Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

NZ landlords buying up houses in US

The strip in Las Vegas is five minutes' drive away from a three-bedroom house Tim Duffett bought for US$60,500 ($77,000).  Photo / Kenny Rodger
The strip in Las Vegas is five minutes' drive away from a three-bedroom house Tim Duffett bought for US$60,500 ($77,000). Photo / Kenny Rodger

New Zealand landlords are investing in residential property in the United States as rental returns outstrip what they can earn in New Zealand.

Auckland-based investor Tim Duffett and Hamilton's Nancy Caiger said they had bought a number of houses there and knew of others doing the same.

Duffett bought seven properties in Las Vegas, not far from entertainment hub the Strip, and said annual returns were 17 per cent in one case but 25 to 28 per cent in another.

"The returns are so much better," he said, citing extremely low house prices, particularly compared to Auckland.

"There's quite a few Kiwis doing this. I can pay a house off there in four years," he said, citing favourable economic conditions, banks seeking cash buyers and tenants so keen for properties that some deals were signed in a matter of hours.

Caiger, who is also president of the Waikato Property Investors' Association, now owns properties in Atlanta, Memphis and Rochester and described opportunities as "once in a lifetime".

"It's not a new phenomenon and we're just a tiny portion of people who have gone into the States, because there are more from Canada, China, India and the UK," she said.

"Recently, even huge funds are starting to invest. People have realised the market has overshot on the down side."

Caiger was born in Singapore, lived in Britain for 12 years and left a career in the financial markets to move here in 1993 for lifestyle reasons.

She took up property investments to create a passive income stream and said her strategy had been mainly to buy and hold long-term.

Duffett was inspired to buy in the US, after he heard her speak and read of Nevada's housing problems.

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert said New Zealand's housing market was stuck in clearly overvalued territory which he said might mostly be a consequence of very low interest rates.

"New Zealand house prices, having never really shaken the bubble they formed over 2004-07, are threatening to blow bigger again," Ebert wrote on interest.co.nz.

David Whitburn, president of the Auckland Property Investors' Association, said he would keep his money here.

"Sure, some of the returns appear good on paper. But when delving into this further, this got well outside my risk tolerance profile," Whitburn said.

"It is extremely high risk.

"I have heard horror stories of tenant issues with bad attitudes prevalent in the highest yielding areas in the US with very high unemployment, where paying rent is seen as voluntary," he said.

"There are poor property management practices in the US - they are not as good as Kiwi property managers in general.

"Then there is an exchange rate risk that could heavily erode returns."

New Zealand was not a litigious nation and we have an ACC procedural bar against personal injury, he said.

"What happens in the US is that if your tenant falls through the steps and injures themselves then you could face a whopping great lawsuit."

US HOME SALES:

- NZ Herald

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