Foreign land buyers: its non-residents, not immigrants

Written By: - Date published: 8:57 am, June 24th, 2013 - 36 comments
Categories: overseas investment - Tags:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse was on Q+A yesterday, talking about immigrant labour exploitation (my opinion on that is its good the Nats are finally taking notice but creating a new law is always their answer when its usually enforcement of existing law that’s the issue, and it would be concerning if the new law creates protections for one class of workers in excess of others) and about foreigners pushing up prices for houses and land. Woodhouse, purposely, conflated immigrants buying houses when they are coming here with non-residents buying houses that are purely rental investments/speculations on the NZ housing market.

They’re different.

No-one has a problem with people buying a house if they’re coming to live here.

There is a problem with people who don’t live here speculating on our housing market (using money they can borrow very cheaply in other countries) and, so, pricing Kiwis out of the market.

Now, National says ‘oh, only 4.5% of houses are being sold to non-residents, what’s it matter?’ Actually, it matters a lot. The supply of houses is inelastic. Add more demand and you force prices up disproportionately.

It doesn’t make sense to let your housing market be used as a profit-making business for foreigners, especially not when it prices your own people out of home ownership and fuels a housing boom that has wider economic ramifications (including higher international debt and a higher dollar).

That’s why other countries don’t let you buy houses there. Australia bans non-residents from buying existing residential properties – they have to add to the housing stock if they want a house in Australia. Why don’t we do the same?

36 comments on “Foreign land buyers: its non-residents, not immigrants”

  1. weka 1

    “No-one has a problem with people buying a house if they’re coming to live here.”

    Actually I do. It looks like immigrants buying land in NZ on the back of exchange rates in their favour have impacted on the land prices and made it harder for locals to buy land. Would be interesting to see an analysis of that.

    I’m not saying immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to buy property, but simply that there is an issue and we shouldn’t sweep it under the carpet. It too needs to be looked at and addressed as well as overseas ownership. As a separate issue though, and completely agree with legislating against overseas ownership.

    • felix 1.1

      Yeah I’d like to see some analysis on that too.

      Over the last decade I’ve noticed a lot of property around here being bought up by british immigrants who came here to live with pockets full of pounds worth far more than our dollars.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 1.1.1

        How many Kiwis do exactly the same? Thousands every year?

        • weka

          How many kiwis immigrate to NZ from the UK taking advantage of the exchange rate?

          • One Anonymous Knucklehead

            No, I mean how many returning citizens come back from their big OE all cashed up?

            • weka

              How big a problem is that?

              • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                I don’t think it’s a problem at all, whether the migrants are NZ citizens or not: I don’t think the issue is a function of immigration policy.

                • weka

                  Do you mean that you don’t think that immigrants with the exchange rate in their favour have increased property prices? Or do you mean that you think that doesn’t matter?

      • ghostrider888 1.1.2

        from te Newz, via migration NZ has gained 6200 people, nett, for the year to date, highest figure for 4 years; English, Suth Afrikahn and Phillipines predominate. Canterbury absorbing 40% of the intake.

    • Binders full of women 1.2

      Actually I don’t, if an immigrant isn’t buying a land or house what are they gonna live in? a hole in the road? Once an immigrant is here they are a ‘local’.

      • rosy 1.2.1

        Agree, Bfow. The problem isn’t immigrants buying a house to live in, it’s people from anywhere buying houses for ‘investment’ and tax write-offs, imo. The only problem with overseas buyers in this context is that overseas investors have an advantage over local investors. Home buyers, rather than property buyers, miss out no matter where the money comes from.

        The answer is not discriminating against immigrant home buyers, it lies somewhere in reducing the attractiveness of property as an investment – consider – capital gains? re-assessing accommodation allowances and private rental markets? not allowing overseas investors to buy property? There’s lots of things that can be considered before pitting local home-buyer against immigrant home-buyer.

        • weka

          “The problem isn’t immigrants buying a house to live in”

          When you say there is no problem, do you mean that immigrants with a good exchange rate haven’t affected property prices? Or do you mean prices have been affected but it’s not a problem because the immigrant now lives here (as opposed to an overseas investor)?

          • rosy

            I reckon there are far bigger problems with the impact of investment in housing, on house prices before worrying about the one home an immigrant family, who’ll be paying the mortgage in NZ dollars in the NZ market and without tax & investment breaks, might buy.

  2. vto 2

    “Now, National says ‘oh, only 4.5% of houses are being sold to non-residents, what’s it matter?’”

