Why would someone sell themselves their own property?

That's the question being asked after New Zealand's highest-price transaction so far this year was a deal where a southern property's vendor was also its buyer.

In 2017, Australian billionaire Tim Roberts - son of Multiplex founder John Roberts - got Overseas Investment Office consent to buy 704 Malaghans Rd, Speargrass Flat in the Wakatipu Basin near Queenstown.

CoreLogic's research chief Nick Goodall announced yesterday that on Friday, the 12ha lifestyle block had been sold by Roberts to Roberts' company.

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"The title has a transfer on 28 June 2019 to Malaghans 704 Ltd," Goodall said.

Roberts is 704 Malaghans' sole director and sole shareholder, Companies Office records show, giving his personal address as 704 Malaghans Rd.

Roberts is also the Australian billionaire who has bought three rural properties in the Queenstown area, including the famous Walter Peak Station.

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Two lawyers said they had both been involved in transferring properties from personal to company ownership.

Auckland lawyer Will McKenzie said this morning he was not at all surprised to hear about such a transaction because there could be "20 different reasons by a person would sell a property to a company".

McKenzie said although he was not au fait with the southern transaction, the reason for such a sale could be commercial, liability, personal, legal or financial reasons.

"There could be all sorts of advantages why a person would sell a property they own to a company," he said, adding that people of high net worth often held few assets in their own names but often in entities such as companies.

"I've done it myself because my wife owned an apartment but we bought a house and wanted to rent the apartment but Inland Revenue says you can only claim back tax on expenses if the entity bought it for rental purposes," McKenzie said.

"So people might sell their own property to a company for tax purposes," he said.

"It might also be to separate the finances of the property from the person's own personal finances, particularly if there were commercial aspects to the property," he said.

Jeff Walters from K3 Legal. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jeff Walters from K3 Legal. Photo / Greg Bowker

Jeff Walters of K3 Legal in Auckland said: "It's not that usual to transfer a property from a person to a company because usually you'd decide when it was purchased what was the best entity to buy and then hold it.

"But I've done it when establishing family trusts," Walters said.

A company owning a property could potentially protect an individual against creditors, he said, but stressed he was not familiar with the southern situation and was only speaking generally.

Companies Office records show Timothy Andrew Roberts is a current or previous director of 25 New Zealand registered companies including Brookfield Multiplex Developments (NZ), Multiplex Funds Management (NZ), South Arrowtown Properties, Halfway Bay Lands and Bell 429.

The Herald has sought to contact Roberts. Catherine Reid, the barrister who acted for him on the 2017 Overseas Investment Office application, said this morning she had passed on the request for contact to his representative.