Investors appear to remain undaunted in the face of ongoing property market changes.
According to the latest CoreLogic Buyer Classification series, 29 per cent of Auckland's August sales went to investors with a mortgage. This is up from a recent low of 25 per cent in March and is actually the largest share to this group since October 2017. This mirrors RBNZ reporting, with property investor credit volumes increasing for the first time in two years recently.
We wouldn't expect the latest figures to be impacted by recent announcements but it's not as if scrutiny on investors is a new thing, yet their activity is relatively strong (and actually increasing).
Most recent announcements include proposed changes to the Tenancy Act to improve renters' rights, MBIE releasing a discussion document on the Healthy Homes Guarantee, and Auckland Council focusing on addressing rental under-utilisation problems caused by the popularity of short-stay options such as Airbnb and Bookabach.
A hefty mix following already major announcements, including the bright-line test extension and proposed removal of negative gearing.
And although property investors understandably point out weaknesses in each of these areas, it doesn't appear to be severely denting their intention to remain active and certainly not sell out of the market.
An informal poll at a recent investment seminar indicated that a quarter of investors were being impacted by all the changes in their decision-making on whether to buy another property. However, less than 5 per cent said they were more likely to sell due to the relative minefield they were having to navigate now.
Will investors just pass on the increased cost to their tenants?
We've recently tried to verify this, because there's plenty of noise both ways. The results so far aren't definitive, partly because there's a lack of perfect data to measure costs, but it appears that costs have tended to rise faster than rents in the past.
Landlords may have tried to keep them aligned but sometimes can't due to the anchor of income growth (otherwise known as tenant affordability). Sometimes they might not want to push up asking rents anyway; pushing up rent runs the risk of losing a good tenant, with vacancies and/or increased maintenance costs killing any returns. A running profit (or at least not a loss) is especially important when capital growth has been reduced so significantly.
The other factor that stood out in our buyer classification data was the longer-term trend of an increasing share of apartments being sold to investors not requiring a mortgage.
This partly reflects those buyers requiring a mortgage struggling to secure funding, but the raw numbers actually show an increase in the volumes of non-mortgaged purchases as well and while it's difficult to know for certain; this could well be signs of cashed up foreign buyers making an 11th hour purchase before the foreign-buyer ban became law mid-August.
One thing is for certain, the property investor market is an incredibly complex beast but one that the Government will continue to attempt to shape.