Frightened buyers pull out of real estate deals

By Anne Gibson

Property buyers are getting cold feet and reneging on deals, says a real estate firm.

John Stewart, general manager of the 70-branch First National Group, said buyers were using escape clauses to cancel offer agreements.

Christmas, unemployment, tax change worries, the weather, holidays and shorter working hours were to blame.

"It could be as many as 30 or 40 property sales being cancelled every month and I'd probably imagine more we're not hearing about," he said.

People buying farms, lifestyle blocks and houses were reneging.

"It's tough for many sellers out there right now," Mr Stewart said, citing a survey by his chain which found compelling reasons for general market uncertainty and tightening household budgets.

"Unemployment, shortened work hours, the festive season, holiday costs and general rural income uncertainty, along with disquiet over Government-led tax change proposals, are all affecting general confidence."

Others were also having a hand in cancellations.

"Buyers are not only doing their homework well but support services such as building inspections and banks are having increasing influence.

"Minor repairs that may have been accepted six months ago are now causing contracts to fall over, while funders are demanding greater equity than in the past, limiting prospective purchasers, especially in the lifestyle and rural markets, but also in the urban centres.

"Our website is showing all-time high visitor numbers but these are not translating into sales," Mr Stewart said.

First National is not the only agency with lots of listings.

Auckland's biggest chain, Barfoot & Thompson, recently disclosed a mounting supply of stock.

Its inventory stood at 5703 houses at the start of the month and 1118 new listings, up 22 per cent in a month.

Banks say lending policies are more relaxed than a year ago.

A Westpac spokeswoman said that since last July the bank had begun to discuss lending more than 80 per cent of the value of a property "but it's still very exceptional".

She said other banks would lend above 90 per cent and more with mortgage protection insurances.

- NZ Herald

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