New Zealand real estate hits the wall


In March an industry colleague reminded me that I had said this year would be a turning point for real estate and that the market would slow.

Back then the market  was still  busy as we experienced the last knockings of a heady summer sales period. But the dark clouds were on the horizon (you have to know where to look).

Well, it is well established now that real estate is in a bit of a funk. But as I have said previously, the underlying pressures remain — too many people chasing too few homes.

Nevertheless,  economists at Westpac have chipped in, saying there are increasing signs of softness coming through in the housing market.

Their weekly report said: “The past year has seen house price inflation slow considerably, coupled with a large decline in house sales. These developments have come on the back of a tightening in lending conditions (LVRs) and creep in higher   mortgage rates. Initially, the impact of these changes had been concentrated heavily in Auckland.”

They also say sales across the country have fallen sharply through mid-2017, “and by much more than the usual winter lull”.

“In addition, Auckland prices have continued to fall and are now down 4 per cent since January, while in other regions much of the resilience in house prices earlier in the year  has faded.”

Wider impacts

Whenever people move home there are costs over and above the obvious.

Often home furnishings and appliances are bought, along with money spent decorating the “new” home. So the current slowdown has impacts on the wider economy and the Government’s GST take.

Westpac’s economists say  looking back to the earlier part of this year, durable goods spending has been relatively flat.

“With mortgage rates expected to continue to push higher, and house prices to continue easing, this signals an important headwind for economic activity over the year ahead.”

And though  the official cash rate will likely remain unchanged for another year, that doesn’t stop banks increasing their rates by tiny fractions at a time.

Each  upward increment  takes a little more cash out of our pockets, away from discretionary spending.

And talking of home loans, how long will it be until crunch time comes for the thousands of people who took out interest-only home loans? When these loans  start ticking over to capital and interest, and the resulting higher repayments, some people will be in financial stress.