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Archive for the ‘Buying / Selling a home’ Category


The case for institutional investment in residential real estate in the form of shared equity

Posted on: December 16th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Money Matters

istock_000005645792xsmallI do not profess to be an economist or a qualified economic journalist, I merely run a real estate website. However I like to share insight and information of contextual relevance to the property owners, buyers and sellers of NZ. Yesterday I was directed by Steve Koerber to one of those articles that kind of hits you right between the eyes as blindingly obvious.

The context of the article by Christopher Joye writing in the Australian title “Overlooked solution to credit crunch” is that the asset class of residential real estate is fundamentally over leveraged with debt and at the same time hugely (and up until now) significantly under-represented in the portfolio of institutional investment.

This idea is not somehow recieving its airing for the first time this week – the concept worthy of your reading was first proposed by Joye back in 2003 when he was the principal author of a report commissioned by the Australian Prime Minister’s Home Ownership Task Force that presented a solution to the high levels of household debt that triggered the global credit crisis. It is clear from the article that some of the lessons have been implemented in Australia over the past 5 years as well providing valuable impetus for some of the shared equity schemes proposed in both NZ and the UK.

I concede that back in May of this year I posted a somewhat cynical assessment of the then government shared equity scheme, believing that it may cause an outcome contrary to the expected. I judge that this broader more cross-market proposal could provide a paradigm shift to the real estate market – here in NZ as with any country that might chose to adopt it.

I can share my layman’s perspective of the way it would work.

Currently a young couple seeking their first home fall in love with a 2 bedroom house on the market for $320,000. In today’s market that would require a 20% deposit ($64,000) and a mortgage of $256,000. That mortgage at say 7% on a 25 year period would cost $1,809.35 per month. Selling the house 10 years later with a modest 2% per annum appreciation would see the property sell for $390,000 – the repayment mortgage at that time would be $200,000 leaving the couple with $190,000, a capital appreciation of $126,000.

Under this shared equity scheme the same couple buying the same house would involve an institutional investment fund who might put 25% equity ($80,000) into the house – the banks might recognise a slightly lower owner equity deposit of say 15% ($48,000) saving the couple $16,000. The mortgage required to buy the house would be $192,000 which at 7% on a 25 year mortgage would work out as a monthly payment of $1,357.02 saving the couple $452.33 per month. Selling the house again after 10 years would see the institution realise a gain of $40,000 on top of the repayment of the original $80,000. For the couple their capital appreciation would be $72,000 – yet they needed less deposit and saved over $55,000 in mortgage repayments over the 10 years.

Clearly this model is more logical for owner occupiers than investors, but after all that is the principle of home ownership – property rights and stability.


A flat-lining of sales continues to represent the state of the property market

Posted on: December 11th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Real Estate Industry

The latest reported sales by REINZ of residential property for the month of November (4,279) continues to show a very dormant property market. For 8 consecutive months now the level of sales have fallen within a very tight range varying only by barely 100 property sales from the mid point of 4,360. This level of somewhat static sales would seem to indicate a situation where there is a base level of transactions driven by the “need” to move house rather than any compunction on the part of property owners to “want” to move.

It also seems that a significant jolt will be needed to kick start the beating heart of the industry. The reality though is that December will not be that savior. Consecutively year after year the sales for December tend to be between 15% to 25% below the November sales. This is entirely logical as a property purchase is a complex and time consuming process that is not well placed to be facilitated through the Christmas lead in period. That being the likelihood we are therefore very likely to see the year of 2008 go down as one of the lowest sales periods for property on record, certainly the lowest since the early 1990’s.

The estimate for the full year is looking to be close to 55,300 with the first 11 months totaling just 51,826, this is a full 40% down on the 2007 sales of 86,504 (Jan – Nov) and over half the sales of the peak year of 2003.

As to prices the latest median price was reported at $337,500 an increase on the prior month, but down 4% on the November of last year.

There has been comments made in the media regarding the comparison of the REINZ median price as against the QV average price. Each use different methods to reach a reported price. The concern is that with such low volumes it is ever more likely that medians (and averages) will show significant volatility.

