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ASB: Interest Rate Sentiment Has Turned But Housing Market Uncertainty Remains

  • Interest rate expectations have shifted with more people now expecting rates to fall.
  • Net 44 per cent of respondents think house prices will increase, however this fell slightly from net 51 per cent in the previous three months.
  • The country remains divided on whether it is a good time to buy or not with just net 2 per cent saying it is a good time – unchanged from the last quarter.

For the first time in more than three years, more New Zealanders are expecting interest rates to fall in the coming year than keep rising, as confidence that the Official Cash Rate has reached its peak grows. Data from the latest ASB Housing Confidence Survey released today shows although rate sentiment has turned, conflicting factors and a cloudy economic outlook mean respondents are uncertain about the future of house prices and whether now is a good time to buy or not.

For the three months to April, net 1 per cent of survey respondents said they thought interest rates would decrease in the coming 12 months – a 16 percentage point shift and a marked change in perceptions from the previous quarter. This does not appear to have translated into purchasing confidence, however, with an unchanged net 2 per cent saying it was a good time to buy, and more than half of all respondents saying it was neither a good time nor a bad time.

ASB Senior Economist Kim Mundy says the survey, which canvasses thousands of Kiwi across the country each quarter on their view of the housing market and future expectations, reflects a complex market picture.

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“There are a lot of conflicting factors playing out in the market at the moment. While we are at the peak of the interest rate cycle there is still uncertainty about when the Reserve Bank will begin lowering the Official Cash Rate (OCR) which means affordability constraints are likely to remain. House price forecasts are being revised down as the market has been slower to lift than expected – ASB recently lowered its price growth forecast to about 1 per cent year-on-year for 2024. Add to this an increase in new listings pushing supply to 10-year highs and a flat economic outlook and it is a complicated picture.

“We’re seeing this come through in a split between groups. For first home buyers and investors who are able to manage current interest rates, it may be feeling like a good time to buy. However, those needing to sell their house to buy or who are concerned about the rising unemployment rate or cost of living, may be a lot less confident.”

The ASB Housing Confidence Survey shows house price expectations for the coming year softened this quarter, with net 44 per cent of respondents expecting prices to increase, down from net 51 per cent in the prior three months. This flat to higher price outlook aligns with ASB’s current forecasts, with the survey noting material increases are unlikely until there is more clarity around when the OCR will be lowered. Mundy says the outlook is unsurprising.

“Combined expectations for lower rates and slightly weaker house price growth this quarter is an indication that while we are nearing a tipping point in the market, we’re not quite there yet.

“Sentiment has turned very tentatively in favour of lower interest rates and while we think this may be slightly premature, it is often a good indicator of future house prices. We saw this in the last rate expectation turn in late 2020 and early 2021, which was closely followed by the peak in house price growth at around 30 per cent midway through 2021.

“Given our view is that OCR cuts are unlikely before next year, it isn’t surprising that price expectations are muted, but we will be watching rate expectations in the coming quarters.”

The full ASB Housing Confidence Survey along with other recent ASB reports covering a range of commentary, can be accessed at our ASB Economic Insights page:

https://www.asb.co.nz/documents/economic-insights.html


Note: The ASB Housing Confidence Survey was constructed from data received from 2901 individual respondents.

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