    Well once again National are being deceptive. Anyone in business knows full well that a 4.5% change on the demand side of any market is substantial (and btw, I saw figures the other day saying that it was 9%, not 4.5%). In support of that we have seen at various times that when immigration numbers push over about 15,000 (net) per annum the market demand rises hugely. 15,000 is far far less than 4.5%. And the effect is massive.

    National are lying over this. Again.

    Further, there is absolutely no benefit to having foreign landlords. None nada zip.

    • ghostrider888 2.1

      I heard, and read, the figure as 9%.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 2.2

      And it’s 4.5% which may not return to us anytime soon. Built up over a few short years that’s quite a loss of homes for NZers.

      Also the minister fails to consider the accommodation supplement which is doled out to landlords – how much of that cash is floating off overseas??

  3. Lanthanide 3

    “That’s why other countries don’t let you buy houses there. Australia bans non-residents from buying existing residential properties – they have to add to the housing stock if they want a house in Australia. Why don’t we do the same?”

    How come Australia always seems to have much more sensible laws in these types of areas than NZ does?

    Another one that just came up on the news was a Chinese woman in NZ using her chinese drivers license to rent a car, after she had been issued with a restricted (or learners?) NZ license. Legally once you’ve gotten any sort of NZ license, the foreign one becomes invalid. In Australia, upon application for an OZ license, they physically stamp the foreign one as being invalid, but we don’t do that in NZ, hence how the woman was able to rent a car (and was subsequently in a bad car accident).

    • AmaKiwi 3.1

      @ LA “That’s why other countries don’t let you buy houses there”

      and a lot of other “strategic assets” such as media, farms, industries which are essential to the country’s economic independence.

      We are a poor country because we are drowning in debt. So we sell anything we can to maintain a standard living we cannot afford. That puts us even further in debt.

      There are only three OECD countries which have NEVER had a positive balance of payments in any of the last 30 years. Two of them are Greece and NEW ZEALAND. Look to Greece to see our future.

    • Rich 3.2

      Because we aren’t racist bozos like the Aussies?

      Anyway, getting an NZ license doesn’t make the foreign one invalid, it makes it invalid *in NZ*. People might want to have a license that’s valid overseas – I have my UK license (valid forever) not least because it lets me drive 7 tonne trucks in Europe.

      It’s easy to work round stamping an overseas license as invalid – just report your license lost before travelling, then you have two ostensibly valid licenses, one of which you can sacrifice.

      I bet half the NZers who whinge about Asians are perfectly happy to whiz around Bali on a scooter, or raise the hackles of Germans by driving down the autobahn at 100kmh in a ratty old van.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1

        Because we aren’t racist bozos like the Aussies?

        No racism involved – just protection of the local community, protecting it from becoming serfs to overseas owners.

      • felix 3.2.2

        “I bet half the NZers who whinge about Asians are perfectly happy to whiz around Bali on a scooter, or raise the hackles of Germans by driving down the autobahn at 100kmh in a ratty old van.”

        Whatever Rich.

        Do let me know when the NZ Govt assumes responsibility for making and enforcing European and Indonesian law, won’t you?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.3

      Funny that NZ properties are advertised in Australian property publications as ‘ no capital gains tax and ‘no stamp duty’
      A bit of a come on dont you think as both are issues for investment properties over there

  4. insider 4

    So you are in favour of foreigners speculating on new build houses? How did that work out in Queensland or in NZ with schemes like blue chip?

    And has the Australian law worked? Last I read they have some of the most overpriced markets in the world. And they have a cgt. And stamp duty. Maybe the price relationship is more complex. It seems there is a lack of evidence all around. What about the impact of the property owning diaspora?

    • ghostrider888 4.1

      furthermore, people from other countries are moving here, buying here, and then either returning home or to further fields, and leaving properties empty; using foresight I would suggest.

    • Lanthanide 4.2

      “And has the Australian law worked? Last I read they have some of the most overpriced markets in the world. And they have a cgt. And stamp duty. Maybe the price relationship is more complex.”

      The obvious answer is that those levers are assumed to assert a downward pressure on house prices. So if Oz didn’t have them, presumably their house prices would be even worse than they are now.

      So we need:
      1. Evidence that actually they do assert downward pressure on house prices
      2. Evidence that they are the best tools, and there aren’t better tools out there that would do #1 better

      For #2, I’m very much in favour of the Big Kahuna’s land tax.

      • insider 4.2.1

        Awfully big assumption and I’m not sure if you could ever prove they are suppressing prices. We already have a land tax called rates.

  5. ghostrider888 5

    “Inelastic”- An economic term used to describe the situation in which the supply and demand for a good (or service) are unaffected when the price of that good (or service) changes.