The only real true test of property price movement is the comparison of like-for-like property sales in a local market, this can be done via readily available statistics accessed online or through a real estate agent. The general concsensus from conversations with real estate agents at this time is that property prices continue to be falling as a consequennce of low demand and sales; although as ever every market is unique, but in aggregate there are more local markets with falling prices, than those showing any realistic increases.


Building consents data provides valuable insight into property market trends

Posted on: December 9th, 2008 | Filed in Architecture & Construction, Buying / Selling a home

The latest headlines concerning the new homes market certainly echo the general sentiment of the economy – “Home Construction Slips” as reported highlights a 16 year low for new dwelling consents, just 1,173 issued in October – a far cry from the 2,377 in October 2006.

Equally “Architects say building industry on a knife edge” highlights the prospects for future consents in the coming year which are expected to remain depressed as 70% of those surveyed in the profession believing the industry will worsen in the next year with no bright outlook until 2010 or 2011.

The overall property market is intertwined with new builds, property transactions as well as renovations & alterations, and there is no doubt that everyone is well aware that these industries are collectively facing some major challenges as what has been a boom for the past 7 years has very quickly gone into reverse. As ever the future is unknown – yet is exactly what everyone wants to know!

To shed some light onto this matter I have analysed some historic data to examine this sector of the economy which between new builds and re-sale accounts for over $32 billion per annum (even in today’s depressed climate). Analysing the monthly data of residential consents and property sales since the beginning of 2002 shows some key trends these are presented in the graphs below:

Observing the trend of residential consents issues on a moving annual total basis (red line – left hand axis) against residential property sales (blue line – right hand axis) highlights the correlation of peaks and troughs, with the key period of Jan 2004 to Sep 2005 when the lines diverged driven in part by significant apartment developments.

The current period since June of 2007 has seen the very fast market correction of property sales matched to a slower reaction from the building industry to the credit crisis as the pipelining effect takes longer to flow through the system. The key numbers in this graph are the peak to current level of property sales – 120,000 to now 60,000 (not as yet called a trough!) and the current level of consents annualised at 20,000 from the peak of nearly 33,000 in June 2004.

The feedback from most economists is the fact that projected population growth a level of new builds of around 23,000 is what is required to sustain demand in the long term (Berl report of 2007 on The Economic Impact of Immigration on Housing in NZ speaks to a level of 23,600 per annum).

Matched against the prior graphs perspective of volume of consents and sales is this representation of the value of transactions and consents issued on a moving annual basis.

The most striking aspect is the extreme view of growth and subsequent slide of both the value of aggregated sales and consents issued. The former (blue line – right hand axis) showing again a faster slide from the peak of residential sales in value terms at the 12 months to June 2007 at $41 billion to the current level of $25 billion in the 12 months to October – an overall time period of just 16 months. The value of consents (red line – left hand axis) shows a slide in value from the peak through 2007 at around $8 billion per annum, already slipping through $6.5 billion.

The final analysis of this data is the average property price matched to average consent value.

Here the graph exhibits a clear parallel of trend albeit with a divergence of average value to transaction sale whereby in 2003 the gap was around $40,000 climbing in 2005 to $70,000 before hitting a peak in late 2007 at $120,000. The subsequent slide in this differential is shown by the graph below for the period of the last 4 months to October when average selling price has come back nearly $30,000 and average consent value has actually risen by $30,000.


Australians demonstrate property market confidence in face of economic storm

Posted on: December 1st, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, International

The “lucky country” once again appears to be able to show a steely determination to see opportunities in the face of adversity. A online survey undertaken by (part of the REA Group) showed that around 46 per cent of Australians indicate they still intend to secure their dream home, despite the global credit crunch.

A further 53 per cent of respondents were not concerned about their job security. In response to the survey the CEO of highlighted the Federal Government’s First Home Owner Grants as the likely impetus behind the confidence. These grants of A$14,000 for all first homebuyers and A$21,000 for first time homebuyers buying a new home were introduced in October as part of an economic stimulus package.

These grants are actually in addition to all ready established state incentives such as Victoria’s additional grant of between A$3,000 or A$5,000 (subject to meeting certain requirements), which is known as the First Home Bonus. For contracts entered into on or after 6 May 2008, an additional bonus of A$3,000 is also available in addition to the $5,000 bonus for the purchase or construction of a new home in a regional municipality in Victoria. That means that being a first time homebuyer buying a new home in Victoria could net you A$29,000!

