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Steady as she goes...

Friday, 3 November 2017

Nick Goodall, Head of Research, CoreLogic

The October QV House Price Index (out this week) paints a ‘steady-as-she-goes’ picture for many of NZ’s main centres - with property values only shifting sideways for the month.
This is certainly the story for Dunedin, Tauranga and Auckland where each city saw less than 0.5% value growth. Wellington saw a minor upward movement (0.7%), mirrored by a slight downward shift in Hamilton (-0.6%) whilst in Christchurch, values continued to drop -  down 0.2% monthly, 0.9% quarterly and 1.6% annually. 
Although Auckland saw a slight monthly value improvement, the persistent market slowdown here has actually driven annual value growth into the negatives (-0.6%) for the first time since April 2011. Within the Super City, Waitakere has suffered the greatest drop in values over the last year (down 2.2%), while the North Shore (-1.6%) and Manukau (-1.4%) are also in negative territory for annual value change.
So, all this talk of statistical value change…what does it really mean? 
When it comes to measuring property values, there are multiple available measures. I’ve previously taken a detailed look at a couple here.  
The great thing about the QV House Price Index (HPI) is that it’s the most robust measure for evaluating value change over time, especially when you want a historic view. I won’t bore you with all the methodological details but the key advantage is that the QV HPI calculates the movement in value of all properties in a given area, using available recent sales as a benchmark.  Once all sales are fully processed by the Councils, the QV HPI has the most comprehensive collection of sales - including both private and agency sales.
For this reason, it’s very significant to see Auckland’s slide into the negatives. It’s not a minor blip, but a continued trend as demand for property in our largest city has been dented.
NZ is not alone in this sideways and negative property value movement at the moment. As we look to our nearest neighbour, Australia has a similar picture. Capital gains are losing momentum, with the slowing pace attributed to tighter credit policies and a rise in interest rates; much like here (NZ also has increased loan-to-value ratio (LVR) restrictions).
Sydney has seen a drop in values over the last 3 months, much like Auckland, although annually Sydney values are still up 7.7%. And the comparisons don’t stop there. Melbourne is showing more resilience than Sydney, much like Wellington is for NZ.
Sailing back to our shores now though: we have more factors at play. Another significant recent market insight has been the strength of first home buyer market share nationwide, as witnessed in our Oct/Nov Property Market and Economic Update report.  New entrants to the market appear more willing and able to sacrifice factors like location or property type just to get on the ladder.
There were already strong signs of change ahead for NZ’s property market under the Labour-NZ First government and details of market changes are coming through pretty thick and fast. This week saw the announcement that from 2018 the Government will ban foreign investors by modifying the Overseas Investment Act to include residential property as ‘sensitive’. With no official measure quantifying the presence of foreign buyers here, it’s hard to definitively know the impact on the market but anecdotally we’ve heard their activity has already diminished due to the difficulty of securing funding to purchase here.
There’s more to come though, and I’m expecting one of the next big property market disrupters to be the Healthy Homes Act, albeit in a more mid-long term impact for our property investors, on top of the likely extension (to five years) of the brightline test and the elimination of investors’ ability to negatively gear their properties.
So, sideways and negative value growth and introduction of bold policies from the new captain at the helm. Whether it’s going to be smooth sailing or very choppy waters, it’s certainly an interesting time for NZ’s property market.   
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The latest monthly QV House Price Index shows nationwide residential property values for October increased 3.9% over the past year which is the slowest annual rate since June 2012. Values rose by 0.9% over the past three months and the nationwide average value is now $646,807 which is 56.1% above the previous market peak of late 2007. When adjusted for inflation the nationwide annual increase drops slightly to 2.0% and values are now 30.3% above the 2007 peak. 
Residential property values across the Auckland Region decreased 0.6% year on year. Values dropped by 0.5% over the past three months. The average value for the Auckland Region is now $1,038,722 and values are now on average 90.1% higher than the previous peak of 2007.  When adjusted for inflation values dropped 2.5% over the past year and are 58.6% above the 2007 peak. 
