Lane Nichols is a senior NZ Herald reporter

Auckland's nine most-flipped houses

Speculators are trading Auckland homes like baseball cards on the back of rampant capital gain. Property reporter Lane Nichols investigates the city’s most on-sold properties and the huge profits being harvested.
Auckland's nine most "flipped" properties were sold a total of 38 times since January last year with their collective value escalating by more than $1.7 million. Photo / Michael Craig
Auckland's nine most "flipped" properties were sold a total of 38 times since January last year with their collective value escalating by more than $1.7 million. Photo / Michael Craig

They're mostly a tired bunch of very average homes in some of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

But Auckland's nine most "flipped" properties were sold a total of 38 times since January last year with their collective value escalating by more than $1.7 million, homes.co.nz figures reveal.

The numbers are hard to fathom and it takes a forensic accountant to unwind the frenzied record of listings, purchases and sales.

Many of the transactions settled on the same day, meaning sellers cashed in on juicy profits without ever having owned the properties or taking possession.

It seems likely most of the buyers never intended to live in the nine homes which, bar two in West Auckland and one on the North Shore, are all located in low-decile South Auckland areas.

What is clear is that big money is being made by deep-pocketed investors who make their living trading properties for money.

Thanks to the Government's "bright-line test" introduced last year, those who have bought and sold investment properties within two years are now forced to pay tax on their capital gain windfall, irrespective of their intentions.

But that's cold comfort to the thousands of young families who are being out-gunned and out-bid by property investors, who now account for nearly half of all residential property sales across Auckland.

The dilapidated four-bedroom weatherboard home in Otara sits on a large, barren section. It boasts a rusting corrugated iron fence, unsealed driveway and stands in the shadow of a giant power pylon. It's completely unremarkable - apart from the fact that between May 2015 and May this year it sold five times with its price jumping from $451,000 to $610,000.

The current owners rent it to a Pacific Island family.

Next door neighbour Cindy Fonti, 59, has lived on the street for half a century and of late has seen a constant stream of agents and open homes at the house.

"Oh my God. That place has never been so busy."

She said the property used to be owned by a Maori family who sold it in 2013. It then became a speculator's paradise, she said.

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"Honestly, you can bet your bottom dollar there's signs going up every three months.

"Somebody's just making quick money, fast money."

It was unfair that speculators were buying and selling homes for short-term profits at the expense of ordinary Kiwis, she said. "There's first home buyers out there who want to buy homes and those people are just snapping them up."

Another telling example is in Weymouth. When the Weekend Herald visited the property, the tenants - an extended Maori family - were crammed into the four-bedroom house, its converted garage/sleepout and portable cabin parked on the front lawn.

Property records analysed by CoreLogic show the house was sold in May last year for $295,000. It was sold again less than two months later for $426,000, again four months later for $486,965, and again just two days later for $605,000. That's four sales in just six months for a capital gain of $310,000.

Incredibly, the property is now for sale again with an asking price of $650,000.

Former owner Hararei Matene, 43, bought the house in 2005 and lived there with his young family till 2008 when they moved to Australia. Matene told the Weekend Herald they rented the property to a Tongan family until May last year when they decided to offload it in a private sale to an investment company.

"We did the deal in a day."

Matene knew he could have got more money for the house but was happy enough with the sale price. He understood the property company renovated the home before on-selling it.

However, he was amazed to hear it had been repeatedly bought and sold by investors.

"I guess everyone's just trying to make a buck and tap into demand. But honestly, that house is not worth that much money.

"We just bought it as a family home. My wife and I worked hard, we had five kids, we were just normal working people.

"But when you look at what's happening in the New Zealand market now, it's just phenomenal. They're just forcing every normal person out of a house."

Meanwhile, a two-bedroom home at 168 Hepburn Rd in Glendene is an oddity. After selling four times in a year for a capital gain of $99,000, it was finally snaffled by a first-home-buyer couple who actually live in the house.

Nicola Rothwell, 28, and Mathew Powell, 32, bought the property in April for $549,000 - just scraping in under the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant price cap. The seller was a property developer, Rothwell said.

"We heard it had been empty for the last 12 months. The guy that sold it to us wasn't living here. He buys them and does them up for money."

Powell said there was huge competition for properties and it was great to finally be in their own house. But it was disconcerting to hear the couple's home had been on-sold so many times.

"Speculators are driving up the price. It is hard for people to get into their first homes because some of it is people just trying to make a quick buck."

- NZ Herald

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