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Warnings on Auckland Housing

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, March 31st, 2017 - 60 comments
Categories: housing - Tags: , ,

Warnings on the state of the Auckland housing market are coming thick and fast now. People who bought recently (at the peak of prices and low interest rates) are likely to get burned. From Stuff:

Warning to Auckland home buyers: ‘The game’s over’

ANZ’s chief economist says “the game’s over” for Auckland’s housing boom, and warned New Zealand’s largest city is now heavily exposed to the risk of rising interest rates.

While Auckland has a major shortage of new houses being built at a time of record migration, Cameron Bagrie said the real driver of house prices were low interest rates. With mortgage rates already climbing, Bagrie said higher borrowing costs would trump the supply shortage.

So still no good news for first home buyers.

“House prices have risen to such an extent that we estimate that for the average Auckland household to purchase the average house… debt servicing costs (principle and interest) would now represent 51 per cent of average disposable incomes,” Bagrie said.

“A 1 percentage point increase in mortgage rates would see this jump to nearly 56 per cent, which is far higher than in 2007, when the minimum mortgage rate was closer to 9 per cent.”

Here’s the usual excellent analysis from interest.co.nz:

The Auckland housing market is on the verge of losing all the capital gains it made in the last 12 months

The Auckland housing market is on the verge of having all of the capital gains it made in the last 12 months wiped out. Prices of Auckland properties have fallen so much in the last few months that median prices are within a hair’s breadth of going into negative territory on an annual basis. They may already be there.

In February the average price of Auckland homes sold by Harcourts, the country’s largest real estate agency, was $934,428, down 1.1% compared to where it was in February last year.

According to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, Auckland’s median selling price peaked at $868,000 in October last year and has declined every month since. In February it hit $800,000, down 7.8% from October’s peak.

The interesting thing about those numbers is that the downward trend they show is occurring at a time when Auckland’s migration-driven population growth is increasing at record levels and construction of new housing continues to fall miserably below the numbers that are required, exacerbating the region’s growing housing shortage.

How can this be? As you might expect, the market is being influenced by forces converging from several different directions.

One of the biggest changes to affect the Auckland market over the last few months has been the relative absence of local ethnic Chinese buyers. It would be hard to underestimate the impact they were having on Auckland’s residential property market up until about the end of the third quarter of last year. … Auctions that were packed with Chinese buyers this time last year are now much quieter and Chinese faces are often more notable by their absence rather than their presence. … With the odd exception, the days of the bidding frenzy are over.

This change in buyer behaviour corresponded with new restrictions the Chinese government introduced on the amount of money people could take out of China, cutting off one of the main sources of funding for property purchases by Chinese buyers in this country.

Around the same time, interest rates started rising and tougher loan-to-value ratio (LVR) restrictions on investment properties introduced by the Reserve Bank began to bite.

All of these factors began to weigh on market sentiment, which could potentially have a bigger impact on the market than actual drivers like interest rates.

Here’s a view from the outside, the (Australian) Macrobusiness blog (lots of useful graphs, go read the original):

Add a third huge bubble city to your Aussie bank risk list

CoreLogic has released its latest New Zealand Property Market & Economic Update, which paints a disturbing picture of Auckland’s housing market.

First, population growth into Auckland has been extreme – driven by immigration – with the city’s population growing by 44,500 over the past year, accounting for nearly half of New Zealand’s total population growth of 97,000 … At the same time as Auckland’s population is surging, dwelling consents remain weak…Which has led to a worsening shortage of homes across New Zealand, concentrated in Auckland.

Yet, despite the exorbitant cost, investor participation in the Auckland housing market is at a record high 44%, whereas first home buyers have crashed to 19%

In short, Auckland’s housing market is an immigration and investor-led bubble like few others.

Any government is between a rock and a hard place here. Prices need to fall for first time buyers, but if they do fall (especially with rising interest rates) some recent buyers are going to be hit hard.

English said at the end of 2015 that low interest rates could be locked in “for years”, they started going up in 2016. With similar grasp of the issues English reckons the high cost of housing is due to environmental protection measures, and his helpful advice to first home buyers is be patient. In short, National have no answers.

