7 Aug 2020

'Surprising' surge of interest in house sales in regions

6:37 am on 7 August 2020

The impact of Covid-19 on the property market may not be as dramatic as previously thought - thanks in part to a flock of returning New Zealanders.

Aerial view of New Zealand houses at Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

A group of houses in Mt Maunganui - Tauranga has shown the largest rise in house prices in the latest figures released by QV. Photo: 123RF

After dire predictions of a property collapse, the Reserve Bank's latest survey of expectations is now forecasting house prices index to fall by 1.38 percent by this time next year.

The forecasts are a lot lower than its previous prediction of a 5.49 percent decrease.

Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr said the post-lockdown activity in the housing market has beaten expectations.

He said returning New Zealanders, coupled with a shorter than anticipated lockdown, is playing a key role.

"What we saw leading into lockdown was a lot of Kiwis coming home," Kerr said.

"I mean, where else would you want to be in the world right now and you know that that still continues to trickle through. So more people equal more houses and the more demand for houses on a stock that isn't increasing as much puts pressure on price."

The latest QV House Price Index, released this week, is indicating flat movements in the main centres.

Auckland decreased by 0.2 percent, Christchurch increased by 0.5 percent and Wellington increased by 0.4 percent.

The biggest jumper was Tauranga with a 2.5 percent increase.

But Kerr said in regional New Zealand the market appears to be stronger - which is backed up in the QV figures, where all provincial centres apart from Queenstown, saw an increase in values.

"The regions really have surprised us, on the upside. We are seeing more people moving into the regions, particularly out of Auckland, and some of the other cities," he said.

Returning New Zealanders help drive sales in capital

Nicki Cruickshank, sales director at Tommy's Real Estate in Wellington, said sales are performing better than pre-lockdown.

She expects the capital's house prices to dip in spring due to an increase in housing stock.

But so far, Cruickshank said returning New Zealanders are playing a big role in sales.

"Once they have bought a car, they want to buy a house," she said.

"One of these [returning] groups of people have been in Texas since 1992 so that's definitely a driving factor. We've got those people [and] we've got a lot of first home buyers in the market still."

Reserve Bank data shows total monthly new mortgage commitments were at $5.3 billion in June, an increase of $1.1 billion compared to May although it is a 1.4 percent fall from June last year.

In Christchurch, Harcourts Grenadier managing director Andy Freeman said post-lockdown, the market is bouncing back.

Generic houses in NZ - pic taken in Chch June 2020

The housing market in Christchurch is buoyant, a real estate company says. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

"Obviously April was very poor due to the lockdown. May was quite staggering how we recovered, very close to May last year but we were down," he said.

"The June sales stats were up over 30 percent as was July, so it's quite phenomenal how the numbers just keep going up."

Freeman said he believed the market is still solid, with people continuing to want to buy and sell.

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