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Can first home buyers afford a million dollar house?

An Auckland house marketed to first home buyers with a price tag of nearly $1 million is not unrealistic in the current market, experts say.

The Onehunga house is on the market with a price tag of $990,000 and a message: "Attention first home buyers."

The cottage features three bedrooms on a 663sqm section close to the city.

Ray White agent Martin Honey said the highest offer on the house so far had been from first home buyers and the listing was not unrealistic.

The house had been on the market for about five weeks and was under the average sales price for Onehunga, which was not an entry level suburb, he said.

The house was what many first home buyers would dream of, with a full site and close to both the airport and the city, he said.

Squirrel Mortgages spokesman John Bolton agreed the listing was within reach of some first home buyers and said the historical profile of a first home buyer had changed.

"A hell of a lot of people out there have been locked out of the housing market. I'm not seeing those people. They know they are locked out. The house prices are so high that they know."

Bolton said the typical first home buyer that could afford the Onehunga property would be a professional couple without children who had perhaps come back from working overseas and had a decent deposit.

While historically first home buyers were couples in their 20s with children, those people would find prices very challenging now, Bolton said.

QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush said a property slowdown in Auckland was due to high prices combined with banks' stricter lending criteria.

That was making it harder for anyone to buy who was not a cash buyer, or did not have high levels of equity.

Developers were now also finding it difficult to get the finance they needed to build new homes which meant a slowdown in building activity, Rush said.

A quick look through Trade Me's newest Auckland home listings being marketed to first home buyers shows many properties sitting far above the $650,000 mark – the level the government has deemed is an affordable home.

Just a few years ago, listings screaming 'first home fever' were priced at under $500,000.

So how could a first home buyer actually afford this $990,000 home? We've crunched the numbers below.


First home buyers looking to buy the Onehunga property would need a deposit of about $120,000 to $130,000 and a joint income above $160,000, Bolton said.

But he said in Auckland, that wasn't unrealistic once you got two working professionals in their early to mid 30s without children.

Auckland workers have a median personal income of $29,600, and a median household income of $76,500, according to the latest Census.

Those wanting to buy the Onehunga house would need to be earning more than twice that.

Mortgage broker Bruce Patten said since limits had been introduced by the Reserve Bank in 2013, finance for first home buyers had been difficult.

He said the banks were running on a green light, red light system.

"Just because your bank says no, it's probably because they are a little bit close to their 10 per cent threshold. No isn't no forever, it's maybe just no for now."

Patten said parental assistance for first home buyers had tripled since late 2013 and was a huge help when asking banks for a loan.


While it was still possible to get a 10 per cent home loan, no doubt a 20 per cent deposit would make it easier to secure a mortgage.

Bolton said the Onehunga property would ideally need a 15 per cent deposit – $148,500 – to keep repayments manageable.

And repaying the balance of the mortgage would take about 30 years, which would mean a couple in their 30s would likely be paying off their house right up until retirement.

Patten said for young professional couples with no children who were likely to move up the salary ladder, there was a bit more wiggle room than for older couples who had reached the top of their earning potential.


When banks were assessing whether to approve a loan or not, they factored in a much higher interest rate than what was on the market.

Patten said the exact figure was secret but was well over 7 per cent at the moment.

Financial advisor Liz Koh said first home buyers needed to think about the worst case scenario and imagine how they would cope if interest rates rose substantially, as they were predicted to do.

She also advised first home buyers to live on the disposable income they would have if they were to buy a house and put the rest in a savings account just to see if it was even achievable.


Patten hadn't approved a solo first home buyer in the past six months and said it was becoming very rare for a first home buyer to go it alone.

He had seen more friends and siblings buying houses together if they didn't have a partner.

A solo income well into the mid-$100,000s mark was needed to have a look into the Auckland property market at present.

Stay level-headed:

Koh said it was important for those wanting a house not to get caught up in FOMO (fear of missing out) and to stop themselves falling in love with a house and over spending.

"Just don't let common sense go out the window."

Topics: Values / Prices

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