From RNZ

First-home buyers took a bigger share of new mortgages than property investors in June, Reserve Bank figures show, for the first time since is started keeping track in 2013.

Real estate agents say the two groups are dominating the housing market post-lockdown, but existing homeowners are sitting on their hands.

First-home buyers committed to $1.1 billion in home loans last month, taking on 20 per cent of all new mortgages.

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Loans to investors, meanwhile, slipped to a shade over $1 billion, or 19.4 per cent of new mortgage commitments overall, versus 20.7 percent in 2019.


One buyer, who wanted to be identified only as Dale, is about to become a homeowner for the first time, providing nothing scuppers his agreement.

"It feels like the market is so volatile at the moment.

"It's like cryptocurrency - it's really good one day and really bad the next day.

"Between when we put the offer in and now, the CV has gone up a little bit, so I'm sort of just holding my breath and waiting until [the owner] signs the sale and purchase agreement.

"Then we can pop some Champagne."

One buyer had encountered 40 viewers at an open home, with another 40 having been through already. Photo / Doug Sherring
One buyer had encountered 40 viewers at an open home, with another 40 having been through already. Photo / Doug Sherring

Dale is not the only one showing a strong interest in buying now.

"We had a look at one place in deep West Auckland. There were 40 people turning up as we were turning up, and another 40 when we were leaving. It seems like the market is pretty hot at the moment."

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He said many of those at the viewings were younger people.

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Tommy's Real Estate in Wellington says houses are getting multiple offers, many from people looking to buy their first home.

Its sales consultant Nicki Cruickshank said that with fewer than half the usual number of listings, buyer demand is strong.

"Instead of getting three or four offers on a place, as we were in March, we're getting seven to 10 on properties at the moment. It's encouraging and promising, but I don't know how long it will last," she said.

Investors are also snapping up properties, she said, including town-house developments selling out to investors.

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"People are looking for something that's low maintenance and a better return than putting your money in the bank at 1.5 per cent."

With improved weather in Wellington in the past week, more would-be sellers are seeking appraisals for their homes and that could increase the stock for sale over spring, she said.

Corelogic senior property economist Kelvin Davidson says another substantial shift in the property market may occur when the wage subsidy ends in September. Photo / Supplied
Corelogic senior property economist Kelvin Davidson says another substantial shift in the property market may occur when the wage subsidy ends in September. Photo / Supplied

Corelogic senior property economist Kelvin Davidson said house sales have rebounded across the country, since the lockdown, but that may change.

"The big thing we're wary of is what will happen on the first of September when the wage subsidy ends. Even if things do look okay to people now, and do look normal, we've got to remember there are risks out there and the end of the year could be looking weaker."

Latest Reserve Bank figures show that first-home buyers accounted for more than 20 per cent of new mortgages, compared with roughly 19 per cent for investors.

Overall mortgage lending climbed to $5.36 billion last month, double the lockdown-hit $2.7 billion in April but down 1.4 per cent on June last year. That reflected a 7.8 per cent year-on-year fall in mortgage lending in Auckland.

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Interest-only loans were at a lower level than the previous two months. Owner-occupiers borrwed $906 million, or 17 per cent, and investors $421 million, accounting for about a quarter of all new lending, down from 27 per cent in February.

But Davidson said banks will be cautious in the coming months, until the effects of the pandemic become clearer.

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"They are paying a lot of attention to job security, income security and ability to pay that mortgage."

He said that kept the market on a stable footing but could mean that, as unemployment rises, lending would not be as strong.

He also warns that first-home buyers shouldn't hold out hopes for a major slump in prices.

"Our prediction is house prices may be down 5 per cent. So this window of buying opportunity may be shorter and shallower than it has been in the past."

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Crockers Property chief executive Helen O'Sullivan says previously short-term rental properties are now being taken by longer-term tenants. Photo / Greg Bowker
Crockers Property chief executive Helen O'Sullivan says previously short-term rental properties are now being taken by longer-term tenants. Photo / Greg Bowker

Rentals are filling up again after many were left vacant after the lockdown.

Crockers Property chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said rentals had gone back to business as usual, apart from inner-city apartments.

"A number of properties that were previously in the short term, overnight and Airbnb market are coming back into long-term rental opportunities."

She said typically those apartments are filled with more transient tenants, including students and people who have just moved to the city.

O'Sullivan expects the thousands of New Zealanders returning home may begin filling vacant rentals in the coming months.

Like many of his peers, Davidson believes September will loom as a crunch period for the economy, mortgage lending activity and the greater property market, given the end of the wage subsidy on September 1 and the general election on September 19.

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- Additional reporting BusinessDesk