We've been taking our 'roadshow' of property updates to a variety of organisations, so I thought I would share insights from these discussions as well as summarise the market.
Firstly, while sales volumes are historically weak, we have seen a slight lift in a few of the main centres (Auckland excluded) this year.
This probably reflects improved borrowing with banks competing again by reducing mortgage interest rates.
But it's worth noting that volumes were quite weak last year with the impact from tightening LVR restrictions (including 40 per cent deposit requirement for investors).
Volumes this year are strong in comparison, but it's against a low base.
March is also typically the strongest time of the year for sales volumes, so I expect a lift from February's data — the frontline tell us they're busy with buyers.
Speaking of which, first-home buyer activity is showing its best performance in a general slow-down.
Their share of sales has increased over the past three years, as buyers use their KiwiSaver funds: over $700 million was withdrawn last year for first home deposits, an average of over $18,000 per withdrawal.
For investors, it seems clear that the 40 per cent deposit requirement introduced late in 2016 had an immediate impact.
Before that roughly 28 per cent of sales went to investors buying with mortgages. Over the following five-plus quarters, their share has dropped to about 24 per cent.
Anecdotally, many investors remain interested in property — especially new builds with favourable financing structures. But it's their ability (or lack of) to get funding that has seen their market share reduce.
Sharing our take on economic factors that affect demand and supply, one of the most surprising in recent weeks has been the continued strength of our net migration stats.
Most of us expected a decline in the figures since Labour and NZ First took over, due to their stricter migration policies. But that hasn't been the case.
At the very worst, they're flat and the trend that Statistics NZ publish is actually increasing. It seems the Government have recognised the need for a growing population as our economy strengthens, so we're unlikely to see the net 70,000 increase drop to the previously proposed 30,000 any time soon.
We can't forget the role Kiwis themselves play in the immigration stats. In the past we've lost up to 3500 Kiwis a month to Australia. The flow can change quite quickly and with an improving Australian economy, this is one to watch.
So there are three main things I'm keeping an eye on: the Australian economy, investor behaviour ( whether they will divest and list properties for sale) and interest rates.
There's no expectation the OCR will increase any time soon, but overseas funding pressures could see mortgage rates lift, and with 88 per cent of NZ's fixed- term investor loans due for renewal within the next two years, a lift in rates could see mortgage payment affordability reduced.