QV National Spokesperson Andrea Rush said, “Nationwide annual value growth has slowed further to 3.9% in the year to the end of October and the housing market continues to stabilise with the lowest rate of growth seen in five years.”
“In Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton and Christchurch some areas have seen some growth, while others areas are flat or down slightly while values still continue to rise moderately in all parts of Wellington, and Dunedin.”
“Nelson and the Hawkes Bay continue to see the strongest percentage growth of the other main urban areas.”
“In the provinces the strongest growth has been seen in South Wairarapa and also in some that have been slower to see recent values hikes including the Far North, Stratford, Ruapehu, Otorohanga and Southland.”
“In general there appears to be a trend of slowing in the rate of growth with the frenzy induced by high numbers of investors in the market subsiding and a return to more normal levels of activity in housing market around the country.”
“The CoreLogic Buyer Classification data is showing the (nationwide) share of sales to investors has dropped back to 38.5% from a high of 40.5% in 2014 in favour of first home buyers whose share has risen to 21.6%.”
Values are still flat or dropping in many parts of Auckland with the exception of North Shore –Onewa which saw values rise 3.0% over the past three months; Papakura up 1.3% and Franklin up 1.1% over the same period. Values in Waitakere dropped back the most, down 2.2% year on year.
QV Auckland Senior Consultant, James Steele said, “While the rate of value growth remains subdued values are relatively stable and there is still strong competition for well-presented and located homes which continue to achieve strong sales prices.”
“It appears market activity has returned to more normal levels in outer suburbs, with more properties having asking prices and there’s more time for buyers to carry out due diligence or get valuations and building inspections.”
“Listings levels have also not experienced the usual spring surge and only those who need to sell appear to be listing properties.” 
“Some developers who need to sell sections and homes in larger scale green field developments are finding they having to drop their prices to achieve sales.”
“Examples of this are being seen in Flat Bush where prices for vacant fully-serviced sections that were selling in the high $700,000’s last year are now selling in the early $600,000s.”  
“This drop in land value in the area has also seen the sales prices of completed new homes drop back and these new homes are also taking longer to sell.” 
“It appears the difficulty in gaining finances to purchase due to retail banks stricter lending criteria is a contributing factor in this as well as lower demand for this type of housing product and an over-supply of sections and new homes in the area.”
Hamilton City home values rose 0.4% over the past three months and 1.1% over the past year. Values are now 50.2% higher than the previous peak of 2007. The average value in Hamilton is now $543,046.
QV Hamilton Property Consultant, Andrew Jaques said, “The Hamilton City market has continued to stabilise in terms of the rate of value growth over the past month, in a trend seen over the past year with annual growth now having slowed to around 1.0%.”
“The preferred method of sale is through asking prices or negotiation and auctions continue to remain less popular which is a sign of a return to a more normal market with the frenzy seen during 2015 and the first half of 2016 now having subsided.”
“There are fewer listings, and properties appear to be staying on the market for longer periods of time.”
“Banks and lending continue to tighten up, where we see funding rejected that would have been approved earlier on in the year and prior to changes to lending restrictions.”
“There remains to be plenty of activity and demand in the northern and north-western suburbs, around Rototuna and Flagstaff, and Rotokauri, particularly for home and land packages.”
Tauranga home values increased 5.4% year on year but decreased 0.6% over the past three months. Values there are now 42.7% higher than the previous peak of 2007. The average value in the city is $687,241. The Western Bay of Plenty market increased 5.2% year on year and 1.6% over the past three months and the market is now 39.3% higher than the previous peak of 2007. The average value in the district is now $627,634.
QV Tauranga Registered Valuer David Hume said, “Many buyers and sellers were taking a wait and see approach until after the election which means we haven’t seen the usual spring surge in the market.”
