The Herald's Cooking the Books personal finance podcast has gone daily in lockdown, to help you get the tips you need to weather the financial storm. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new money expert featured on each episode.

Your house may be your castle, but it's also the biggest investment many of us will make, and it comes with the commitment of a mortgage.

As we try to ride out the shockwaves from Covid-19, you won't be surprised to learn the situation is also a game changer for housing.

Listen to the podcast here

Nobody is able to say how much the game will have changed until lockdown lifts. But the early signs are already there that prices will fall, for house values and rents.


The first indicator is unemployment is going up.

On the latest Cooking the Books podcast, Herald property editor Anne Gibson said rising unemployment was a key sign for lower house prices.

"The main banking economists say unemployment is the single biggest factor that they see affecting the market, once we come out of lockdown. It affects people's ability to secure the mortgage, then pay off the house."

Gibson said everything was up in the air right now. The true test would be what happened when lockdown lifted, and how much of the economy was able to recover.

"I think the really worrying thing is that if unemployment did rise to something like 8 per cent, which some of the economists are talking about, that could be quite dire for the housing market.

"We've seen businesses like SkyCity talking about its business never being the same again, and being more of a domestically focused business.

"Another concerning thing is the effect on confidence, and people's ability to make big purchases.

"I have data today from Penrose Data, which found that 90 per cent of Kiwis after lockdown would delay big-ticket purchases. That firm particularly cited property, cars, appliances and furniture."


Another factor is that with tourism stopped, Airbnb is a non-starter. Many former hosts are either switching to the long-term rental market, or opting out entirely and putting the property up for sale.

This could mean a fall in rents.

one roof

In his latest market report, CoreLogic senior property economist Kelvin Davidson said the new-build market for flats and apartments in central Auckland had been dominated by investors.

But as Airbnb properties transition into long-term rentals, prices will be pushed down.

Housing always has winners and losers, so this won't be bad news for everyone.

Banks are offering mortgage holidays to those who need them, which could reduce the number of mortgagee sales.

Renters will be thrilled by a lower cost of living, and first-home buyers and investors could be looking to sniff out a bargain.

Interest rates staying historically low means that those who are financially stable could get a bargain on the sale and their mortgage payments.

Owen Vaughan, editor of NZME-owned property listings site OneRoof, said it was too early to make forecasts about the virus' effect on house prices.

"While sales have taken place since the lockdown came into effect, and several agents have noted an uptick in inquiry from investors and expats, the numbers involved are too small to draw any firm conclusions.
"The length of the lockdown and the levels of restrictions after that will determine the health of the housing market this year and next. Too much is unknown right now.

"But what should give Kiwis hope is the fact that the disruptions will end. The financial aid package is more extensive than seen during previous economic crises, and it's clear the Government and the banks don't want a house price crash."

Listen to the full interview on the Cooking the Books podcast. You can find new episodes on Herald Premium, or subscribe on iHeartRadio, Apple podcasts app, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode will cover how Covid-19 has changed the housing market.

If you have a question about this podcast, or question you'd like answered in the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website