A top-end real estate agency sold five New Zealand mansions for more than $15 million last week and the country's pandemic elimination policy is being cited for drawing buyers.
Mark Harris, the Queenstown-based boss of Sotheby's International Realty, said the five places drew people who admired what this country had achieved in flattening the coronavirus curve.
"There've been lots of comments that New Zealand seems to have handled the situation very well," Harris said today.
The homes were in Wanaka, Queenstown and Waiheke Island and he was unsurprised by the transactions because of what he sees as the rising interest in New Zealand, perceived as a safe haven in the global pandemic.
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Two of the five sales were 27 Pendeen Cres, Jack's Point near Queenstown, which sold for $1.3m and 70 Burrell Rd in Waiheke's Oneroa, which went for $1.5m, Harris said.
The buyers were all either Australians or Kiwi ex-pats who are citizens, he said. None needed Overseas Investment Office consent to purchase because the properties were all under 5ha.
Under the Overseas Investment Act, Australians also get special exemption from anti-foreign house buyer ban.
"The Australians have been considering New Zealand for a while but due to this [pandemic] crisis, are now making the move," Harris said. Asked if he thought the pandemic might have the same effect on housing market as 9/11, which sparked a boom, he said: "I think this will have positive effects but more of a slow burn."
Most of the buyers had been considering purchasing before last week's deals were signed, he said. Those based overseas were considering living in their new places in the longer term but not all immediately, he said.
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Some were pondering remote working. They might remain where they lived short-term but planned to return eventually, he said.
Last year, the Herald reported how John and Lisa Smith sold their 6.5ha hilltop estate at 10 Jackson Cres on the peninsula facing Kawau Island via Sotheby's, after seeking $14.7m.
Ollie Wall, of Wall Real Estate, said that agency had also seen a spike lately: "Plenty of young Kiwi families are heading back from London especially, mostly looking for nicely renovated family homes in good areas like Remuera, Parnell and Herne Bay.
"Some came home for lockdown and are looking themselves, but most are giving us briefs of what they're after and having family members view on their behalf with the idea of moving back to their new home in six months or so," Wall said.
Many other agencies haven't been busy lately. The Real Estate Institute said last week that national house sales dropped 78.5 per cent in April as the alert level 4 lockdown strangled the market. Only 1305 properties were sold last month compared to April last year, when there were 6082 sales.
Excluding the busy Auckland market, sales dropped 82.4 per cent, from 4357 to 767 as real estate agents were not classified as essential and the house sales market almost dried up.
Southland sales fell 92 per cent, Nelson was down 91.6 per cent, Manawatu/Wanganui down 87 per cent and Gisborne was down 86 per cent.
New Zealand's house price record remains the seven-bedroom mansion on exclusive Paritai Drive, partly financed by former Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin, sold to businessman Deyi Shi for $39 million in 2013.
Graham Wall, the sole agent to the property, said: "there was more than one buyer looking to buy with that sort of money".
The home, built over three sections overlooking the Waitematā Harbour, was completed at the time it sold and boasts an indoor pool and parking spaces for 12 cars. It was reported to have cost $43 million to build.
New Zealand's 20 most expensive homes are worth nearly half a billion dollars, the Herald reported in March. All 20 are in Auckland in a tight collection of blue-ribbon suburbs and many have featured in the news over some years as their prices stunned observers and delighted agents and vendors.
Many are clifftop waterfront sites, some land holdings are up to 2ha, most places have swimming pools, some have their own guest cottages or even gatehouses and many come with fine wine cellars.
Five places are in Remuera, three in Epsom, three in Herne Bay, two in Takapuna and the rest are in Orakei, Glendowie, the Shore's Hauraki, St Heliers and Parnell.
They are owned by richlisters, heiresses, property developers and investors, migrants from Asia, financiers, business tycoons and, in two mysterious cases, lawyers.
Two are owned by Her Majesty The Queen: Auckland's Government House appears towards the start of the list with one title estimated to be worth $31 million and at the end of the list with a neighbouring title estimated to be worth a further $19m.