Labour wants to help first time buyers by building affordable houses. If they have a solution for at risk buyers who bought at the peak I’m not aware of it. Markets rise, they also fall, Auckland might fall further.

60 comments on “Warnings on Auckland Housing”

  1. Andre 1

    nnggh…must not be irritating pedant…nnnnggh…arrrgh

    “People who brought recently (at the peak of prices and low interest rates)…”

    brought is the past tense and past participle of bring

    bought is the past tense and past participle of buy

    I feel better now.

  2. Andre 2

    As for the substance of the post: the interest.co.nz piece points a finger at Chinese money getting tighter leading to a fall in activity from Chinese investors. But there is still the possibility of that being balanced in the near future by Trump refugees from the US as they work their way through the paperwork.

    • Fustercluck 2.1

      Migrants of any extraction are only capable of temporary distortion of the market. ANY residential real estate market that disconnects itself from first time home buyers and instead relies on speculators is doomed. The drop in prices is on its way, the only question is exactly when. Interest rates shifting from historically low levels will be a violently effective catalyst for this change in the market.

  3. BM 3

    Labour wants to help first time buyers by building affordable houses

    That’s the problem with Labours plan right there.

    Facts are only a very small fraction of first home buyers can afford a new house, what needs to happen is for the older house market to drop in value, this is what first home buyers should be aiming at

    Labour would do so much better to target this sector by providing more state housing and introduce a rental WOF, this will help free up more properties and make the rental market less attractive to speculators/investors.

    Kiwi build will do nothing but cripple first home buyers with a mountain of debt for the next 30 years.

    • r0b 3.1

      what needs to happen is for the older house market to drop in value, this is what first home buyers should be aiming at

      I agree with you (for a change). But I don’t see any political party ever being willing to say that.

      • Sacha 3.1.1

        Except the Greens already did: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/309530/auckland-house-prices-need-to-drop-50-percent-greens

        Never happen in a coalition govt with Labour. Homeowners vote.

      • BM 3.1.2

        Kiwi build is nothing more than an expensive political gimmick which will achieve nothing, Labour needs to flag this Kiwibuild nonsense and concentrate on the rental sector, that’s what will help people the most.

        Labour needs to be proposing or will do.

        – Rental WOF
        – State Housing with rent to buy options
        – Stop foreign speculation in the residential property market
        – Take steps to free up as much land as possible over the next 10 years

        One of the worst thing that’s happened to NZ in the past 10-15 years is having so people up to their eyeballs in debt, all that money removed from the economy and heading offshore instead of staying in the local economy creating jobs.

        • Jenny Kirk 3.1.2.1

          BM – Labour’s housing policy includes state housing – building 1000 a year rentals until the need is satisfied.
          This is why they (Labour) have said its a COMPREHENSIV housing package – it covers all needs.

          • Enough is Enough 3.1.2.1.1

            And in the short where are these builders coming from to build these additional 100 rental a year.

            Do we have a surplus of builders waiting for Labour to be elected, or are we at full capacity now?

            I

        • ropata 3.1.2.2

          hahahahaha “expensive political gimmick”

          who was it that
          . wasted millions on a flag referendum?
          . built the white elephant Kapiti Expressway?
          . wanted to build 2x white elephant Conference centres?
          . built a goddamn SHEEP FARM in the DESERT!?!?
          . raised GST and cut income taxes?!

          The rest of your comment is less silly… but you forgot to add Capital Gains Tax and a Land Value Tax to your list

          • aerobubble 3.1.2.2.1

            Dont forget inviting tourists here and leaving them to shit on everything coz Minster of Tourism Key think its okay for cows to. Infrastructure. Where is it!

    • AsleepWhileWalking 3.2

      Yep.

  4. Keith 4

    So rather than Nationals fiddle while Rome burns tinkering it is likely that the Chinese Government had a bigger influence. That must have pissed the Nat’s right off, busily looking like they were doing something but inbuilt full of loop holes until another government did the right thing!

    And despite the immigration flood with the large component of non resident migrants being a particular aggravator of National Party making, consents are weak which speaks of what a directionless cluster fuck this “housing boom/crisis” has been. No planning both migrant or housing wise, just Nick Smith and co running around with their hair on fire when the polling starts to hurt.

