Property prices up, October sales dented by loan rules

Property prices rose across NZ last month. Photo / Greg Bowker
Property prices rose across NZ last month. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand's median house price rose 1.9 per cent to a record in October, although sale volumes were dented as Reserve Bank lending restrictions began to bite.

The median sale price rose $7,525 to a record $407,525 in October from September, and the price is 7.2 per cent ahead of the year earlier month, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand. The number of houses sold last month rose 0.9 per cent to 6,778 from September, up 2.1 per cent from the same month in 2012. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales volumes fell 4.1 per cent.

The Reserve Bank on October 1 introduced loan to value restrictions on mortgage lending in an attempt to cool a bubbling housing market that could threaten financial stability and push interest rates higher.

The full effect on prices may not show up in the median price for a few months as buyers with bank pre-approvals make purchases and the market adjusts to the new conditions, the institute said today.

"Real estate sales volumes eased back in October following the introduction by the Reserve Bank of restrictions on high LVR lending," the institute's chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said in a statement. "Comments by agents from around the country indicate heightened levels of uncertainty for both purchasers and vendors about the impact of these changes, which is causing a number of prospective buyers and sellers to hold off from committing to the market until they are more comfortable."

Volumes typically change more quickly than prices, and volumes are lower than expected for this time of year, O'Sullivan said.

ANZ Bank economist Daniel Smith said that would take some time for the Reserve Bank's loan restrictions to fully bite, but data for October continued to show that, despite increased uncertainty, there had been "no immediate 'chilling' effect on the housing market."

The Reserve Bank's loan restrictions would have some impact on demand, and there had been evidence of an increase in new listings coming onto the market over the last couple of months.

"For these reasons, we do expect the rate of price growth will peak in late 2013/early 2014. That would also be consistent with the levelling-off in median days to sell that we have seen recently. However, the housing markets in Auckland and Canterbury continue to be driven by a lack of supply. Those supply issues will take years to fully resolve, especially in Auckland, given current rates of construction. Therefore upwards pressure on house prices will continue."

Smith said the bank still expected the Reserve Bank to start lifting the Official Cash Rate from March next year.

New Zealand's property market is being driven by a lack of supply in an expanding Auckland and in Christchurch, which is being rebuilt following a series of earthquakes. Auckland, Canterbury/Westland and Waikato/Bay of Plenty regions reached new record high median prices in October, the institute said.

In Auckland, the median price rose 2.1 per cent from September to $582,000, up 9.8 per cent from the year earlier month. Sales volumes fell 3 per cent from September, although they increased 1.6 per cent from October 2012.

"The Auckland region remains the strongest housing market in the country," O'Sullivan said. "The trend in the median price continues to improve, with the trend in sales volume moving back to improving."

In the Canterbury/Westland region, the median price rose 1.3 per cent from September to $380,000, up 10.8 per cent from the year earlier month. Sales volumes rose 10 per cent from September, and increased 13 per cent from October 2012.

The LVR restrictions are having an effect, with attendances at some open homes down as much as 50 per cent, according to the institute's regional director Tony McPherson.

For Waikato/Bay of Plenty, the median rose 3.1 per cent from September to $335,000 as volumes slipped 4 per cent.

"There has been a noticeable fall off in interest from first-home buyers, with investors taking advantage of less competition to acquire properties," according to the institute's regional director Philip Searle.

In the Manawatu/Wanganui region, the median price slipped 5.4 per cent to $215,000 as sales volumes increased 10 per cent. The LVR restrictions led to fewer first home buyers in the market and uncertainty stopped sellers from listing their properties, meaning a traditional spring surge in listings hadn't eventuated, O'Sullivan said.

Wellington's median price rose 3.8 per cent to $405,000 as volumes increased 5 per cent. Otago's median price gained 2 per cent to $250,000 as volumes rose 32 per cent. Southland's median price fell 5.1 per cent to $179,750 as volumes declined 6.2 per cent.

The REINZ Stratified Median Housing Price Index, which strips out peaks and troughs in housing information, rose 1.6 to a record 3,839.8 in October from September, and was up 9.9 per cent from October last year.

The number of days to sell a house was unchanged at 31 in October, compared with September.


Real estate stats published this morning show a small lift in the number of homes sold in October, with median prices also up.

With 6,778 dwellings sold, the total was up 0.9 per cent from September, while median prices were up $7,525 to $497,525, said the Real Estate Institute of NZ in its monthly data release.

Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said sales volumes had eased back in October due to new Reserve Bank limits on low deposit lending.

"Comments by agents from around the country indicate heightened levels of uncertainty for both purchasers and vendors about the impact of these changes, which is causing a number of prospective buyers and sellers to hold off from committing to the market until they are more comfortable," she said.

"Typically in the real estate market sales volumes change more quickly than prices and overall sales volumes are lower than what we would expect for this time of the year, although in a few regional centres sales are strong. Northland and Otago stand out as two regions with strong sales growth, although in other regions the picture is far more mixed."

O'Sullivan said the full effect on prices of the new LVR (loan to value restrictions) may not show up in the national or regional medians for a few months as buyers with pre-approvals made their purchases and the market adjusted to these new conditions.

The REINZ Stratified Housing Price Index, the measure which adjusts for some of the variations in the mix that can impact on the median price, reached a new high in October and is 9.9 per cent higher than October 2012.

The Auckland Index has risen 12.6 per cent compared to October 2012, with the Christchurch Index up 10.8 per cent and the Wellington Index up 0.3 per cent.

- BusinessDesk

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