Housing crisis: All-time price hikes for Wellington and Canterbury, but hope on horizon

Asking prices for properties in Wellington and Canterbury have had their biggest jumps of all-time, hitting new record highs along with much of the rest of the country. 

But whether that continues through spring, usually a booming time for property sales, is in doubt after the Reserve Bank hiked interest rates for the first time in seven years earlier this week

Trade Me Property's average asking price in Wellington City is now $982,900, just shy of the $1 million mark, while "eye-watering" increases in September saw the region-wide average hit $895,000. 

"Masterton saw a 32 percent jump in average asking price to reach a record-breaking $633,950, while house prices in the Kapiti Coast and Upper Hutt rose 31 percent to a new high of $914,000 and $854,600 respectively," said Trade Me Property sales director Gavin Lloyd. 

"Following the August lockdown, house prices in Wellington charged on in September. In fact, when compared with August the average asking price in Wellington City increased almost $40,000."

But with more properties coming onto the market - up 2 percent on September last year - and the official cash rate (OCR) moving from 0.25 to 0.5 percent - some relief for would-be buyers might be on the way. 

"Spring is always a busy time for the property market," said Lloyd. "It's when the flowers are blooming, the sun starts shining again and properties are generally looking their best. 

"However, with the Reserve Bank hiking the OCR earlier this week, and many banks increasing their interest rates in response, this could take some heat out of the market which will come as welcomed news for first-home buyers."

Canterbury's increase in asking prices of 23 percent in a year was an all-time record, Lloyd said, now at $626,400. Christchurch prices rose 20 percent, now averaging $628,450. It appears Aucklanders, driven out by typical asking prices well in excess of $1 million, are looking further and further for something they can afford. 

"We're hearing anecdotally from a lot of agents in Canterbury that Kiwis from Wellington and Auckland are considering making the move to areas like Christchurch where they can get more bang for their buck."

The state of the property market in September 2021.
The state of the property market in September 2021. Photo credit: Trade Me

Nine other regions of the 15 Trade Me tracks also hit record highs. Leading the way was Manawatu/Whanganui, up 33 percent to $606,200 and Hawke's Bay, up 30 percent to $778,400. 

Auckland prices went up 16 percent to an average $1,126,350.

And if you think you can avoid paying too much by opting for something smaller, think again.

"Small houses (1-2 bedrooms) saw the biggest increase in price of any house size in New Zealand, reaching a new record of $660,600 in September," said Lloyd.

House prices have skyrocketed since the Reserve Bank dropped the OCR to 0.25 percent in March 2020, responding to the economic threat posed by COVID-19. 

Housing in New Zealand has never been less affordable when compared to household incomes. Historically, house prices have been considered affordable if they're no more than three times the average household income - nationwide they're now 8.7 times higher, according to data collated by interest.co.nz. 

Not a single region in Trade Me's data can be considered affordable by this metric, used by the World Bank to rate affordability. The closest - Southland - has an average asking price of $457,600, making it on the border of 'seriously' and 'severely' unaffordable.