Worried home owners are flooding mortgage brokers with calls for help as a wave of uncertainty sweeps the country's housing market.

It comes as New Zealand is about to enter a strict new lockdown in which all non-essential businesses must close and most Kiwis stay home in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson also announced a freeze stopping landlords raising rents and promised a new relief package for home owners having trouble paying their mortgages.

Yet - with the fine print for these measures to be hammered out in the coming days - it remains a waiting game for home owners, real estate agents, mortgage brokers.


Here are some of the issues likely to play out in the coming four weeks of lockdown.

Home-loan relief

The Government has promised a relief package for home owners labouring under mortgage debt but said further details would only be released in the coming days.

In Australia, some major banks have offered a three-month deferment on home-loan repayments to customers who have lost their jobs, while all major banks were offering six-month deferrals on loan repayments for small businesses.

Home buyers and property experts are still working through the details of how New Zealand's lock down will affect the market. Photo / 123rf
Home buyers and property experts are still working through the details of how New Zealand's lock down will affect the market. Photo / 123rf

Bruce Patten, a mortgage adviser with Loan Market, hoped a similar proposal was unveiled in New Zealand, but said the finer details are urgently needed.

"Effectively everyone is on lockdown now because a big majority of the workforce cannot earn an income," he said.

"They need to get that package in place in the next 48 hours, otherwise the mental health of our clients is really at risk right now."

"I've got some really teary phone calls from grown men that are saying, 'I'm gonna lose everything'."


Recent home buyers

Megan Jaffe, the owner of Ray White Remuera, said one hiccup new home owners were suddenly finding was moving companies were now cancelling trucks scheduled to move furniture and belongings.

House-sale settlements were also another grey area and whether these could be completed during the lockdown or not.

Real Estate Institute chief executive Bindi Norwell hoped this would be clarified in the next 48 hours as delayed settlement dates and payments could push some home owners into financial difficulty.

Housing market

House sales could drop to record lows over the next month due to home buyers and real estates being unable to physically meet.

But Ray White's Jaffe said she expected it to be business as usual for her agency due to their use of technology and six weeks of preparation.

Home buyers and property experts are still working through the details of how New Zealand's lockdown will affect the market. Photo / 123rf
Home buyers and property experts are still working through the details of how New Zealand's lockdown will affect the market. Photo / 123rf

Her team were now having the last of their homes up for sale photographed and videoed.

This would allow them to have agents or even home owners meet with buyers online and then use the cameras to give them a guided tour of the houses up for sale.

This meant the entire sales process could be done online without anyone meeting in person.

And there was still buyer demand. The agency had not yet had a drop-off in sales and was selling two properties a day with all homes at its last auction also being bought.

They had also rushed forward all future auctions so they could be completed in the next 48 hours before New Zealand went into lockdown.

However Nick Goodall, head of research with analysts CoreLogic, believed while it was likely some sales would still go ahead, most would stop during the lockdown.

"Some people will be comfortable and able to buy remotely, he said.

"But the amount, ability and confidence of people to undertake that in uncertain times is probably reduced, so it is very likely transactions will come to a very quick halt."

Rent increase freeze

Georgie Craw, executive officer of Child Poverty Action Group, welcomed the decision to put a freeze on rent increases and hoped the Government also protected renters from evictions.

People must be secure in their homes," she said, given it was unknown how or where an evicted tenant could go to find shelter during the lockdown.

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She also urged the Government to raise benefits for those who were unemployed.

"Australia has recently doubled their jobseekers benefit. New Zealand should follow suit ... (as) this will also ensure that more people can continue to pay their rent."

Real Estate Institute's Norwell said the rent increase freeze was "a sensible and moral" step.

She said more detail was needed about what would happen in cases where a landlord had already spoken to tenants about a rental increase in recent weeks and urged everyone to ensure they communicated clearly with each other.

Invercargill-based investor Angela Strang said she bought her rental properties years ago and had mortgage breathing space, but those who bought recently had paid top dollar and needed to charge high rents to pay off their loans.

They could come under pressure to sell up, she said.

However, she said she also ran a home-staging business that furnished properties up for sale and said her business was now going through the same massive downturn everyone else was facing and she understood the pressures on renters.

Construction and disputes

Jonathan Wood, a property specialist with Rainey Law, said the shutdown would also cast uncertainty on numerous building projects that had been planned to start about now.

They would all be trying to work out how long the coronavirus crisis was going to last and whether they should delay or halt the projects.

Commercial disputes may also be up in the air, especially those set to go to court trial.

Lawyers were not certain whether trials would go ahead remotely during the lockdown or whether they would be postponed.

Wood said the next available trial dates were often in 2021 or even 2022 so questions remained about whether or not cases would be shunted back to a later date or if those case scheduled for during the lockdown would now be pushed out into the future.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website