Local real estate experts say the introduction of lending restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank are contributing to a drop in the number of Tauranga homes selling for less than half-a-million dollars.
Statistics released by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand show just 9 per cent of the homes sold in Tauranga during the third quarter of 2016 (July to September) were valued at less than $400,000. During the same quarter last year the bottom of the market made up 26 per cent.
In the next price bracket ($400,000 to $599,000) the percentage also dropped significantly from 44 per cent for the third quarter last year to 38 per cent in 2016.
Meanwhile, the opposite is occurring at the top end of the market, with sales in the million- dollar plus bracket doubling from 5 per cent to 10 per cent over the same three month period.
The biggest change was in the $600,000 to $1m price range, which went from making up 25 per cent of the market in 2015 to 43 per cent this year.
Ross Stanway, chief executive of Realty Group, which owns Bayleys and Eves, said the LVR restrictions had impacted a portion of the first-home buyer market - those who relied heavily on the need to borrow large sums.
Others had benefited from a decrease in competition, both from other first-home buyers and investors.
Banks had been implementing the restrictions long before the changes officially came into effect on October 1, he said.
"I think that's probably why we haven't seen a marked change."
The LVR restrictions had also stemmed the demand that was coming from investors but the impact had been felt greater in Auckland, Mr Stanway said.
Meanwhile, listings had taken a "leap forward" in the last couple of weeks," he said.
The shift in prices - with the average house price in Tauranga now $650,000 - had seen first-home buyers purchasing homes in suburbs that weren't traditionally sought after, but represented good value for money.
Suburbs like Gate Pa, Greerton and parts of Brookfield, he said.
"That's bringing a whole new group of people into communities," he said. "It's changing the face of them."
While house prices had seen a 25 per cent increase year on year Mr Stanway said subdivisions at Papamoa, The Lakes and Omokoroa were pushing ahead.
"There at least is competition between developers and builders," he said.
Owner of Ray White Mount Maunganui and Papamoa Greg Purcell said house prices hadn't gone up for the past couple of months but the top half of the market was certainly outselling the bottom.
Houses in the $400,000 to $500,000 had been "just flying out the door" for the past 20 months but the LVR restrictions had contributed to sales shifting to the upper price range, he said.
The LVRs had also "culled a lot of investors or taken them out of the market," he said.
They were now looking to areas like Opotiki where property was cheaper.
Harcourts Tauranga managing director Simon Martin said the LVRs were one of three factors influencing the market at the moment.
Sales at the top end of the market were pushing the median price up, he said.
The value of homes had gone up and interest rates had dropped meaning people could afford to buy more expensive homes.
Lower-priced properties were selling but taking longer to do so with a 30 per cent increase in property listings.
Open homes that attracted 10 potential buyers in May/June were now attracting five or six, he said.
However, prices were starting to stabilise a bit more, he said.
Under the new Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) restrictions (effective October 1, 2016):
- No more than 5 per cent of bank lending to residential property investors across New Zealand would be permitted with an LVR of greater than 60 per cent (i.e. a deposit of less than 40 per cent).
- No more than 10 per cent of lending to owner-occupiers across New Zealand would be permitted with an LVR of greater than 80 per cent (i.e. a deposit of less than 20 per cent).
- Loans that are exempt from the existing LVR restrictions, including loans to construct new dwellings, would continue to be exempt.
Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand