House sellers across New Zealand are still cashing in despite some markets cooling off, pocketing $3.1 billion in profit during the first three months of 2018, new figures show.
The remarkable money being made in Kiwi property – even in Auckland where prices have flattened - shows just how big the country's housing boom has been, property experts say.
The median profit for each property sold in Auckland during the first quarter of the year was $352,000, accounting for nearly $1.2b in gross profit, data from property information company CoreLogic NZ shows. The median profit is down from $390,000 for the last three months of 2017.
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CoreLogic senior research analyst Kelvin Davidson predicts "more of the same" for the rest of 2018, especially with little prospect of mortgage rate rises.
"Big picture: Wherever you're selling, provided you've held for a normal period of time, you will be seeing a gain," Davidson told the Herald.
"Certainly in the case of Auckland, because prices have been flat there for the last 12 or 18 months, the size of those gains very much reflects the previous boom.
"It's likely most people will hold a house for 3-4 years at least. So even if prices stay flat for the next 6-12 months, they've had those previous 3-4 years to build up their gains and when a sale is made, there'll probably be some sort of profit."
But not everyone was a winner.
CoreLogic NZ's first Pain and Gain report for the year shows total losses from resales where sellers onsold for less than their original purchase price were $27.2m.
This was down from $36.6m, indicating that few people were concerned enough about the market outlook to push through quick sales for a lower price.
Queenstown, which Davidson described as a "property micro-climate", recorded the next highest median profits per resale after Auckland, at $337,000, followed by Tauranga ($236,500), Wellington ($227,400) and Hamilton ($195,000).
One sign of market fatigue is in apartments, CoreLogic figures suggest, where the proportion of loss-making resales increased from 8.7 per cent to 11.2 per cent – the highest figure in two years, with sellers who took a hit making a median loss of $33,000.
"There's a bit of evidence of uncertainty for investors and in the apartment sector, but it's minimal,' Davidson said. "Even where some signs of uncertainty are starting to emerge, it's pretty limited."
However, Davidson said the property market was generally in good shape, with losses from sales remaining at historically low levels.
Across the main centres, Wellington and Dunedin continued to stand out as the strongest markets overall.
In the Capital, low levels of listings and strong upward pressure on prices meant just 1.2 per cent of sales were made at a loss, while in Dunedin the number was even lower at 1 per cent.
By contrast, Auckland saw an increase in the proportion of loss making resales, up from 3.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent. Hamilton and Tauranga also experienced slight increases, while Christchurch city had the highest proportion at 9.9 per cent, up from 8.8 per cent in the last three months of 2017.
Owner occupiers fared better than investors during the first quarter of the year, with just 2.6 per cent of their sales being made at a loss, down from 3.2 per cent in the last three months of 2017.
Investors faced more pain, with 5.1 per cent of their sales generating a loss, up from 4.7 per cent.
"We'd anticipate property values continuing to rise modestly over the rest of the year, given that migration is holding up, investors are staying in the market, and interest rate rises remain a fair way away," Davidson said.
The uncertainty and then fallout from the election scared off buyers in the final three months of last year, with CoreLogic figures showing gross profits of just $1.5b during that period nationwide.
But with a dramatic fall in both speculators and frenzied buying, the current flat market was better suited to buyers, Loan Market Auckland mortgage adviser Bruce Patten said.
"We're telling people it's a good time to buy and as long as you haven't bought in the last 18 months, I think it's a good time to sell too."