December 12, 2016 | PROPERTY REPORT
INDUSTRY ANALYSIS As told to Graham Hepburn
Market slows but remains strong Mike Bayley Managing director Bayleys Corporation
he year of the underdog continues to surprise — Brexit, Irish rugby and Trump. Yet while many are still reeling in astonishment, the sun has risen, markets have shown resilience, and life goes on. Basking in the spotlight of the global stage for well over its 15 minutes this year, New Zealand continues to perform exceptionally by international standards, with economic growth, professional opportunities and the standard of living capturing the attention of restless residents abroad. Driven by immigration, lower levels of emigration, and the ongoing supply versus demand phenomenon, the Auckland region carries on achieving double-digit sales growth when compared with year-on-year figures. Proving some relief to economists, it is pleasing to see Auckland sharing its limelight with six regions (including Northland and the Bay of Plenty) recently reporting record new median sale prices. This year has seen an increasing number of cranes dot the skyline, building toward the densification we so desperately need. With development, a new buying trend has emerged, as retirees look to more compact apartment living for affordability and convenience, while first-home buyers trade in their quarter-acre dream in greater numbers for a smaller step onto the property ladder. Ironically, the factors underpinning market growth, including historically low interest rates, have made lenders more cautious. While not happy news for fledgling developers and those with little equity, these measures will ensure predicted momentum is sustainable well into 2017.
Chris Kennedy CEO Harcourts
ationally our average sale price is now $593,187; an amount largely driven up by Auckland’s average price, which is $919,966. As the rest of the country tends to follow Auckland’s lead, it is interesting to note sales were down 4.7 per cent in Auckland during October when compared to September, but are consistent when compared with the same time in 2015. This points to a market that remains strong, but one that is not moving ahead with the force and speed of 12 months ago. Auckland average prices are still creeping up year on year. Houses at the higher end of the price spectrum continue to achieve very good prices, driving up the average. However, there has been a flattening at the mid to lower end. Across the rest of the country, selling prices continue to be strong though sales have dipped. For example, written sales are down by almost 18 per cent compared with 2015 in Christchurch, down by 20 per cent in the central region, almost 13 per cent in Wellington and have remained flat in the provincial South Island. Sellers are having to be more discerning about the ways in which they market and present their properties to captivate buyers. Choosing the right sales consultant and marketing a property well have become vital to achieving a good price. We’ve been spoilt by a strong market for a long time but with sales dropping a little it’s important not to be complacent.
Peter Thompson Managing director Barfoot & Thompson
ow that the US presidential elections are behind us, some of the uncertainty that was in the market will start to disappear and focus will return to the local factors that affect the market. The New Zealand economy, and within that Auckland’s economic activity, is looking robust and stable. While our economy will always remain susceptible to external events, there is every reason to believe that the local housing market will settle into the normal strong run in to the Christmas/New Year break. The key factors that drive the housing market remain unchanged. Auckland’s population is continuing to rise, house build numbers are lower than needed to ease demand, interest rates remain low and the banks are lending to those with the means to meet repayments. Some of the pressure on buyers to make quick decisions has eased, and that is likely to continue. In the past few months the rise in residential house prices has gradually eased and sales numbers have declined. That prices have held up indicates that as the rising price cycle comes to an end we may achieve the best possible outcome — a soft landing. However, with an election next year, the current more balanced market may be short-lived. Invariably in the two to three months preceding an election trading softens. Sellers intent on avoiding the ‘pre-election season’ are likely to be active in the first six months of 2017. This, combined with greater certainty around international trends, could see a positive rise in market activity.
Graeme Fraser Head of agency operations NZ Ray White
s we come toward the close of 2016, market conditions are complex, with inventory levels rising. Loan to value ratios on lending that are fully implemented, further potential immigration rises and the official cash rate are all influencing market direction. When grouping these indicators together, we can see consistency forming in the market with supply and demand rates falling back in line and bringing about, particularly in Auckland, a more stabilised price platform. The measure by the Reserve Bank in reducing the Official Cash Rate is primarily designed as further stimulus for sectors outside of property. The retail banks and other lenders have indicated that they won’t be passing through the wholesale reduction to borrowers. In general, sales of owner-occupied properties remain strong and we believe the market will maintain a good depth of buyers when linked with immigration numbers. There have been many comments about the flow and effect of sales out of the main centres, and the market outcomes will continue to deliver positive price increases through the regional areas. There has been more focus on the policy around investment purchasing. Consequently, there has been a slowing of investment sales. The rental market is showing a low vacancy rate with the average rental price in the majority of areas continuing to lift.
Barry Thom and Grant Lynch Unlimited Potential Real Estate
Keith Niederer General manager LJ Hooker & Harveys Group
he traditional spring flush of listings and sales activity hasn’t eventuated in the Auckland market. The New Zealand economy is in good shape, the Reserve Bank’s criteria with the new LVRs hasn’t had any effect on higher priced property but has certainly had an impact on investors who are finding more choice but are in no hurry to add to their portfolio. We are also seeing the Australian-owned and controlled banks here in New Zealand tightening up on their lending policies, obviously concerned at the risks associated with the present lending books. With the tightening of lending policy this may mean a reduction in mortgage borrowing and that means fewer buyers in the marketplace. The market continues to experience record high sale prices in September and October. I believe prices have peaked and with the days to sell moving out due to more stock, the sooner you sell the better the price. The traditional flush of listings may be delayed until February/March next year as many families consider their options. The regions remain affordable with good schooling and an enviable lifestyle. Low interest rates and immigration will continue but there is only so much you can borrow. The cost of living in Auckland — whether you own your home or rent — will only continue to rise, which will obviously mean many people may have to adjust their spending and lifestyle.
n this year’s run-up to Christmas there has been much to digest. The media has heralded increased interest rates along with a flattening market. In addition, as some surveys are saying, many think it’s a bad time to buy. Alongside that, we have had to digest a Trump win in the US, more earthquakes and a significant tightening in bank attitudes to lending. These factors, alongside a tightening in LVRs, have undoubtedly impacted buyer enthusiasm. Meantime, there has been a deluge of homes listed. The consequence of all this is buyers taking a cautious approach while vendors have their hearts set on sale prices based on recent history. These factors mean a limited number of buyers with a lot of options, resulting in slowing of sales and something of a stand-off with regard to price. Of interest, the market slowed in similar fashion this time last year but for different reasons, only to kick off again in the New Year. The big picture is that New Zealand continues to be attractive to the rest of the world for its various attributes, both natural and governmental. Immigration continues at a pace far outstripping the rate of new construction. Add the demise of many new apartment projects, and it’s not hard to see high demand continuing. With strong GDP and a robust banking system, the concept of waiting for a significant downside in property prices is not something we would be betting on.