    But for now the investors are still selling houses to each other like nothing has changed or so it seems.

    However I think plenty are going to have to be burnt badly by their greed if there is ever any chance of this insanity being cured, just like the 1987 stock market crash burnt greedy mum and dad investors. Tough love I think conservatives call it!

    • Once ........... etc. 4.1

      +1 – especially the last two paragraphs.
      And the thing that peeves me is that we’ll all be expected to feel sorry for those (speculators) driven by greed.
      But since the Natzis have been bought (and indeed bRought), they’re now being given a gentle reminder of just who exektery is in control.

      And whilst we’re all talking about property – there’s more shit in the wings gradually eeking its way out: that ‘tertiary education export sector’, with academia now blowing whistles on the pressure being put upon them. All designed to inflate yet another bubble.

      Has anyone else noticed though that the agencies involved in all of this – whether its Building and Housing, Immigration, Labour Inspectorate and various other bits – all fall under that bugger’s muddle of a Joyce creation (MoBIE)? The ‘I’ bit certainly is – its just applied in a way no one saw coming.

  5. Ad 5

    If it kept like this until September, it’s almost the election the Opposition might want to lose.

  6. Carolyn_nth 6

    And what will happen to the situation for those of us who rent in Auckland?

    • Andre 6.1

      Well, there’s frequent assertions by some that any increase in costs to landlords will cause them to raise rents. But as far as I can tell, there seems to be two fairly broad groups of landlords: those that actively try to maximise the return from their investments and raise rents as high as they can to what the market will bear as frequently they can, and those that are satisfied with an adequate return and are happy enough with lower than market rents especially for good stable tenants.

      So the rental market will continue to be set by “what the market will bear”. Immigration will continue to be a push upwards on that. If there is in fact a large number of empty houses purchased in expectation of capital gain, and the market turns down, then those might start getting offloaded increasing the supply of rentals and pushing down rental rates.

      • Carolyn_nth 6.1.1

        OK. Thanks. So, it’s just wait and see. Feels like being at the mercy of other people’s behaviour (often based in greed), on which I have no influence.

        • Andre 6.1.1.1

          Sadly yeah. Culturally the way renting in New Zealand (and Australia and most of the US) has been viewed as a brief step on the way to owning has meant tenancy protection laws have been left very lax. Which feeds back into the emotional appeal of owning simply for the security.

          • Carolyn_nth 6.1.1.1.1

            Yes. That’s how I see the NZ situation – talking up NZ housing as the Kiwi dream becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy – except, the last buyers into a property-buying frenzy get burned, and the dream turns to a nightmare.

            Renting has been fine for me for most of my adult life (except the last 9 years), and it probably will be again.

  7. Sacha 7

    Great to see a bank economist acknowledging financial factors are a big part of the problem, rather than land supply.

  8. ianmac 8

    If the Auckland Market is to loose the last 12 months of Capital Gains, could Key have seen it coming and walked away?

    • ian 8.1

      He probably would have seen it coming. If our house price difficulties are caused by capital flight, an expert currency trader (like Key) would have seen it a mile off. Not sure if that’s why he left though. Remember, he was the one who pushed the button on Operation Burnham.

    • Mordecai 8.2

      Well that’s the latest theory that will end up in the dustbin of history with all the others.

  9. saveNZ 9

    We have heard all these comments for 20 years. I have no idea what will happen with property, but I do know that most property ‘experts’ always get it wrong.

    Until the last few years experts refused to even consider immigration as a factor and openly discounted it.

    In Auckland there is record rents, short supply and still more people coming. The banks have changed their investment criteria and are being tight with lending and that is effecting the prices more. Chinese often have large cash deposits and can get much lower interest rates but their domestic policy has tightened up.

    I’ve had many friends who listened to these so called experts and did not buy. One friend was told by ‘experts’ not to buy because it was ‘the peak of the market’ at $500k sold for $1.4 million a few years later and now they can’t afford to buy anymore.

    In general property will double every 7 years and has done so since the year dot.

