6 May 2020

Housing market grew in 12 months to May - but Covid-19 impact not clear

6:49 am on 6 May 2020

A new report on property values show the market grew in the 12 months to the end of April but the data does not give a clear picture of the dramatic impact of Covid-19 last month.

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The CoreLogic QV April 2020 House Price Index covers the lockdown period but it does not reflect the 80-90 percent drop in activity.

The index uses a rolling three month collection of sales data and shows that values grew across New Zealand by 7.1 percent over the year, with growth of 4.5 percent in Auckland and 20.7 percent Dunedin, the strongest of the main centres.

The lack of activity in April during lockdown means the index is dominated by the data pre-alert level 4.

CoreLogic head of research Nick Goodall said the May index - released in June - will have a better picture of what happened at alert level 3, but data in Australia is also giving an indication.

"Their last month is probably similar to our level 3. So we are looking across the Tasman to see how their market's been performing and not seeing price drops just yet and that's because people have been able to hold on a little longer due to the support that's been provided by the government, reserve bank and banks themselves," Goodall said.

It means they should be able to hold on for the next couple of months until they get more certainty about their jobs and financial situations.

What happens now

After a strong year of growth, the focus was now on reaction from owners and would-be owners of property to Covid-19, Goodall said.

Appraisals by agents more than doubled last week from a very low base, but there will still be a small number of properties for sale in the short term, he said.

Sellers and buyers will be affected by higher unemployment, lower household income and tight bank lending.

Goodall predicted a price stand-off as "prospective buyers sense a re-balance of power in their favour, and consider the likelihood of price falls in the short term. Vendors will then be faced with the option of selling at a reduced price or holding on and hoping things improve".

Property values would reflect the economies of the different regions, he said.

"The key thing we're going to recognise here is that different parts of the country will be hit unequally."

Queenstown was an example where the economy was suffering and property prices would reflect that.

By contrast, property values in regions with broader-based economies that relied on a range of industries such as Hawke's Bay and Invercargill would be less affected by the Covid-19 downturn.

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