Of course what the government giveth in the one hand they taketh in the other – stamp duty for example on a $250,000 house in Victoria would swallow up around A$11,000 on this scale of property.

The impact of this impetus announced in October was seen almost immediately in Australia as demonstrated by an upsurge of viewing on the website which holds a portfolio of listings for new built homes.

The website of features a mixed portfolio of both exsisting and new homes – searching under the phrase “brand new” which is one of the top 50 searches on the website highlights 2,784 listings across NZ, the majority or which are new homes. Among them is this very rural retreat in Morrinsville for $378,000.


Is now a good time to buy a home?

Posted on: November 26th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home

This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions at the moment. To understand why, is to be better informed in making a property buying decision.

The majority of home purchases are undertaken by people looking to buy a family home to live in, that is why as compared to the purchase of other goods and services the pressure to make such a decision can be postponed if circumstances are not quite right, and in the past 12 months clearly as represented by sales numbers the time has not been right for many homeowners. Just 60,000 residential property sales have been completed in the past year – 40% down on a year ago.

But property sales are seasonal and we are now in a period which is traditionally one of the most active times of the year – people with summer-approaching start thinking about being outdoors, planning for a new year, clearing up the house and as part of the regular weekend activity visiting open homes “virtually” nowadays on the web or by driving round the neighbourhood.

The factors influencing the property market and thereby individual purchase decisions are SUPPLY, DEMAND and THE CAPACITY TO PAY.

Looking at each of these factors and understanding the facts can help to better understand the state of the market and thereby the guidance to the question posed “is this a good time to buy?”


The number of properties on the market is very high. We are in what is known as a buyers market. Currently as featured on this website there are just over 80,000 listings of homes for sale. To put that into perspective that is 25,000 more properties on the market than this time last year. The graph below tracks the inventory of properties featured on our website over the past 3 years represented in terms of “months worth of inventory” – the blue area of the graph shows that 2 years ago around 6 months worth of sales was featured for sale, a year ago that had risen to 8 months and based on the October data this year there is now 14 months worth of inventory.

The same graph shows the total monthly sales as the red line, highlighting as it does the fall off in sales since mid 2007. The past few months have shown a pretty flat level at around 4,500 per month – still demonstrating that the market is alive, with around 150 houses sold every day.


The indicator of demand is the most prized jewel for any business and real estate is no different, every real estate agent would love to know how many potential buyers are out there eagerly wanting to buy in that price range, that type of house in that suburb. Well with greater analytics on web traffic we are getting closer to assisting the industry through our website. At an aggregated national level the graph below shows the best indicator of demand.

This graph which has been updated as at Sunday 23 November tracks total web visitors to a “basket” of real estate websites. The red line representing the 2008 year matched against the 2 prior years shows how the impact of the credit crisis coverage in September dampening demand through October, however as November has rolled through so has the increase in interest in property by prospective buyers. What is also evident from the graph is the seasonal trough which historically we are only a couple of weeks away from – this is the traditional time when people turn their attentions to other matters of Christmas. Equally shown in the graph is the massive peak of activity of property viewing as soon as January starts, 2008 started with a hiss and a roar breaking through 400,000 weekly visitors, it could well be exceeded in the first few weeks of 2009 as there certainly appears to be a greater media coverage of the property market and that generally impacts the interest in the market.

Capacity to pay

I don’t need to highlight what has already been significantly covered in the media – interest and mortgage rates are on the way down – we are now breaking the 7% threshold; a level at which many people will be a little more attracted to the idea of either stepping onto the property ladder or cautiously moving up. The affordability index as reported on shows that in the past year the index has fallen from 83% to the current 68%.

Capacity to pay is however not purely restricted to interest costs as the credit crisis has made all banks and financial institutions risk averse and as a consequence equity commitment by prospective home owners is probably the greatest influence to the health of the market right now. In time as a consequence of rich inflows of deposit funds secured under the government schemes will see lenders reviewing their lending criteria in more open ways as the reality is they need to lend money to make money. The key question is going to be when and by how much?