    Yep, there are ups and downs but the eye watering costs of construction, the poor productivity level of construction (yep apparently with all the ‘skills’ shortages the government policy of importing people instead of training people in this industry has mean’t that our construction productivity has dropped), the amount of natural disasters and remedial work needed on current supply stock…

    Anyway too early to call it. But I would not be dancing a jig and thinking the sky’s about to fall in on property any time soon and if it does fall in, that local people will benefit from that.

  10. Wensleydale 10

    There’s a storm coming. I’m waiting for the howls of anguish to start any day now. “You mean, behaving like a rapacious brigand at the rest of society’s expense might have some negative consequences?! Noooooo!”

    Note to self: Must refrain from smirking.

  11. ropata 11

    Sure theres a shortage of more than 50k homes but the most important thing is rich people dont have things near them https://t.co/s1lMeu9hQU— Francis McRae (@FrankMcRae) March 29, 2017

    Herald article: “Nine-level apartment blocks rejected”

    A Todd Property company has been denied consent to build apartment blocks up to nine levels high at a big Auckland residential community.

    Auckland Council rejected the application from Stonefields Development to build three apartment blocks and 11 terrace houses at 80 Korere Tce at Stonefields in the Mt Wellington/St Johns area.

    “The bulk and scale of the apartment buildings would result in a character which is not in-keeping with the neighbouring development and not envisaged in the planned urban character for the site and area,” the council decision said.

    • Molly 11.1

      Stonefields has the look of 1960’s East Europe as you come down from St Johns.

      A particularly ugly, unwelcoming development at the moment.

      Also, looks like a place that would be sweltering hot in the summer. Unless there is a way to catch the breeze in what is essentially a stone crater. And given the thermal mass of the stone around the development, that ambient heat is going to be fairly high.

      The place needs more planned “cooling” areas to start before adding more thermal mass in the form of bigger buildings.

  12. ropata 12

    Here's the 5 feedback loops that are making the Auckland housing crisis worse, and 5 ways to fix it. https://t.co/otp8gAZ0O7— Bernard Hickey (@bernardchickey) March 30, 2017

    Auckland housing in a crisis loop

    Auckland’s housing supply and affordability crisis is proving devilishly hard to fix, partly because the high prices that should help solve the problem have found at least five ways to make the problem worse.

    These feedback loops could be broken with the help of least five interventions proposed in recent months, but that is only possible with the political will to overcome the objections of those who benefit from sky-high prices.

    • Mordecai 12.1

      “That’s what happens in normal markets where land supply for housing is plentiful ”

      From the piece you referred to. That’s precisely what the government is addressing.

    • Brendon 12.2

      Excellent report by Bernard Hickey. I was pondering over the following facts earlier today.

      “Building consents stagnating in Auckland.
      https://www.interest.co.nz/property/86807/number-new-dwelling-consents-issued-has-trended-down-every-month-august-last-year

      This is a different path to Canterbury -we had a series of one off demand shocks -earthquake damaged housing in 2010 to 2012 when aftershocks finally abated. Canterbury’s response was for building consents increased to 12 per 1000, with much higher rates in Waimak and Selwyn districts. Canterbury hit a residential build peak by the end of 2014 through to the beginning of 2016 and a gradual decline to more usual consenting rates -which are still the second highest in the country.

      Auckland has had a continued (right up to current day) ramp up in demand from rising immigration yet building consents have only increased to 6 per 1000 and this has stagnated for last year.”

      Bernard filled in the back story of how Canterbury as an emergency response to the earthquakes increased supply but Auckland has not.

      • Brendon 12.2.1

        Probably the difference was Christchurch was an obvious crisis. Problems like a lack of housing could not be ignored -there was a political will to act.

        While in Auckland the housing crisis has been denied and there has been a lack of political will to act. The National party are one of the main deniers. Refusing to act for years. Whereas Labour could see the growing housing crisis way back in 2012 and started to announce policy -including the still relevant KiwiBuild policy.

        Here is a NZ Herald from November 2012
        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10848869

        What a waste this policy wasn’t acted on…….

    • saveNZ 12.3

      Isn’t Hickey the guy who has predicted the property crash for the last 15 years… only he’s always wrong. So wrong that a lot of local people were advised by him in his articles not to buy, did not and now can’t afford to buy.

