Banks taking advantage of the buoyant market and selling off old stock: expert

The number of mortgagee sales in the first half of this year is close to figures last seen in the recession in 2009.

But a property expert says the surge in forced sales is most likely banks selling off old stock and taking advantage of a lucrative seller's market.

In the first half of this year, there were 1129 mortgagee sales, up from 1007 for the same period last year, according to figures from property information company Terralink.

Terralink managing director Mike Donald said he expected to see the number of mortgagee sales continue to climb as there was no sign that economic conditions would improve soon.


Twenty-two per cent of forced sales involved people losing their family home, rather than an investment property.

"There's no good news here for so called 'mum and dad' property owners," said Mr Donald.

"With properties that are likely to be family homes making up almost a quarter of sales, there's no sign of economic recovery for ordinary New Zealanders," he said.

Mr Donald said the figures also showed an increase in the percentage of forced sales involving tier-one lenders, "namely five big banks" - up from 48.5 per cent in 2011 to 52.1 per cent in the year to June 2012.

"Economic growth continues to be sluggish at best, and some commentators are even suggesting the economy may have contracted in the second quarter of 2012. As these conditions continue, I think we'll see the number of mortgagee sales continue to climb," Mr Donald said.

Yesterday there were 225 mortgagee sales listings on auction website Trade Me - 32 of those in Auckland.

Included in the listings is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home worth $1,675,000 in Mellons Bay, Howick, which said the "majestic property has been fighting for its life on two fronts".

"First came the blow that, although the exterior of level one is solid concrete block and the upper two are rugged concrete core and then timber framing above, aspects of the outer cladding were showing wear. This has been tackled in full - all trouble spots repaired, replaced, upgraded, repainted, until everything is like new.

"The other issue is burgeoning debt - and the mortgagee is selling," the online listing said.

As well, a three-bedroom townhouse in Stanmore Bay, Rodney, is up for a mortgagee auction. The listing says that the property "must be sold".

Helen O'Sullivan, the chief executive of the Real Estate Institute, said she believed that banks were taking advantage of market conditions and selling properties they had on their books for some time.

"Banks aren't in any hurry to take a loss and it's not in their interest to push consumers into painful forced sales," she said.

Ms O'Sullivan said there were no other factors which would suggest New Zealand was heading towards a recession similar to 2009.

"It's possible some of this overhang dates back to then because banks learned a lot from the late 1980s in terms of how much it hurts when you exit a lot of the stressed loans in a hurry."

Numbers climb

Mortgagee sales in the first half of the year:
2006: 237
2007: 231
2008: 432
2009: 1262
2010: 1231
2011: 1007
2012: 1129

Up for forced sale:
96 Mellons Bay Rd, Mellons Bay, Howick
*4-bedroom, 4-bathroom house
*Valued at $1,675,000
*Price by negotiation
*"Mortgagee sale - this time it's for real"

21 Ocean View Cres, Rakino Island
*1-bedroom, 1-bathroom bach
*1265sq m
*Valued at $320,000
*Asking price $329,000
*"Affordable Dream!!! Price Dramatically reduced"

5/491 Whangaparaoa Rd, Stanmore Bay, Rodney
*3-bedroom, 2-bathroom townhouse
*Valued at $390,000
*To be sold at auction

Source: Trade Me