Just over 3 per cent of 'home transfers' in New Zealand were to non-Kiwis in the first quarter, based on new data that tracks ownership changes from Statistics New Zealand.
"The proportion of homes transferred to overseas people rose to 3.3 per cent in the March quarter, from 2.9 per cent in the December 2017 quarter," Stats NZ property statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said. Foreigners are classed as people who don't hold local citizenship or resident visas.
Stats NZ has taken over the task of publishing the home transfer statistics from Land Information New Zealand, which began publishing quarterly property transfers and tax residency reports to try and obtain a better picture of the housing market after growing concerns that foreign buyers were pushing up house prices.
In the March 2018 quarter, the territorial authority with the highest proportion of home transfers to overseas people was Queenstown-Lakes district (9.7 per cent of all home transfers), followed by Auckland (at 7.3 per cent).
According to the statistics agency, property transfer statistics are based mainly on land transfer tax statements and capture property transfers by New Zealanders and overseas people.
This includes information on the citizenship, visa status, or tax residency of people and companies involved in property transfers.
The new data includes a time series to make comparisons over time easier, detailed statistics about transfers involving homes and statistics for regions.
There were 40,740 property transfers, including 32,880 home transfers, in the March 2018 quarter. Almost 4 in 5 of the homes were transferred to at least one New Zealand citizen. The other 1 in 5 were transferred to corporate entities, resident-visa holders, and overseas people. The number of home transfers was down 2.4 per cent on the year while the number of property transfers was down 2.8 per cent on the year.
Stats NZ said consultation about amendments to the Overseas Investment Act may have been a factor in recent increases in the proportion of transfers to non-New Zealand citizens and residents, noting "the proposed changes could make it more challenging for overseas buyers to purchase residential land in New Zealand."
According to the data, the proportion of overseas sellers also increased in the March quarter, to reach 1.5 per cent, after staying steady at 1.3 per cent for a year.
The government is in the process of amending the Overseas Investment Act to stop foreign speculators buying houses which would otherwise be available for New Zealanders.