House prices in New Zealand too high for buyers to get Government's First Home Grant - data

Newshub can reveal the Government's big move to give first-home buyers more money towards house deposits may not work. 

The Government increased the price caps for properties based on the average house price at the lower end of the market. But in the vast majority of our major centres, the price caps are still not high enough.

First-home buyers can get $5000 free from the Government to buy an existing home if they earn under $95,000 a year. A couple can get $5000 each if they collectively earn under $150,000. The grants are higher if you're building a new house. 

But there's also a price cap on the property you can buy. It varies based on region - for instance in Auckland, an existing house can be up to $625,000, in Wellington $550,000, and Dunedin $425,000. 

"I believe they've been set in line with real-time data," Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub. "They're set at the median of the lower quartile."

What that means is they're supposed to be set at the middle price point of all the houses below the median house price. 

But QV data provided to Newshub shows that lower quartile price is higher than a lot of the regional caps. The average starter house is too expensive. 

"What we've seen over the last two or three years is that rapid growth at the entry-level because we've had the competition between the investors and the first-home buyers," says QV general manager David Nagel. 

In Auckland, prices are higher than the cap everywhere but way out south in Franklin District. 

First-home owner Janine Swail is a prime example. She says it wasn't easy but finding a home for her daughter Carla to grow up in was so important to her. 

"You want to give them security, you want to give them a back garden," she told Newshub. 

The problem is they lived in Auckland - a housing nightmare. 

"We knew very early on that we weren't going to be able to buy in those neighbourhoods in and around Auckland city," Swail says. 

So she moved her family right to the outskirts in Manly, Whangaparaoa, to be able to afford the back garden for Carla.

It's Swail's first home but she didn't qualify for any Government assistance. She earns too much and the house she bought is too expensive - above the First Home Grant price cap. 

"In and around the Auckland area, those caps are not really worth looking at," she says. 

It's worse in Wellington, where caps are too low for the average starter house anywhere. The same goes for most of the main centres - Whangārei, Tauranga, Taupo, Rotorua, Nelson and Dunedin. 

The only four cities with lower quartile prices below the caps are Gisborne, Hastings, Christchurch and Invercargill. 

"Wellington's a good example where the price caps are $100,000 below where that quartile data is," says Nagel. 

Robertson told Newshub the Government "always said that these would be starter type homes". 

But no one can get a grant for a starter-type home because the price caps do not reflect reality.