'Still very tough out there' despite slower house price growth - First Home Buyers Club

Buying a house will still be tough for many despite new signs the property market is cooling, The First Home Buyers Club says.

The latest data from CoreLogic released on Tuesday showed house price growth was at its lowest point in 19 months. 

Nationally, prices were down 0.7 percent in March - with noticeable dips in Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington and Dunedin. 

Only a few centres moved in the opposite direction - including Tauranga and parts of Auckland.

Experts put the cooling down to a mix of higher interest rates, stricter lending rules and more cautious households.

"The impact of tightening credit and increasing interest rates have reduced the pool of buyers who are willing and able to pay recent prices and this has led to a reduced number of property transactions," CoreLogic head of research Nick Goodall said on Tuesday.

Despite this, The First Home Buyers Club director Lesley Harris said it's "still very, very tough out there".

She told Newshub Late low-deposit lending was still very hard to come by.

"It's still tough for people to actually get their lending across the line.

"First home buyers have got really quite high debt levels of around $9000 per couple - so it's not easy but certainly, at the moment, we're seeing some softening of the market. We've still got some, historically, pretty low-interest rates which are also a positive," Harris said on Tuesday.

That slight softening of the market has created one silver lining for first home buyers. Harris said it's led to more properties being sold at fixed prices or by negotiations as opposed to auctions.

Fixed prices or negotiations don't have the same added costs as auctions, making them more affordable for first home buyers, she said.

"People with a fixed price or a 'by negotiation' - a buyer's got the opportunity to get in there if they're actually ready to go… a first home buyer doesn't have another house to sell so often they can actually negotiate a really good deal."

Harris's advice to first home buyers was to look at their debt levels before trying to hit the market.

"That debt is potentially going to cut you off from about $75,000 worth of lending if it's about $9000 debt - so you've got to get rid of that debt first," she said.