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What's happening with NZ house prices? | Property market (2023)
Author: Ed McKnight
Our Resident Economist, with a GradDipEcon and over five years at Opes Partners, is a trusted contributor to NZ Property Investor, Informed Investor, Stuff, Business Desk, and OneRoof.
Reviewed by: Laine Moger
Journalist and Property Educator with six years of experience, holds a Bachelor of Communication (Honours) from Massey University.
The New Zealand property market is a living beast. Year-to-year investors and homeowners see big changes to the market.
That's true both for NZ (as a whole) and for each specific region.
While yearly round-ups are great. Many impatient property investors want to know: “How is the market behaving right now?”
In this article, you'll learn:
- how house prices are changing,
- what's happening with rents and
- who's buying the houses.
- You'll also learn what interest rates are doing.
This is all to keep you informed about what's going on in the property market.
And if you have a question, write your questions or thoughts in the comments section below.
What is the average house price in New Zealand?
This table shows the median sale price for a property in every region in New Zealand. Use the search bar to find you region. This includes data up to October 2023.
How fast are property prices falling in the New Zealand property market?
Property prices across the country are currently recovering ... in most places.
Up until recently New Zealand house prices had been falling.
House prices peaked in Nov 2021. They then fell 17.80% and appeared to bottom out in May 2023.
Since bottoming out NZ house prices have increased 3.90%. That includes REINZ house price index data through to Oct 2023.
Let's say you owned a $1 million property in Hamilton (at the peak of the market).
If it followed the NZ market perfectly, it would now be worth $854k.
That's a loss of $146k, at least on paper.
However, house prices fall at different rates around the country.
This graph shows how far prices have fallen since their peaks in different areas of the country.
House prices in Kawerau District have fallen fastest. Prices there are down 32.17% since house prices peaked in Apr 2022.
Wairoa District house prices peaked in Jan 2023. Property values there are down 31.22% since the peak.
The third fastest house prices falls were in South Wairarapa District. House prices are down 27.95%.
House prices in Westland District on the otherhand are down not much at all compared to the peak.
Central Otago District prices are down only 0.91% and Ashburton District are a measly 2.26% down.
So your properties might have done better or worse than the national average. It all depends on where your property is.
61,513 properties sold in New Zealand over the last 12 months
If you want to know how the property market is going, look at the number of property sales per year.
Property sales peaked at 100,108 in Jun 2021. They then fell to just 58,763 in May 2023.
That's right, here in New Zealand we were buying 41.30% fewer properties per year compared to the peak.
Today the number of property sales has started to recover. In the 12 months to Oct 2023 we bought 61,513 properties. So we are currently buying 2,750 more properties per year compared to the bottom of the market.
Our standard assumption at Opes Partners is that Auckland house prices will increase 6% per year over the long term – compared with 5% for the rest of the country.
This is a slower rate than the market has experienced in the past.
Over the last 30+ years (Jan 1992 – Oct 2023) NZ house prices, excluding Auckland, increased 6.2% per year. House prices in Auckland increased 7.1% per year.
So the capital growth rates we use are ‘discounted’ by 1.1% - 1.2% percentage points.
These forecasts are roughly in line with independent economist Tony Alexander’s thoughts.
“It pays to remember that the long-term trend in prices is upward. Since 1992, on average New Zealand house prices have risen 7% per annum. I think we’re looking at 5% per annum going forward.”
Where will house prices increase faster in the future?
Where will house prices might increase fastest in the future?
To answer this question we look at where prices are higher or lower than we would expect them to be.
The blue areas are those where house prices are below where we would expect them to be. These areas are currently undervalued and will likely increase in value faster.
The red shows areas where house prices are higher than we'd expect them to be. These areas are currently overvalued and will likely increase in value more slowly.
The 3 most undervalued areas appear to be Wellington City, Grey District and Christchurch City.
The most overvalued areas are Mackenzie District, South Waikato District and Kawerau District.
Auckland property prices appear to be 9.30% undervalued.
This suggests there is more potential for capital growth in Wellington City compared to Mackenzie District.
You can read about how we calculate this data on any of our property market pages. Like this one on the Auckland property market.
What about higher interest rates?
All investors know – there are lots of factors that influence the surge and sag of the property market.
One of the main ones is higher interest rates.
Right now interest rates, like the prices of everything else, are high.
On top of this the labour market was tight and international supply chains disrupted.
There was too much demand and too little supply in the economy.
Inflation peaked at 7.3% (June 2022), well outside of the Reserve Bank's 1-3% target band.
This forced the Reserve Bank to increase the OCR in an attempt to temper the economy.
The aim of hiking interest rates is to slow the speed of spending and let the pressure out of the economy. And there's more to come.
Read more about our interest rate predictions here.
So, what does this mean for investors?
Sure, it’s a tough market at the moment. House prices are falling, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are pros and cons in every market.
Or said another way, there is always something working for and against you in any market.
For example, working against investors in the market currently are:
- high interest rates, which are currently leading to poorer cash flows
- higher taxes, as the IRD phases in interest deductibility changes
On the flip side, the positives are:
- Cheaper property prices
- The number of properties available for sale has increased 94.85% (Aug 2021 – Oct 2023). So you've got a better shot at finding a property you want.)
And remember, it is likely that over the long term property prices will increase again.
Here's how house prices have changed year on year since REINZ started tracking that data in 1992.
As you can see from the above graph, property price growth regularly rolls up and down in cycles.
There is arguably nothing new about this most recent dip.
All stable asset classes – like shares and property – tend to go through cycles. Prices boom, peak, fall, and then recover and go through a boom again.
Is now a good time to invest?
Here at Opes we always say: “The best time to invest in property is when you can”.
But, as an astute investor, you might be thinking:
"In a declining market, why don't I just wait for property prices to fall further? Wouldn't that mean I can get an even better deal?"
If you have a crystal ball that shows exactly what’s going to happen to property prices, that would make sense.
But you don’t have a crystal ball … nobody does. Otherwise, we would have all bought 20 houses 20 years ago.
Based on the most recent figures we are at or very close to the bottom of the market. Some regions are already there.
So investors may be able to pick up a bargain compared to what they could 18 months ago. Or what they could in 18 months time.
You should also note that even if you can perfectly predict the dip, you still need to get finance for the property.
The bank can stop you from buying your dream asset, so it is important to invest when you can. You don't want to wait, only to find the bank won't let you take advantage of lower prices.
Write your questions or thoughts in the comments section below.
Ed, our Resident Economist, is equipped with a GradDipEcon, a GradCertStratMgmt, BMus, and over five years of experience as Opes Partners' economist. His expertise in economics has led him to contribute articles to reputable publications like NZ Property Investor, Informed Investor, OneRoof, Stuff, and Business Desk. You might have also seen him share his insights on television programs such as The Project and Breakfast.
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