House prices falling but mortgage rates going up: Is it a good time to buy?

Those with a mortgage are about to feel the pinch yet again with the Reserve Bank hiking the Official Cash rate for the eighth time in a row. 

The move to 3.5 percent was widely expected. The current rate of inflation is 7.3 percent - well above the central bank's target of between 1 and 3 percent. 

More hikes are expected, with ASB Bank expecting the Official Cash Rate to rise to as high as 4.25 percent early next year. 

Not everything is going up, though. Figures show the average price of a home in New Zealand continues to fall. But, that doesn't mean it's getting any easier for first-home buyers. 

Barfoot & Thompson says nearly half of its September sales were under the million dollar mark compared to 30 or 40 percent in previous months.

"I think it's a good sign for first-home buyers that perhaps the house that was over a million dollars is now slightly under a million dollars, and it's a good time to buy," Barfoot & Thompson director Kiri Barfoot told Newshub.

"They've got a lot of choice, a lot more choice than they've had for a lot of time."

Real Estate Institute data shows median house prices have continued to fall from a high of $925,000 dollars last November to $800,000 in August.

But it's getting more expensive to service a mortgage. ASB's one-year fixed term rates have risen from 2.85 percent last October to 5.45 percent now - and are tipped to reach 6.5 percent next year.

The Real Estate Institute says more agents are seeing the return of first-home buyers to the market and the numbers attending open homes are increasing. But it says buyers remain concerned about high interest rates and access to finance.

Lesley Harris from the First Home Buyers Club says there's never a perfect time to buy.

"It all comes down to how much the banks are prepared to lend and how much people can afford to borrow," Harris told Newshub. 

"Certainly at the moment, one of the biggest challenges with the soaring cost of living and rental prices, etcetera, is it's just so much harder for people to actually save for that deposit."

With prices coming down but interest rates going up, the Kiwi dream of owning a home  is still far from becoming a reality, for many.