So returning to the question at hand – a good time to buy? – well the fact is property is not a commodity and every property is different. If you want to move, you have the capacity to pay and you find what you are looking for and can negotiate a deal which you are happy with – why not – spring is in the air!


Innovation abounds as property sales in the UK slump

Posted on: November 23rd, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, International

Whilst the NZ property market continues to bump along at historic lows (just 4,469 in October), the UK market is looking considerably worse  as it approaches 50 year lows with just 59,000 properties sold in September which was 53% down on a year ago, and a staggering 62% down on the peak of December 2006.

In such circumstances the challenge facing homeowners is the classic – do I move or do I ride out the storm?  – however for builders and property developers the issue is not so clear-cut or so easy. Their property project is not something they can sit on until the market hopefully one day recovers – they need to liquidate their asset.

There have been innovative attempts to sell property as reported in the UK earlier this year with homeowners turning to “raffles” and other competitions to find ways of “selling their home” as a prize draw. The concept is simple – find 10,000 people who buy a £25 ticket each – answer a simple question and you collect £250,000. However as this article from the The Telegraph shows it is no easy task – not least of which is the legal hurdles that a seller needs to go through. (Any attempt to undertake such a process in NZ would need to be assessed as to the issue of complying with all relevant local laws).

So one property developer sitting on an £8 million serviced apartment project has applied the same appeal of the “lucky ticket”, but wrapped it into a highly structured business service complete with charity fund raising and service company sponsorship, as profiled in this Telegraph article.

Win a London Pad offers the lucky winner an investment property likely to return £500,000 per annum – all the lucky person needs to do is receive one of 200,000 entry tickets by buying an MP4 player (£60) or subscribe to to a broadband provider, open a bank account or participate with one of the 12 corporate sponsors.

The mechanics are fairly simple – for the introduction of a customer to one of the partners the developers gets a referral fee, added to that is clearly a margin on the MP4 player (with a portion going to the charity) – at the end of the day with enough marketing (this blog I guess being a part of viral marketing – no connection or pecuniary interest, I can assure you) the developer should end up with his £7 million, the charity (Great Ormond Street Hospital) should net somewhere close to £600,000 – the business partners should gain new subscribers and one lucky individual should end up with a investment property.

Now that is the theory – as to the reality and facts behind how this works and the likelihood of success; I am not going to go ino this. All I want to highlight is that in situations as both the UK, NZ and many many property markets around the world find themselves at the moment, a little bit of innovation is needed to ease the property market – one sale at a time!


Residential property update – November

Posted on: November 13th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Real Estate Industry

The latest sales figures released by The Real Estate Institute show a very subdued level of activity – just 4,469 properties were sold across the country in October – traditionally a strong month for sales as seasonal spring activity initiated in August and September culminates in strong sales in October and November before the onset of the Christmas period.

The year to date sales total 47,547 some 40% down on the same period to October 2007 – taken on a rolling 12 month basis as shown in the graph below (volume of sales – red line, value of sales – blue line) the 12 months to October totaled 60,981, which is the lowest level of sales recorded stretching back to 1993.

With this traditional spring resurgence in sales activity usually comes a fresh clutch of listings onto the market and a pick up in buyer interest. The commentary reported last week showed the impact on buyer confidence of the credit crisis which began in September and at this time shows little sign of abating, although from this updated graph of tracked visitors to real estate websites the relief of the elections has generated a tentative upturn in viewings.

Looking at the state of the market in terms of inventory of properties being marketed by real estate agents the website of currently features over 62,000 listings of properties for sale (excluding sections) from amongst the 113,000 listings in total – a record level for the website.

The extent of the inventory of listings is clearly highlighted in the graph below which shows the quantity of new listings (red line) being added to the site over the past 2 years as well as the sales by month and the consequential inventory build.

The inventory is represented in terms of weeks of inventory based on the rate of sale of property in the month. Clearly evident from the graph is the inventory levels rising from mid 2007 at around 25 weeks through to a peak of 55 weeks in April of 2008. Subsequently with a decline in new listings that inventory has come back to a level of 48 weeks especially as sales have been so flat. The latest statistics for October show a new clutch of listings coming onto the market; over 14,000 in the month which has seen a slight increase in inventory – less than expected possibly as some of these listings may be re-presentation of property previously marketed earlier in the year.


