First-home buyers fear missing out as mortgage backlog stalls applications before LVR restrictions return

Hopeful first-home buyers are worried their mortgage applications won't be approved before lending restrictions return - meaning they'll have to stump up twice as much cash.

A record number of mortgage applications has caused a backlog at banks ahead of the March deadline.

Newshub can reveal one major bank is so overwhelmed it's stopped accepting them online.

The Al-Shaltoni family are one of thousands hoping to own their first home.

"It's very stressful, it's a challenging process," says Tameem Al-Shaltoni.

Tameem and his wife Rana applied for a mortgage with six different banks - three never even bothered to respond.

"When you contact a bank you expect a response with some sort of reasonable time frame, but if it's not there it's quite disappointing," Tameem says.

They applied with KiwiBank three weeks ago and the long wait for a reply meant they were cutting it close to the Reserve Bank's March 1 deadline - where buyers will be required to stump up 20 percent deposits.

"We're anxious that if we don't buy now, we'll never be able to buy really," Tameem says.

All of the major banks say demand for home loans is through the roof. BNZ is experiencing record volumes, forcing it to prioritise existing customers.

The country's biggest lender, ANZ, told Newshub it's had to "temporarily pause online applications for new home loans" - it's only accepting them over the phone or at a branch. 

"Every bank across the industry has struggled to catch up with the demand, which clearly nobody predicted, so that has been a challenge, across the market, people have just been caught," says NZ Home Loans CEO Aaron Skilton.

Newshub understands some banks are desperately moving more staff into their home loan teams to deals with the surge.

But the delays have seen some buyers turn away from banks, and instead borrow from in-between lenders - like New Zealand Home Loans.

Its boss says it's busier than ever and buyers are stressed.

"Yes it is tough and it can be difficult, and turnaround times can be a challenge, but you will get there in the end," Skilton says.

There is some good news for the Al-Shaltoni family though. Within an hour of Newshub calling Kiwibank to ask about the delay in their mortgage application they were suddenly told it was approved. But there are plenty of other Kiwi still stuck in the queue, getting more nervous by the day.

And when prices are rising this fast, patience could be costly.