New Zealand house price growth slowed last month and appeared to be levelling out in the face of central bank lending restrictions and a looming rise in interest rates, the government property valuer said. Quotable Value's (QV) residential property index rose 9.6 per cent in the year to January 31, compared with a 10 per cent annual rate in December. The index is now 12.8 per cent above the market's previous peak in late 2007. QV said limits on how much banks can lend on low deposit-high value house loans (LVR), imposed by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in October, appeared to be having an effect. "These speed limits have reduced the number of first-home buyers active in the market, but perhaps more importantly have led to increased caution among buyers," said QV research director Jonno Ingerson. Auckland region prices were up 14.5 per cent in the year to January from a 15.4 per cent rate the month before, while Christchurch slowed to a 12 per cent gain from 12.7 per cent. Ingerson said the prospect of higher home loan rates as the RBNZ tightens policy, most likely from next month, may already be affecting confidence, and when they come will slow prices further.