“The Mount Manganui market is still going strong with high levels of demand and record sales prices still being achieved.”
“There has been solid demand from first home buyers in areas such as Greerton where renovated three bedroom homes on half sites, are now selling for $550,000.”
“This is partly driven by the area’s fringe CBD location and close proximity of the ever growing commercial/retail hub in Tauriko.”
“In the Western Bay of Plenty, lifestyle properties are still very popular and demand remains strong from those looking for better bang for their buck in terms of what they can buy further out than in Tauranga.”
“It’s been a slower start to spring than usual with activity being hampered by an unusually wet spring and with the election result taking a while to be decided.” 
“We are no longer seeing the frantic buying seen during 2015 and 2016 but people are still achieving good sales prices it’s just values are no longer rising at the rate they were previously.”
The QV House Price Index shows values in the Wellington City increased by 10.0% over the past year and 2.0% over the past three months. Values in the city suburbs are now on average 38.8% higher than the previous peak of 2007. Meanwhile values also continue to rise in the Hutt Valley, with Lower Hutt up by 13.0% year on year and 1.5% over the past quarter; Upper Hutt up 14.7% year on year and 3.6% over the past three months; while Porirua is also up 12.2% year on year and 2.7% over the past quarter as is Kapiti Coast up 15.2% year on year and 2.7% over the past three months.
QV Wellington General Manager, David Nagel said, “The market appears to be at a crossroads, and if the spring surge in listings eventuates, it could be a game changer.”
“With the continued shortage of properties available for purchase it’s is a really good time to sell, with not enough stock and still lots of buyers.”
“There is still plenty of activity and good attendances at open home, but not the frenzy seen during 2016.”
“We are seeing fewer multiple offers but no decrease in values as yet with small value gains continuing across the Wellington region.”
“QV has been doing a lot of valuation work for new homes and apartments, this could be due to the easier lending criteria for new homes and there could be more investors getting into the apartment market has they are less expensive and easy to rent.”
Values have dropped in most parts of Christchurch over the past year and over the past quarter with the exception of Banks Peninsula which rose by 1.6% over the past year and 1.2% over the past three months. 
Christchurch city values have decreased 1.6% year on year and by 0.9% over the past three months. And values in the city are now 29.3% higher than the previous peak of 2007.
QV Christchurch, Senior Consultant Daryl Taggart said, “We are seeing normal levels market activity for a big city.”
“It’s been quiet with not a lot of activity and we haven’t seen the usual spring upturn in the market as yet.”
“There is more than enough supply of new homes on the market and it’s become harder to find buyers for them.”
“However, the entry level market is still going well, but if buyers find any issue with a property than that will be enough to make them pull out of the deal or they may find they have difficulty getting finance approved by lenders who are much stricter than they were previously on approving loans.”
Dunedin residential property values are continuing on the moderate upward trend seen over the past 18 months and they rose 12.0% in the year to October; 2.3% over the past three months and they are now 33.6% higher than the previous peak of 2007. The average value in the city is now $382,402. 
QV Dunedin Property Consultant, Aidan Young said, “The Dunedin market is slowing from its earlier pace, but the market remains very competitive particularly for first home buyers.”
“There are lots of first home buyers looking and we are seeing a number of buyers feeling frustrated and even desperate after missing out on properties numerous times.”  
“As is a common consequence of highly competitive markets, this is leading to people not performing due diligence or being more prepared to overlook any flaws or red flags about the property.” 
“Confidence in the market appears to be good with a recent sale over $2.5m and a further eight sales over $1m since the start of the year within Dunedin City.”
“A few vacant sites have transacted in the premium suburbs of St Clair and Maori Hill recently, which are highly sought after and have achieved record sale prices.” 
“Sales volumes are similar to what they were at the end of 2015 when the market dipped and low listings levels have been a result of listings depleting over time and not being replenished.”
“Buyers are also experiencing difficulties obtaining finance, similar to in other parts of the country.”
