Hamilton house prices 'seriously unaffordable'

Has the housing market in Hamilton become too expensive?
Has the housing market in Hamilton become too expensive?

Buying a house in the Waikato is more unaffordable than a year ago as prices increase and incomes drop, according to an international survey.

The region's housing market was labelled "seriously unaffordable" in the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, released yesterday.

It found the median house price in Hamilton-Waikato was $303,400, up from $299,500 in last year's report.

Median household income slipped from $63,900 to $62,800 in the same period.

But it's hardly doom and gloom compared to the rest of the country.

Of the eight New Zealand centres examined in the survey, Hamilton-Waikato had the second most affordable housing.

Auckland, Tauranga-Western Bay of Plenty, Napier-Hastings, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin were all more unaffordable.

Our northern neighbours in Auckland are facing the most unaffordable housing in the country, according to the survey, which labelled the city "severely unaffordable".

Auckland's median house price increased $54,900 to $506,800, and median household income dropped $4700 to $75,200 in a year.

Tauranga-Western Bay of Plenty was the next most unaffordable area with the median house price up $15,700 to $364,800 and median income down $4600 to $55,000.

The only place listed as more affordable than Hamilton-Waikato was Palmerston North-Manawatu, where house prices have dropped from $240,700 to $231,100.

No area in New Zealand was considered affordable, but a few notable locations in other countries were found to be more affordable than the Waikato.

The bright lights of Las Vegas, the bustling metropolis of Chicago, and Dublin were all considered more affordable.

However, if you were looking for somewhere to remind you of home, Hamilton, Canada, was slightly more affordable than Hamilton, New Zealand.

Hong Kong was the least affordable region with a median house price of NZ$629,000 and median income of NZ$422,000.

Bayleys Waikato regional manager Stephen Shale said lower interest rates had created a more affordable housing market and questioned the survey's indexes.

"The whole of the country can't be unaffordable. You've got to change the index," he said.

"The bottom line is, at our interest rates at the moment compared to where they were, it's probably very much more affordable than it has been."

He said New Zealanders had a unique "appetite for debt" driven by a strong desire to own a home, rather than rent.

"Kiwis like owning their properties and they'll keep realising that and if it becomes too hard to do it where they want to be - Auckland, perhaps - then they might choose to come to other areas," he said.

"We're seeing an increase in people coming to our region because it's more affordable."

Lodge Real Estate managing director Jeremy O'Rourke said the survey had shown all of New Zealand to be an unaffordable housing market since it started a decade ago, yet house prices have continued to rise.

He also questioned the validity of the survey's findings.

"Our sense is that Hamilton still offers fantastic value for money when compared to other centres in New Zealand," he said.

"For the people who are buying here it seems to be an affordable market and it seems to be a value-driven market and it seems that more people are recognising on a daily basis what a value-driven market it actually is."

He said the fact that Hamilton-Waikato was the second most affordable area in New Zealand indicated that there was room for house prices to increase further.

The survey covers 360 urban property markets in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

New Zealand housing data was sourced from the Real Estate Institute and the incomes from Statistics New Zealand.