According to Stats NZ there were more than 33,000 empty homes across Auckland in 2013. Conservatively, these properties could house more than 60,000 people.
Auckland Council doesn’t much care so long as the rates are paid, and says it doesn’t know how to identify vacant homes. The water and power companies will know though, as will the computer systems that clock people in and out of apartment blocks.
In London, the issue of absent foreign owners of perfectly fine apartments and houses is being tackled by the Homes for Londoners Board. It reports that overseas buyers bought 13 per cent of all new homes in London between 2014 and 2016.
Members of the board recommend that London’s mayor take steps to make new homes available to Londoners before anyone else, and says homes owned by overseas buyers are twice as likely to be vacant than ones owned by UK residents. How else is foreign money to be washed, rinsed and spun?
The UK Government has also introduced a 3 per cent surcharge (tax) on home purchases for anyone who already owns three homes.
News that the Official Cash Rate could be held at 1.75 per cent for some time is good news for homeowners but it doesn’t stop lenders such as High Street banks raising rates.
Nevertheless, Geoff Barnett, national manager of realtor Century 21, says the Reserve Bank’s decision should give first home buyers more confidence to get into the market.
He says any current lull in house prices may only be temporary and that price hikes could return given the ongoing imbalance between supply and demand. He sees the winter period as a buyers’ market, a view echoed by Jose George, general manager of Canstar.
He says news of prices levelling out, and even falling in some places, is good news for those who have struggled to get on the housing ladder. He recommends first-timers put in time and effort to familiarise themselves with the process of buying a home, along with current lending rates, to get the best deal.
According to Canstar’s online comparison tables, the difference between the highest and lowest advertised two-year, fixed-rate home loan for first home buyers is 0.7 per cent. In dollar terms this could mean paying an extra $142 a month on a $350,000 loan over 25 years.
Harcourts’ CEO Chris Kennedy says an auction is always the best way to sell — even in a cooling market. He says if there are just two groups keen on a property you have the formula to achieve top dollar.
However, if there is just one interested party at the auction, the vendor is in a good position to negotiate with a highly motivated buyer who has secured finance.