“In the investment market there are gains to be found in Dunedin City, Central Otago and Wanaka that cannot be found in most other parts of NZ – with a capital rate of 6.0 to 8.0% compared to around 3.0% in other parts of the country and investors remain active.” 
“More sub-divisions are opening up on the outskirts of Dunedin, for instance in the Northern Harbour areas which offer high elevation with good views, as well as St Clair and continued development in Mosgiel.
Nelson residential property values continued on their upward trending rising 13.9% year on year and 3.7% over the past three months and values are now 44.0% higher than the previous peak of 2007. The average value in the city is now $551,342.  Meanwhile values in the Tasman District have also continued to rise, up 12.6% in the year to October and 2.4% over the past three months. They are 36.2% higher than in the previous peak of 2007. The average value in the Tasman district is now $546,808. 
QV Nelson, Property Consultant Craig Russell said, “The local property market has continued to see steady value growth over the past few months with confidence remaining good despite the finance industry imposing stricter lending conditions, and the country awaiting the direction of the new government.”
“Current listing numbers have increased primarily in Nelson to pre-winter levels which is typical of a spring market. There is a strong underlying demand particularly for well-located property close to good schooling.” 
“Strong demand combined with Nelson central geographical constraints has seen demand surge for periphery areas such as Nelson east and the top end of the Brook.  We have also seen Atawhai land values increase significantly over the past year.”
“Richmond, Stoke, Tahunanui and Motueka have all been in strong demand particularly up to the $500,000 price point.”
“Rural residential sites situated between Richmond and Mapua are selling well and generally sell in the $300,000-$400,000 price bracket depending on views and contour.” 
“Investors may be cautious given the recent election result with many polices set to impact on cash flows including an increase to the bright line test, healthy homes bill, migration cuts, tenancy law amendments and possible changes to investors utilising negative gearing.”
Hawkes Bay
Values continue to rise across the Hawkes Bay region. Napier values rose 18.0% year on year and 3.9% over the past three months. The average value in the city is now $467,330 and values are now 37.3% above the previous peak of 2007. The Hastings market also continues rise up 19.2% year on year and 3.0% over the past three months and the market is now 40.0% higher than 2007. The average value there is now $436,467. 
QV Hawkes Bay Property Consultant Rachael Walker said, “Good prices are still being achieved but the market is not as vigorous as it was previously possibly due to limited supply.”
“We are now seeing a return to business as usual after a wait and see attitude before the election result was finalised.”
“Sub-divisions continue to generate strong sales prices and there is definitely demand in the market but not the frenzy of previous months.” 
“Buyers are taking the time to consider all the factors and doing their due diligence before making an offer.” 
“A shortage of listings had been an issue in recent months however we are now seeing a slight increase in properties coming on to the market as we move into the summer marketing period.”
Provincial centres
In the North Island provincial centres it’s a mixed picture with the general cooling trend in the rate of value growth in areas that have previously seen very strong value growth. This includes the Kaipara District north of Auckland down 3.2% over the past three months; and the Hauraki District South of Auckland down 2.8% over the same period. Meanwhile the South Wairarapa District saw the strongest annual rate of growth with values there rising 29.8% year on year and 6.3% over the past 3 months. Other regional centres to see stronger growth are those that have been the slowest to see values rise in recent years including the Far North District up 17.2% year on year and 3.9% over the past three months and Otorohanga up 25.3% year on year and 9.5% over the past three months. 
In the South Island regional centres, it’s also a mixed picture with some areas still rising and others seeing values flat or dropping. Southland values rose 17.5% year on year and 3.7% over the past three months. Invercargill was also up 8.1% year on year and 2.1% over the past quarter. While values growth stalled in Queenstown Lakes with a 0.0% increase there over the past three months. There was negative annual value growth in Ashburton, down 1.4% since October 2016 and 0.1% over the past three months. 


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.
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