Pressure mounts on Government as house prices forecast to leap 15 percent this year

If you're a first home buyer trying to break into the country's overheated market, you might be out of luck this year.

Westpac economists are forecasting a huge 15 percent increase in national house prices this year. That's on top of last year's massive 11 percent growth.

It would mean a million-dollar house - the average home in Auckland - would be worth an extra $150,000 by Christmas. 

The Government is expected to announce its plan to rein in house price growth soon, but, according to the experts, there's little they can actually do.

"We're experiencing the fastest growth in house prices we've seen for decades. We're looking at 15 percent house price growth over 2021," says Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens.

Westpac bank's team believes record-low interest rates will keep the floodgates open for first home buyers, but the prospect of double-digit growth again this year is causing concern. 

"Pretty awful, for people like us," said one Kiwi.

"Yeah, just way too unaffordable," said another.

Even existing homeowners want price growth to slow. 

"It's not all about us, if society is going to break down because we get a big fat bonus in capital gain, then that's not good for society," says homeowner Tony Beals.

Pressure is mounting on the Government to get growth under control. 

"It's gonna accelerate that unaffordability problem and the gap between the haves and the have-nots and I don't think the Government can stand idly by and let that happen," says Cameron Bagrie, the managing director of Bagrie Economics.

The house price horse has already bolted, leaving few options for the Government to reign the market in. They've axed the idea of a capital gains tax, which would have made a dent, leaving just minor options like making people hold onto homes for longer or increasing first home grants.

But there is one little-known-about lever they could yet pull, a debt-to-income cap. 

"The first and immediate lever that I'd be pulling pretty quickly would giving the Reserve Bank a  debt-to-income instrument," says Bagrie.

Effectively that would mean mortgages would be priced against a salary. A cap of five would see someone earning $100,000 limited to a loan of $500,000.

It exists in the UK and Ireland, while Norway used it temporarily. But there's a catch.

"Debt-to-income instruments make life tougher for first home buyers, so tough choices ahead," Bagrie says.

Toughness is required to regain some control over this frenzied market.