Private sale auction brings salutary reminder of risks in buying property

Posted on: November 1st, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home

It was with great media coverage that the auction of a property on the North Shore of Auckland took place last weekend (Sunday 26 Oct). The property was advertised at a $1 reserve and eventually “sold” for $685,000 – apparently an independent valuation undertaken within the past 12 months had valued the property at $1.03m.

Well the salutary reminder is the classic phrase Caviat Emptor – let the buyer beware! – the NZ Herald is reporting this morning that the buyer cannot identify the vendor!

The circumstances from the media coverage are as follows:

  • The property was a private sale – no agent was involved
  • A licensed auctioneer presided over the auction
  • The highest bidder “won” the auction
  • The winning bidder “apparently” signed a contract with the vendor before he was engulfed by the hordes of assembled media – upon the completion of the interviews the vendor had disappeared – and no contact has been made subsequently, and the buyer has no contract

The story may yet play out, however there are a couple of very salutary points to highlight from this incident:

  1. Property purchases are serious matters and legal contracts verified and checked by lawyers are a critical part of the process
  2. The exchange of contracts is not a phrase – it is an act, a buyer and a seller needs copies of contracts as do their lawyers
  3. Without the services of a licensed real estate agent – who is there to ensure the process of paperwork and compliance activities are undertaken?
  4. Having an licensed auctioneer call an auction does not provide for any control of the sale contracts. Auctioneer are covered under a different Act from real estate agents. Auctioneers that call property auctions do not need to be licensed real estate agents. Auctioneers are a profession as is real estate – they should be engaged with a clear view of each of their respective roles
  5. The heat of the moment of purchase at an auction or a traditional sales agreement time can be frought with emotion – in the heat of the moment, don’t forget to cross the T’s and dot the I’s!!

UK house guru offers advice in the midst of their housing crisis

Posted on: October 31st, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, International, The lighter side

Kirstie Allsopp along with her colleague Phil Spencer have become household names in the UK as they have hosted the house hunting TV programme Location, Location, Location – not to be confused withe TVNZ programme of the same name.  The programme has been shown on both Sky and TVNZ and has captured a strong prime time position sharing with kiwis the property market back in the UK.

Some have said that the programme even contributed to the UK housing bubble highlighting as it did the appeal of property ownership and the potential gains to be made. Well now in the midst of the UK crisis the team are making a special edition to provide support and guidance for homeowners stuck in the midst of the crisis as well as people attempting to buy at this time.

Kirstie in an interview with the Sun newspaper offered some great quotes:

When asked if falling prices were the only problem?

The fact that people move house is a core part of our economy. While some people might benefit from falling house prices, nobody benefits from falling transactions.

Everyone from builders to bed-makers go out of business if people stop moving house.

When asked “Who’s to blame for the current problem?

Lots of people have asked me: “Do you think this is your fault?”

Well, yes – I have advocated home ownership, but I don’t feel guilty about that.

Blaming me for the credit crunch is like blaming Jamie Oliver for obesity. Yes, he has probably encouraged people to eat more but he has also encouraged them to shop and eat wisely.

Whilst there are those detractors of the simplistic manner in which the programme profiles the purchasing process there is no doubt that the broad appeal provides some useful tips and guidance to all who watch; and many would argue that it is a lot more real then many reality TV shows.

There is no doubt as you watch the show and read the commentary in the UK papers that clearly Brits are as besotted by property as we kiwis are – we are not alone!


Most searched and now least searched suburbs in NZ

Posted on: October 25th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Website searching

The post of earlier this week “The most popular suburbs in NZ” has created a flood of emails (would have been nicer to have had blog comments!) – the consistent theme is “we want more details”. I have clearly tapped a rich vein here which I am more than happy to share a greater degree of detail.

Here then are the top 20 and bottom 20 suburbs. To be clear when I use the term “popular” I am referring to a ranking based on the “perception of demand measured as number of total viewings of listings in a suburb during a 3 month period ending 30 September divided by the average number of listings in that suburb. To avoid extreme results I have applied a cut off of 30 listings per suburb as the minimum.

