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Nick Goodall, Senior Research Analyst, CoreLogic

So…that was an intriguing few weeks leading into the Election! But I for one was pretty happy to see those party billboards come down - political overload. Whilst we may not know the make-up of our Government just yet, September has now passed so it’s a good chance to draw a line in the sand for how NZ’s property market is performing, before a new Government takes over.
 
The average value of a dwelling in New Zealand is now $646,378. This is an increase of 4.3% over the last year and 1.1% in the last three months. Looking further back, it’s 56% higher than it was at the end of 2007 (when the market last peaked).
 
In Auckland the average value is $1,039,066 and of course - Auckland’s sheer size means its influence over the national value figure is significant. Back in 2007 the average Auckland residential property value was $546,488, compared to the nationwide $414,355: a difference of just 32%. Today? That differential has jumped to a whopping 66%. 
 
This illustrates just how different the NZ market is today compared to a decade ago and also signals how there’s almost zero point comparing Auckland with the rest of the country. It’s out on its own when it comes to size, price and economy. Queenstown may have a similar average value but the factors driving this are varied compared to Auckland and it’s just 3% of Auckland’s size.
 
Auckland has its own internal variations happening. The greatest decline in value over the last few months has occurred in the outer areas, but this downward trend has mostly ended, with both Papakura and Franklin actually seeing slight value lifts from August to September.
 
It’s the more expensive parts of Auckland - Auckland Central and the North Shore - that are experiencing a consistent downward trend now. But Rodney gets the dubious title of worst performing Auckland area, with a 1.7% drop in the last three months.
 
It’s very likely that in these areas unaffordability is starting to bite, with the combination of stricter LVR limits, higher interest rates and tightening credit criteria reducing the amount of money people can borrow - those higher Auckland prices require larger sums of borrowed funds. Add in a bit of uncertainty and the result is a very low turnover.
 
According to the latest QV index we’ve seen a sharp one month drop in Tauranga values. With the slowdown occurring throughout most of the main centres in 2017, Tauranga had bucked the trend, but it appears this strength couldn’t be maintained. Looking into more detail it was the top end of the market (properties above $750k but especially those over $1m) that was maintaining the strong growth. Values at the top end of the market have grown 16.9% in the last year at a time when market-wide values have only increased 6.6%. Movers and investors from Auckland will have been a contributing factor to this growth but unaffordability at the top end of Tauranga, as with Auckland, will now be having an increased impact on demand.
 
In Hamilton annual value growth has dropped to only 3%, although more recently the market has started to pick up with 1.3% growth throughout Q3 this year. Hamilton’s average value is now $546,402 - 51% higher than the end of 2007.
 
In Wellington we’ve now seen effectively no growth for 6 months but due to growth throughout last spring and summer, values are still 10% up on the same time last year. It remains to be seen whether the same growth will occur through the same seasons this year but spring hasn’t started well, with significantly reduced demand and sales volumes, especially in Wellington City (compared to the Hutt and Porirua).
 
Values in Christchurch have continued to slide further away from $500k, with the average value now sitting at $491,626 after ‘peaking’ last November at $501,229. Christchurch is at a vastly different part of the property market cycle, due to being disrupted by the major earthquakes in 2010/11, and appears to now be in a consolidation phase as supply adequately satisfies demand as population growth slows and residential construction winds down.
 
In Dunedin there are signs of an improvement in average values with 1.4% quarterly growth after values plateaued from April to the end of July. Dunedin’s average value remains low compared to the other main centres at $380,701 and this is 33% higher than the average value back at the end of 2007.
 
Outside our main six centres, the pick of the bunch is Napier. Things are still very bright over on the East Coast of the North Island with values continuing to grow at 5.2% quarterly, which is currently the strongest of all cities in NZ. 
 
Over on the western side of the Island, New Plymouth is going through a sustained flat patch with only 0.5% growth in the last three months and only 6.8% in the last year.
 
So where are things headed? My pick is that values will start to increase again in 2018. Probably early 2018 if we get a National led Government, due to fewer policies addressing the strong demand for property. But even with Jacinda Ardern as our next Prime Minister, it’s likely that prices will lift in 2018 (albeit later than if Bill English is in charge), due to strong underlying fundamentals (low interest rates, constrained construction) making up for any tightening in migration policy or other tweaks designed to reduce investor demand.
 