  6. ropata 6

    Asset stripping NZ property is of a piece with our glamorous new casino- and brothel-based economy. As long as the sacred property market is worshiped above all other social goals, money launderers like Key will stay in power

  7. xtasy 7

    Perhaps to also bear in mind: It takes a buyer and a seller in a sale of a house. So for any overseas or non-resident buyer, or also a migrant buyer who comes and makes an offer, there is always a local prepared to sell.

    It is therefore a bit one sided to criticise the non resident or migrant alone, as there have been and are a lot of New Zealand citizens and residents prepared to sell for a good gain. Some do that to move on to Australia, for a better life.

    So much for “patriotism” I’d say.

    Hence it does of course make sense to put restrictions up for non-resident buyers and to also bring in a capital gains tax, to stop the pressure on the housing market.

    Continued migration also adds pressures, of course, and then, like with existing internal population growth, demand will need to be met with supply.

    Naturally it is up to NZers and those living here, to determine what they want. If it was not for the poor economic planning of NZ governments, always choosing the easy option to create growth by increasing the labour and also consumer market through immigration, things might have been looking differently and better by now.

    It is primitive economics to rely on migration for growth, for replacement of outflow of disillusioned not seeing a future here and the likes. Increased productivity and diversification of economic production with higher value added products and services could make a difference.

    Are NZ governments, from either side, up to the challenge though?

    • ghostrider888 7.1

      regarding the implementation of this EmOG (small ‘e’) tool- “clinical management, with employment focus, integrated with one-to-one employment support…however, unlike the other evidence-based treatments , employment support services are not routinely available in secondary and primary mental health services in New Zealand…will require referral to local employment services” This will be where this work-makes-you-better (definitely an arguable thesis, with work in modern New Zealand increasingly making people un-well, or un-living) programme will come off the rails 😉 as the informed experience I have of these agencies placing the types of clients in question is one of poor suitability, to say the least.
      (not always a “waste of space” xtasy).

      • xtasy 7.1.1

        ghostrider888 – Much appreciated – I am not sure whether this is the right reply to the right comment under the right story, but I do know what you are referring to (Open Mile 23 June, further down the bottom, I suppose).

  8. ghostrider888 8

    Edit: small ‘m’.

  9. Saarbo 9

    “Now, National says ‘oh, only 4.5% of houses are being sold to non-residents, what’s it matter?’ Actually, it matters a lot. The supply of houses is inelastic. Add more demand and you force prices up disproportionately.”

    Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but 4.5% of Auckland House sales = about 1100 houses. So stopping these sales will add 1100 houses to the supply essentially.

    • Herodotus 9.1

      You are assuming that these houses remain empty, if they have been tenanted they do not add to the Supply. The difference is that there could be a dampening of price.
      Yet if theses off shore purchasers made the purchase under say a trust with nz trustees then how would the ownership be classified ?

  10. xtasy 10

    Honestly this post here is a bit ill informed!

    There are thousands of migrants coming into NZ every year, and they are not poor ones. NZ immigration law is so designed, to favour those that have skills, have investment capital, have business and entrepreneurship capabilities and more. You will find that due to the design of immigration legislation, New Zealand attracts primarily migrants with not just skills and potential to be entrepreneurs, most of them bring with them a nice cache of cash or other values.

    These are the ones, already granted permanent residency, or otherwise about to get it granted, who come here also, to look for housing. They are not the poor slum dwellers from India, from China, from South Africa, they are usually rather well stacked and can put up more cash for a home than the average Kiwi can. There are also many expats coming back, and they are also generally coming here with a sound bank account balance, ready to buy.

    I think that this post here is not realising this, it is ignoring this.

    The local housing and job market is being flooded by those mentioned immigrant and investment forces, so the locals, who have stayed here, lived and earned too little to save, who struggle and have to beg the banks to get a loan, they are up against all this.

    So you so liberal minded, so “tolerant” folk, perhaps rethink your naive views and thinking? You want liberal immigration, tolerance, freedom of movement, and so forth, but in some ways you are digging your own graves when it comes to afford ability of housing.

    NZ is not a social, collective, fair and egalitarian society anymore, and those here, that still dream of it, wake the fuck up!

    You may well be too hospitable for the ones that are here to totally undermine the society you wish to uphold. You are with your liberalism allowing the corruption of the social Aoteaora NZ. The same applies to tangata whenua, I am indeed stunned that pacifists and accommodators still run the show. If I was Maori, I would be in a GANG!

    I think you all need a damned good cold shower or awakening about what really goes on, you are lost dreamers, too many of you.

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