      Usual right wing advice disguised as left wing advice.

      Maybe people should ask the Christchurch people how happy they are as he seems to think the government did an amazing job with the earthquake rebuilding…. he’s the only guy I’ve ever seen who write’s that.

      Now we don’t have John Campbell anymore to actually go to Christchurch and find out did the government interference and reduction of all building and resource consent standards a good idea (I guess like leaky building, time will tell),

      Nope, no John Campbell, but we still have the same tired old commentators giving the same advice, no matter how incorrect their advice has been in the past.

      (I guess if you say the same thing for 15 years, maybe eventually you may finally be right… or maybe not)…

  13. Jeremy 13

    “[ANZ’s latest Property Focus publication says] 51% of household income is getting sucked up by the interest payments on an average new purchase in Auckland”

    https://www.interest.co.nz/opinion/86789/david-hargreaves-hopes-best-auckland-home-buyers-making-high-stakes-gamble-auckland

  14. Mordecai 14

    1. The main drivers of house price inflation in Auckland have been a) lack of supply caused by successive govt’s inaction and local government planning incompetence, and b) uncontrolled flow of foreign capital being invested in the property market.
    2. b) has slowed, but, in my view, only temporarily. a) is being aggressively addressed, as just about anyone involved in property in Auckland will attest.

    I think it is unlikely there will be a collapse in prices, but a levelling out is already here, and a correction of some degree is inevitable.

  15. Ad 15

    If this government hadn’t dumped the cartel legislation, we could have seen a good grilling of Fletcher Building et al.

    Cost of construction is still going through the roof.

    • saveNZ 15.1

      Cost of construction is still going through the roof…. but funny enough the building materials seem to have huge amounts of problems… bad steel, bad pipes, bad concrete…

      You have to wonder how can a government fuck everything up and manage to both increase prices but decrease quality…

      • BM 15.1.1

        Building materials aren’t that much different in price to what they were 15 years ago.

        • NewsFlash 15.1.1.1

          BM

          Crap, your talking crap! they’re now twice the price they were five years ago and twice that of the price in Australia for the very same product, it now costs $2000 NZ per square metre to build in NZ and $1000 NZ per square metre to build in Australia, and the reasons are: mismanagement by an incompetent government that achieved absolutely nothing of value in eight long years.

          Your advice for what “Labour should be doing” is advise you should be offering “Bill”, lets face it, he doesn’t seem to have clue, I can’t recall NZ ever having such an inarticulate leader, ever, he’s an absolute embarrassment.

          • Antoine 15.1.1.1.1

            Why have the prices of building materials risen (if they have)?

            (Genuinely interested)

          • BM 15.1.1.1.2

            I’d say builders are adding quite a bit of margin to the materials, the customers certainly aren’t getting materials at trade.

            Which is hardly surprising, they’re in demand, there’s a shortage of qualified builders so they can ream the customer as much as they want, the customer has no choice they just have to bend over and take it.

  16. Sabine 16

    has anyone got any data on commercial properties? Empty offices, shops, workshops etc etc etc .

    I would find this sort of data very interesting.

    • saveNZ 16.1

      I don’t have data but I assume the real estate agents/institute would – but looking around there seems to be a hell of a lot of empty retail spaces in prime locations in Auckland in particular places like Ponsonby that you would think should not be vacant.

      • Sabine 16.1.1

        not just there, go on the country side same thing.

        I would assume that the commercial market has the same issues then the commercial. Rents to high. So they stay empty, and businesses are not created or don’t upgrade.

  17. Arthur 17

    So, let me understand: just 19% percent of buyers are first house buyers, however you claim that the housing market is driven by immigration? How’s that even possible when most immigrants come to look for a better life, meaning they don’t have the money to buy a house and of course the vast majority of them just rent?

    To be clear, housing market and its bubble has been driven JUST BY GREED. Greed that has come from local and foreign speculators (a.k.a. investors), as well as our own banks which will be the first ones to be hit, as already happened in so many places like the US, Ireland, Spain, etc. over the last few years.

    Keep blaming the wrong ones and you’ll never solve the problem, immigration numbers are high, but the issue is being caused by politicians and the powerful who are making big money out of this.

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