Wellington Property Investors' Association

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12-10-2007

Housing: it's a buyers market

The property market has hit the brakes for the third month in a row, with the latest official figures showing the average sale price of a home falling below $400,000.

Quotable Value figures out today confirm the impact of higher interest rates and a shift favouring buyers over sellers.

Growth in property values fell to 11.4 per cent in the year to November. That is down from October's 12.7 per cent and September's 13.3 per cent. The average sale price fell to $393,198 in November, from $406,176 in October.

Quotable Value spokesman Blue Hancock said the market was continuing to favour buyers over sellers, a view shared by one Auckland home seller, who did not want to be named.

He has dropped the price of his three-bedroom home in Howick from $559,000 to $519,000 after having it on the market for three months.

The seller said he would not consider buying a new house until he had sold his property.

"With mortgage interest rates sky-rocketing it would be crazy to fall into that trap," he said.

Robin Clements, a senior economist with UBS New Zealand, said the slowdown was being reflected in fewer sales, properties taking longer to sell and lower immigration.

It all pointed to growth rates being "5 per cent or less very shortly", he said.

Gareth Kiernan, senior economist at consultants and forecasters Infometrics, has recently predicted Auckland's residential property market is about to enter a "full-blown downturn" in sales activity over the next 12 months and won't recover for at least two years.

His report, prepared for PMI Mortgage Insurance, analysed the housing market up to 2010 and said the city was becoming less popular, with an oversupply of apartments and shakier housing demand.

Higher interest rates and slowing population growth had caused a big drop already but would bite even harder next year, he wrote.

Bank of New Zealand chief economist Tony Alexander has also reported overwhelmingly negative sentiment in the real estate sector.

Quotable Value's Glenda Whitehead said Auckland was seeing a greater divergence between asking prices and actual sale prices, and an increasing time to sell.

"In recent weeks our valuers covering the Waitakere area have noted a pick-up in activity in the marketplace and prices appear to be holding their own in most areas."

Within Auckland City, older well-built family homes were being favoured over modern monolithic-type townhouses. Relatively good prices were being achieved for quality properties, Ms Whitehead said.

Of the larger urban centres, Tauranga property price growth has fallen from 7.7 per cent in September to 5.4 per cent last month.

Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington have also eased.

NZHERALD

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