

Corelogic senior property economist Kelvin Davidson said house sales have rebounded across the country since the lockdown, but that may change.

"The big thing we're wary of is what will happen on the first of September when the wage subsidy ends. Even if things do look okay to people now, and do look normal, we've got to remember there are risks out there and the end of the year could be looking weaker."

Latest Reserve Bank figures show first home buyers accounted for more than 20 percent of new mortgages, compared with roughly 19 percent for investors.

But Davidson said banks will be cautious in the coming months, until the effects of the pandemic become clearer.

"They are paying a lot of attention to job security, income security and ability to pay that mortgage."

He said that kept the market on a stable footing but could mean that, as unemployment rises, lending would not be as strong. He also warns that first home buyers shouldn't hold out hopes for a major slump in prices.

"Our prediction is house prices may be down 5 percent. So this window of buying opportunity may be shorter and shallower than it has been in the past," he said.

Rentals are filling up again after many were left vacant following the lockdown. Crockers Property chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said rentals had gone back to business as usual with the exception of inner city apartments.

"A number of properties that were previously in the short term, overnight and Airbnb market are coming back into long term rental opportunities."

She said typically those apartments are filled with more transient tenants, including students and people that have just moved to the city.

O'Sullivan expects the thousands of New Zealanders returning home may begin filling vacant rentals in the coming months.

RNZ