Kristy Anderson has struggled to buy a suitable house for her family in a highly competitive market.
She said income and savings were not a problem, but a market with fewer family homes on offer and a "panic buying" mentality had shut her out.
Mrs Anderson said houses she's put an offer on have sold $70,000 to $100,000 over the asking price.
"People are seeing we're having this spike, and they're worrying they're going to be priced out of the market," she said.
"[Buyers] go in strong, but then you've got this competition with other people that seems to be driving [prices] further and further up."
Mrs Anderson, her three children and two dogs have lived in a rental property since she sold her house in mid-2020 following a divorce.
She said people in her position did not have the support to get back into the market.
"Because I'm not a first home buyer I don't have a lot of the rebates and discounts available to me," she said.
"For people in my situation [who are] starting again, that adds another element of difficulty.
"You've got to save even more money to start again."
Experts say house prices will continue to soar, records will be broken, and by some predictions the ACT could face a median house price upwards of $3 million by 2040.
Canberra's median house price jumped to $855,530 in December, a 9.1 per cent increase on the year before and the biggest jump in three years.
But wages have limped behind with a 1.2 per cent increase in the gross weekly household income since 2010, equivalent to $32 per week, according to the latest ABS statistics.
Record low interest rates and government incentives enticing first home buyers into the market combined with a shortage of properties to meet skyrocketing demand, has pushed prices up with no respite in sight.
Although credit was cheap and getting a home loan was easier than five years ago, soaring prices meant bigger deposits and repayments almost counteract those savings.
Domain property analyst Nicola Powell said prices would continue to jump in the next three years while interest rates stayed low, but a boost of properties for sale would help alleviate extreme prices.
"What we're moving into at the moment is a rising period of prices, where prices are going to be rising more rapidly than they have done in previous quarters," she said.
Based on compounded annual rate of growth since 2000, Dr Powell predicted Canberra's median house price could hit a staggering $3.3 million by 2040 and units could come in at an eyewatering $1.3 million.
She said those extrapolated figures did not account for a variety of factors, including changes in demography, politics or economics.
"[The market] continues to provide capital growth for homeowners but on the flip side of that is the first home buyers battling to get into the market," Dr Powell said.
Wage growth has lagged behind soaring house prices across the country. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute managing director Michael Fotheringham said nationally, while wages had doubled, house prices had tripled.
He said the ACT's high median wage played a big part in the housing market, and meant Canberra did not face the issue of affordability as acutely as Sydney or Melbourne.
Migration to Canberra was driven primarily by work and study, meaning the majority of people moved to the capital with an income.
"However, if you are on an average to low income there is little chance to get into the market, because there's not just the initial purchase price but then the ongoing payments," Dr Fotheringham said.
He said the ACT's land release scheme, designed to cater to population growth, meant it was better prepared than other capitals to match demand.
But construction had slowed through the pandemic while buyers had grown.
ACT Property Council executive director Adina Cirson said the rate of construction was the cornerstone of house prices.
"It's a simply supply and demand equation," she said.
Ms Cirson said there was a "missing middle" in Canberra of small or dual occupancy blocks to provide a more affordable alternative to an inner-city apartment of a detached suburban house.
"It goes back to the planning system ... one of the levers the government could pull is to allow more dual occupancies to be built," she said.
"Unit prices have been far more subdued in terms of their growth over the last 10 years," she said.
"We have seen such high levels of apartment development in Canberra, it's actually helped keep a ceiling on prices. The dream of a first home being a detached house has become out of reach of many buyers."
Since 2010, unit prices have jumped just 14 per cent with the median price in December 2020 at $435,410.
ACT Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee said the growing divide between houses and units meant buyers were not given a choice.
"The aspirations of most Canberrans to own a single dwelling with a yard is still there and it's very much something that a lot of Canberrans do want and desire to have," she said.
"If your only option is to buy a unit then that's not an option and that's where the difficulty lies.
"Apartments have a place and there are people who do prefer apartments but it should be a genuine choice and at the moment people don't have that."
The ACT was not alone when it comes to growing house prices but unlike other capital cities, Canberra's market did not decline during the pandemic.
At the height of the coronavirus lockdown in April 2020, the Commonwealth Bank forecast house prices in Canberra would fall by 10 per cent. But it has gone in the opposite direction.
ACT's acting under treasurer Stephen Miners said the territory government had forecast the housing market to keep moving at a reasonably strong pace.
"The housing market seems to be pretty resilient, it's kept ticking along reasonably well and certainly has been supported more recently by both the Commonwealth and the ACT stimulus measures," he said.
"It's probably stronger than we anticipated a year ago or so heading into COVID."
But while the housing market was propped up, it's put the dream of home ownership further out of reach for many more, particularly those who have lost their job during the pandemic.
"One of the things you saw in the pandemic was the distinction between labour markets and asset markets so we have seen the stock market and housing market performing much better than the labour market," Federal Labor member for Fenner Dr Andrew Leigh said.
"House prices are already above where they were when COVID hit but it's forecast to take years before unemployment is back to where it was before COVID hit."
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