FREE PROPERTY REPORT IN TODAY’S NZ HERALD: VALUATIONS FOR 420 SUBURBS

It's been a rollercoaster year for real estate with the market going into a frenzy of higher and higher prices driven by cashed-up foreign buyers, high immigration, strong local demand, a lack of housing, and low interest rates (which are set to go even lower).

Then the market spluttered, lurched and wheezed as a bundle of measures at home and in China caused the market to stall.

The Chinese Government turned the screws on its banking sector, putting it on notice that its hitherto laissez faire attitude to clients moving illegal amounts of cash out of the country needed to end -- or else. On top of that the Chinese stock market suffered a mini meltdown that ate into people's life savings.

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Meanwhile, the New Zealand Government and Reserve Bank put a raft of measures in place to put the squeeze on property investors and foreign buyers. Most of these came into force on October 1, and caused a flurry of activity with apparent 'sky's the limit' bidding at auctions across Auckland and the regions during September.

With foreign buyers now needing a local bank account and an IRD number, they appear to have cooled on New Zealand and are taking a wait-and-see approach before opening their wallets again.

Local property investors also appear to have done their dash -- for now at least -- and are likely waiting for the market to settle down before they risk borrowing more money against their real estate portfolios.

This must be leaving locals who want to buy a family home with less competition in the market which, in turn, must either cause sale prices to flatten or even sink a little.

As we head into the height of the summer season, a period that typically sees the most properties listed for sale, a bundle of buyers are sitting on their hands.

It means sellers, perhaps for the first time this year, are on the back foot. It is now a buyers' market. Which may lead to some disappointment among those who still think they are living in September.

We are not yet in a debilitating recession, just a slight soft spot in Auckland real estate. So long as sellers understand this, they will be able to sell their property quickly.

Buyers are in a much stronger position to negotiate on price. However, it doesn't mean there will be any fire sale bargains, just that, for now, the heat is out of the market, and we are back to what I'd call fair market prices. Don't expect to get a bargain. For those, you'll need to look further north or go south.

As for next year, it makes sense that investors will re-enter the market. And foreign buyers, understanding our new rules of engagement, will re-emerge in due course.