House prices 'hinge on poll'

By Susan Edmunds

Photo / Janna Dixon
Photo / Janna Dixon

A change in government at this year's election could prompt a drop in house prices, real estate experts say.

David Whitburn, the president of the Auckland Property Investors' Association, has been scrutinising political parties' policies and how they might affect the property market. He said if National were to remain in government, people could expect the status quo. But if they were in coalition, or if Labour pulled together a "grand coalition", there could be changes.

Whitburn said there was a lot of attention paid to Labour's capital gains tax plan but less on ringfencing, which would have a more extreme impact.

Ringfencing would mean people would no longer be able to offset a loss from their rental properties against their salary or business earnings. Whitburn estimated tens of thousands of investors in New Zealand who held negatively geared investment portfolios would be hugely affected.

He said when Australia implemented ringfencing in the 1980s, rents in some parts of Sydney increased 35 per cent.

The policy would make it easier for buyers to get into the market, though, as prices would drop.

The Green Party supports a comprehensive capital gains tax. The Maori Party does not.

Property investor and manager Andrew King said when National brought in changes to the rules around depreciation it caused a $15-a-week change to rents. But it also put off people who had been considering buying rental property.

If Labour were to introduce a capital gains tax, it would eventually have to apply to family homes as well. "It really only makes sense if every asset is covered by it. That should be a big worry for homeowners."

The Green Party looks likely to have a stronger presence in Parliament after the election and King said landlords welcomed its policies around home energy and efficiency.

"National have been pushing insulation - lots of rental property owners have taken up [the subsidy for insulation]."

But he said some rental property owners were wary of the Greens' plans to introduce warrants of fitness for homes, to ensure they reached a minimum standard.

"For things such as minimum bedroom sizes, how do you do that? It's a ludicrous idea, it would add to the cost of rental properties."

Peter Thompson, of real estate firm Barfoot and Thompson, said whatever happened, once the election was over, the market would probably improve. "More people are cautious before the election. Once the election is over, people can get back to reality."

- Herald on Sunday

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