 
New Zealand Regional Maps:

 

We kiwis love giving something a go ourselves to save some dosh. “I sold our last place myself in 2 weeks and saved $35 grand in commission” is often heard when telling others you’re thinking of selling. But for every story like this, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a long trail of untold stories featuring wasted advertising spend, lengthy delays, unrealised pricing potential and disappointment on both sides of the equation.

Unless you have extensive experience selling properties, enlisting the services of a real estate agent to sell your property is recommended. Why? It’s often our biggest asset. It deserves a professional approach.
How to choose your real estate agent:

Choosing who sells your property should be a decision that’s well researched. This isn’t the time to call some-one just because you’ve seen a billboard or keep getting their flyers in your letterbox.

We spoke recently with Nicki Cruickshank and Billy Bell of Tommy’s Real Estate, two well-regarded Wellington real estate professionals who provide some insider tips on how to pick the right agent to sell your home. Cruickshank has been in the game for 13 years, and is a go-to media commentator. She’s seen the market through every single stage and has sold hundreds of homes so she knows what she’s talking about! Bell is newer to the game but has an outstanding track record already, is extremely responsive and noted for his social media skills.

1. Word of mouth

Ask. Just ask. Getting a personal recommendation should be your first step to finding a real estate sales agent. Cruickshank comments:

“Selling a home involves a lot of trust in us as agents. If we deliver a cost-efficient marketing campaign, secure multiple offers; manage everything professionally and in an extremely responsive way to achieve a great price - the personal recommendations that flow from that are the best form of advertising I could ever hope for. It’s credible, it’s proven, and it’s how I secure 80% of my listings”

Bell advises to dig deeper too: “Don’t just ask who they’d recommend, ask why. What specifically made them happy to recommend that agent? Ask if there were any tricky parts of negotiations and how they were overcome. Ask if they thought the marketing spend was justified”.

2. Look local

Beyond personal recommendations, take note of local reported sales and who sold them. Check out the current listings in your area - who is selling them? But more importantly, track what happens: do they sell? Do they get taken off the market? Do they get relisted by someone else?

You want an agent who is likely to have a pool of prospects on tap that have missed out on other properties. The right agent for your property might be based in another area, but have a proven track record in the location you’re selling.

3. Attend their open homes

Once you’ve got a few potential real estate agents in mind, go to some of their Open Homes and mystery shop them! See how they sell someone else’s home before you let them sell yours. Observe their selling techniques; see how it feels as one of their ‘prospective purchasers’.

Watch how they welcome people and talk to them: are they polite and helpful or detached, indifferent or rude? Do they ensure all attendees have provided contact details? Do you actually hear from them after the Open Home? If they’ve had to leave a message for you, do they ever follow up? Do you get confirmation of any questions raised?

Cruickshank comments: “Agents get paid by the vendor to secure the best price possible. Achieving that requires professional relationship management and sales skills - you want prospective purchasers to feel completely welcome, that the whole process is being managed professionally in a responsive way”. Cruickshank also notes that discretion should be guaranteed: “If some-one asks why the home is being sold, they’re often fishing for information to use in negotiations. If you ask this question and get told something other than ‘the owners are relocating’, you shouldn’t hire them”.

4. Test their knowledge

Take it one step further ask some specific questions about the property - either at the Open Home or after the fact. That will give you an idea of how much the agent has bothered to learn about the house, their level of professionalism and commitment to the sale.

Pay attention to remarks they make to yourself and other Open Home attendees. Are they acting in the best interests of the vendor? Because if you select them as your agent, that vendor will be you.

5. Check the real estate agent’s sales record

Look at the sales records of the agents you’re considering. It’s not just about how many listings they have - that’s only half the story. Look into their sales history and actively check that the agent is actually selling those properties.

6. Look at how fast the agent sells a property

Do some further research and see if any patterns emerge: Take note of how long their properties are on the market.

7. Short-list the potential agents

Once you have short-listed a handful of agents, call them. A few won’t call back, which will straight away narrow the list further and you may decide over the phone that a few aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Busy agents may have a message service - that’s fine as long as you do hear back within a reasonable timeframe.

8. How do you want them to work?

Before you make the calls, determine what kind of client you want to be and communicate that to the agent to see if they’re able to work with your request.

For example: do you want to be kept updated at every step along the way, or do you want to have as little to do with the selling process as possible and don’t need the agent to run every single detail past you?

9. Get an appraisal

Of the remaining potential agents, request an appraisal. An appraisal is an estimated selling price for the property and it should be free.
The results may vary, so make sure that the agent can justify the figure they are presenting to you. Some may come back with a much higher price but this doesn’t necessarily make them the best agent because the price they’ve set may be completely unattainable, which only sets you up for unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Reference the appraisal figure against an E-Valuer report on QV.co.nz and pay attention to the agents reasons for their appraisal figure.

10. Presentation, Presentation, Presentation

The appraisal stage will often create jobs for you! De-cluttering, gardening, storage, fix-it’s such as painting, carpeting and plumbing. A good agent should have contacts for these and possibly also have negotiated special rates. Who do they use for photography? What about property styling/home staging? Presentation costs can add up, so it’s definitely worth asking for recommendations and discounts.

11. Achieving the best possible price

Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their selling technique. Will they auction the property or sell it by tender? Will there be expressions of interest? Do they recommend ‘buyer enquiry over’? Do they advertise without pricing? How often will they conduct open homes? Make sure you 100% understand all the options and don’t be afraid to question any industry terminology: if you’re unsure, ask.

Focus also on their advertising strategy: Do they incorporate digital components or just traditional advertising? Do they provide tracking of advertising spend? Can it be tweaked mid campaign? Which social media channels do they confidently use? Like their pages and follow their activity. Are they responsive? Which formats do they utilise? Just photos? Video? 3D models? Floor plans? Bell comments: “A smart social media marketing plan will utilise multiple creative approaches across multiple channels. I’m not just talking Facebook. Done well, it will put your home in front of a much wider audience, create opportunities for quality engagement with potential buyers and convert to many thousands of views on your property’s online listing. Anyone actively looking for property knows just how time consuming it can be - part of your agent’s job should be getting your property easily seen by your target audience in a place they’re already spending time. This can absolutely be achieved with the right targeting and creative approach. I know exactly how many people are attending my Open Homes directly as a result of social media campaigns - there’s a reason it’s a major part of my marketing campaigns: it works!”

12. Negotiate commissions

You can certainly haggle, just be wary that a lower commission should definitely not be your main selection criteria. A great agent with a proven track record in achieving the best prices possible is worth every percentage. Remember the old saying: ‘If you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys’.

Cruickshank comments: “If the agent is willing to reduce commission easily, it could be a sign of poor negotiation skills. Just imagine them doing the same when negotiating on your behalf in the property sale! Poor negotiators earning lower commissions will also need to be moving properties faster, which means less opportunity to achieve the best price on your property”.

12. Trust your instinct

Finally, don’t ignore your gut feeling. If you have a particularly good or bad feeling about an agent, don’t discard that - it’s just as valid as other selection criteria when making your final decision. Cruickshank explains: “Real estate is all about trust. Great agents have in inherently. Yes, presentation and behaviour helps, but actually it’s all about how they naturally are as people. It’s their approach, the way they communicate, their transparency and honesty with you. It’s very much something that is earned through demonstrable behaviour, which is why personal recommendations are so important”.

The right agent can sell your home faster, with less stress and for the best price. You have to do some research and invest some time when choosing the right agent for you and your property, but that effort is so worth it to know you’ve made the right decision for what is often your biggest capital asset. Good luck and don’t forget to check out our guide for presenting your home for sale.

Our Head of Research, Nick Goodall takes you through the latest trends and new developments in the NZ property market this month.
 
Topics covered in this months short video include:
  • how the election and other factors are affecting different buyer types;
  • and where the market is likely to be headed.
 
 
Enjoy the video, and please do subscribe to us on YouTube so you won't miss the next ones.
 
 
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