It is also important to note that we are very suburb sensitive when it comes to real estate (as most people are when it comes to their suburb) so I must reassure you that I haven’t randomly designated the boundaries. The website of uses the official names and boundaries for all of mapping including provinces, regions, local authorities, cities, towns, areas, suburbs etc. We sourced this data and timely updates from Terralink, they provide this suburb data split to the emergency services. There are in total of over 1,600 areas in the ‘suburb’ category on the website including actual suburbs as well as townships and rural areas.

District Suburb
1 Christchurch Dallington
2 Dunedin St Clair
3 Christchurch Cashmere Hills
4 Dunedin Maori Hill
5 Auckland Westmere
6 Waitakere Titirangi
7 Auckland Ellerslie
8 Dunedin Roslyn
9 Auckland One Tree Hill
10 Auckland Grey Lynn
11 Auckland Mt Eden
12 Christchurch Sumner
13 Waitakere Oratia
14 Christchurch Merivale
15 Dunedin Andersons Bay
16 Waitakere Laingholm
17 Auckland Onehunga
18 Auckland Ponsonby
19 Auckland Glen Innes
20 Dunedin Port Chalmers

I think many people may be surprised by this data, it’s probably quite different than what people would say if they were asked to guess. My analysis and that of other that I have shared this with is that the Top 20 is a collection of affordable suburbs that have a good selection of family homes with a high standard of service infrastructure and established mid-high decile schooling.

It’s interesting to note the suburbs fall into two distinct categories – they surround the CBD or are quite a significant distance away. Obviously the satellite suburbs offer larger properties and homes, semi-rural views and lifestyles in the same price range.

Dunedin has tossed up two interesting suburbs that wouldn’t fall into the affordable family home category – the affluent suburb of Maori Hill and its neighbour Roslyn feature some of Dunedin’s largest, most established homes with some of the city’s most breathtaking views – the Remuera of Dunedin. However Port Chalmers, Anderson’s Bay and parts of St Clair fall into the ‘travel for lifestyle’ category.

These results have reinforced our research and feedback that indicates people are definitively using the website as a comprehensive resource and research tool for property investment rather than entertainment or tyre kicking. It’s very pleasing that people serious about the property market see the website as a valuable place to look for property rather than a place for looking at property.

The bottom 20 suburbs are shown in ascending order from the suburb of least demand of consumer visits to the website listings upwards (so for clarification Manakau has slightly more demand per listing than Aotea)

District Suburb
1 South Waikato Aotea
2 Horowhenua Manakau*
3 Far North Kaeo
4 Kaipara Kaiwaka
5 Western Bay Of Plenty Athenree
6 Hurunui Waipara
7 Hauraki Waihi
8 Kaipara Mangawhai
9 Kaipara Otamatea Surrounds
10 Hurunui Hurunui Surrounds**
11 Taupo Mangakino
12 Manukau Otara
13 Far North Whangaroa/Kaeo Surrounds
14 Manukau Clover Park
15 Manukau Manurewa
16 Western Bay Of Plenty Te Puke
17 Manukau Clendon Park
18 Waitakere Westgate
19 Waikato Te Kauwhata
20 Otorohanga Otorohanga

* This suburb may confuse people. This Manakau is the tiny settlement just north of Otaki (Spelt Mana rather than Manu – as per Manukau City)
** Hurunui Surrounds does not include the resort town of Hanmer Springs

This list of 20 suburbs has equally thrown up some interesting names and lots of questions. On initial examination the ‘least popular list’ may seem somewhat perplexing but it is again broken into two types and I think there is quite a logical explanation to it all. The ‘least list’ is dominated by rural areas that are too small to offer a lot of employment options and too remote to make daily commuting to the nearest town or city for work feasible.

The other suburbs are most likely suffering from damaged reputations. Manurewa in particular has sustained a series of negative and high profile incidents this year that may make people wary of moving in. However, Manurewa is a very well established family suburb featuring many well built homes from the 1950s & 1960s. There are some quite exceptional properties and gardens that will never make the front page but are worth searching for. Serious property buyers looking to bag a bargain will undoubtedly see the positive side of identifying the 20 least popular areas. There is not only value here but rare and special homes. They may be ‘least actively viewed’ in terms of website visitor numbers but how bad can a property be that’s large, rural, peaceful and private?

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