Home truths: Here come the Jafas, buying homes in the regions

By Andrew Laxon, Lane Nichols

Aucklanders are buying at least 20 per cent of properties in nearby regional main centres, as soaring city prices force house hunters to look elsewhere.

Data supplied to the Herald by CoreLogic shows that in the first three months of this year, Auckland investors and movers bought 23.9 per cent of all properties sold in Whangarei, 19.5 per cent of Tauranga sales and 17.2 per cent of homes in Hamilton. Auckland interest in Hamilton spiked last year to make up almost a quarter of all sales in the three months to June.

Overall, the average level of sales to Aucklanders in Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga has more than doubled in five years to 20 per cent.

The true level is likely to be higher as the figures do not record how many first-home buyers move cities - since they only show up in the system when they make their first purchase.

Anecdotal evidence suggests many would-be first-home buyers who feel shut out of the Auckland market are buying cheaper properties in the regions instead, for themselves or as rentals. A BNZ survey last week found 19 per cent of Aucklanders who did not own their own homes were considering buying a more affordable property investment elsewhere.

Auckland-based Loan Market mortgage broker Bruce Patten said 90 per cent of his clients who bought property outside the city were now purchasing in Tauranga - which riled many local residents.

"They don't like it ... the ones that don't own [homes] feel quite aggrieved that there's so many Aucklanders buying in their neck of the woods and pushing prices up."

The median value for a Tauranga home is now $571,872.- up 22.6% ($105,494) in the year to March.

Hamilton has also seen huge interest from Auckland buyers. Its median value is now $460,725 - up 23.3% ($89,064) in the past twelve months

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There are also reports of surging activity in Wellington and even Dunedin as the "halo effect" of Auckland's housing market fans out across the country, with reports of buyers forgoing due diligence checks in order to secure a home.

Mr Patten agreed rampant house price inflation had driven many buyers out of Auckland to the likes of Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga and Hawkes Bay.

"It's the only way to get on the ladder. In Auckland, for $700,000 you're probably getting a unit now. In Tauranga you're getting a four-bedroom, two-bathroom [house] on a 500sq m-plus section."

CoreLogic senior research analyst Nick Goodall said Auckland investor interest in Whangarei had "kicked up" over the past year or so, while the trend in Tauranga started to lift from late 2014. The level of Auckland buyers in the Hawkes Bay has also risen but less spectacularly, from 4.5 per cent to 7.5.

Yesterday, Herald on Sunday columnist Bernard Hickey said it secretly suited politicians to let house prices rise higher and higher, even though it priced most young people out of home ownership and would make it hard for Auckland employers to find workers.

"The not-so-dirty little secret of the politics of rampant house price inflation is it makes voters richer and happier. They have more equity to reinvest in more rental properties, they can use the equity to build and run businesses and they can use their houses as ATMs for the odd holiday.

"Renters don't vote at nearly the same rate as property owners so politicians can easily preach that they are doing something about housing and safely do very little to stop the inflation."

Readers respond

Readers have responded strongly to the Herald's Home Truths series over the weekend. Here are some of your personal stories.

I am one of those first-home buyers struggling in the Auckland housing market. While my salary has not gone up in the last two years, the houses are selling for nearly double their CV.

What frustrates me is that nothing seriously is being done about it. I do not think the LVR is of any help to first-home buyers. To me it seems that most of young Kiwis' futures of owning a home may be only a dream. It is really hard out there. I have a deposit and have been looking for properties around Auckland east and south for up to $600,000 for a 3-4 bedroom for the last two years now.

Housing is a basic need for everybody and should not be a profit-making scheme for some rich people and investors. There are so many people who are working so hard to buy their first property while some rich and other investors are just making a living out of these properties and do nothing else.

I am wondering if I will ever own a home in Auckland.

Jiks

We are planning to buy our first house this year and so we started seriously looking at the market.

Unfortunately, I don't think we will be able to buy a house at the rate prices are going. We would like to purchase through the NZ housing foundation but our income is over the $95,000 income cap. So we have to buy at regular market price which is unaffordable. Either we buy a house and not have a life, or rent and have a decent living. If we use KiwiSaver ... it's just KiwiSaver withdrawal, not the grant. Where can we buy a $550,000 brand new home in Auckland? We are five in the family - the least we can buy is three bedrooms. Frustrating, but still hoping.

Christine

We sold our house to put funds into our business as it was impossible to get any assistance from lending institutions due to the niche assets we were purchasing. That was over two years ago.

We sold a very modest house. When it came time to repurchase we didn't have the desire to take on a huge mortgage (both over 50) so Auckland was out of the question. We looked at building in Pokeno, however there was a waiting list of about 18 months for sections!

We bought in Wellington/Upper Hutt and got what we consider very good value for money. We are lucky that we work from home and are not limited to where we need to live.

Michele Cozens

- NZ Herald

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