The number of people losing their homes in mortgagee sales in the Bay of Plenty has almost halved this year.

Figures released exclusively to NZME by data analysis company CoreLogic show 27 mortgagee sales, compared to 58 the previous year.

Nationally, foreclosure numbers fell from 589 to 441 year-on-year, or less than a quarter of the number seen during the depths of the economic recession in 2009 when several thousand people defaulted on their mortgages.

Mortgagee sale numbers have been falling for several years. Experts have credited the dip to low unemployment, cheap interest rates and a buoyant housing market.


Greg Purcell, franchise owner of Ray White Realty Focus in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa, said there had been an increase in people's equity as a result of the Bay's booming housing market.

"You could argue that the increased equity over the past 18 months may well have alleviated the risk for some people, from a bank's perspective."

Mr Purcell said the value of some people's homes grew from $400,000 to $600,000, "and suddenly you have a lot more leeway".

First National, Mt, Tauranga and Omokoroa owner Anton Jones said he was not surprised at the drop.

"The values have gone up on properties and in terms of people getting into trouble, obviously if the house is worth more then it is easier to sell if a bank wants to sell a property," he said.

"In previous years, in times where the economy hasn't been as good, mortgagee sales have gone up a lot as it's harder to sell a property. But as of right now, generally there is more money going around. Everyone seems to be a bit more flush than two years ago."

Ross Stanway, chief executive of Eves and Bayleys Real Estate, said there were three factors that he thought contributed to the drop: tighter lending criteria from the banks; low interest rates: higher home values.

"I don't think that is an unexpected drop. Certainly over the past couple of years [bank lending criteria] has increasingly tightened up and that affects people's ability to borrow."

QV figures show the average value of a house in Tauranga is $651,725, up $138,000 in just a year.

QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush said Reserve Bank lending restrictions introduced earlier this year, which forced investors to scrape together bigger deposits, had eaten into investor activity, cutting demand for entry-level homes.

"The share of sales to investors has flattened off since winter. It has definitely taken the heat out of the market to a certain extent."

A Trade Me spokesman said the website had seen the number of mortgagee sales drop away in recent years.

There were 57 mortgagee sale property listings nationwide, compared to 96 at the same time last year and 121 in 2014.

The Bankers Association has previously said forced sales were a last resort and anyone struggling to make mortgage repayments should talk to their bank.

- Additional reporting NZME
In the regions Auckland recorded the most distressed sales in the past year with 70, followed by Manawatu/Whanganui (61), Waikato (50), Northland (42), Wellington (40), Otago (32), Bay of Plenty (27), Canterbury (27), West Coast (19), Southland (19), Hawkes Bay (15), Tasman/Nelson/Marlborough (14), Taranaki (13) and Gisborne (12).

Only three of the country's 14 regions saw a rise: Gisborne, Otago, Southland.