As has become the norm over the past 12 months the newspapers and TV are cluttered with articles prophesying impending doom as NZ property teeters on the brink of a property collapse – the questions is – are the reports and prophecies going to become self-fulfilling or is rational sanity going to prevail?
The facts are very clear, the property market has slowed significantly and prices are not rising as fast as we have been accustomed to over the past 2 or 4 years. However it is a fact that over 5,000 properties were sold in January so clearly there are people looking to make that step and buy property, equally there are over 57,000 properties currently advertised on this site (There are currently 53,300 homes and 9,600 lifestyle property listings on the site, within this are multiple listings of a single property as properties being sold by more than one agent are advertised separately) – clearly this indicates that there are sellers looking to move for whatever reason.
It is a well known fact of any market, be it property or shares or any commodity that in-spite of the trend there will always be buyers and sellers entering the market for differing reasons, it just may well be that the current property market is more interesting to seasoned professional investors with ready finance who are keen to seek bargains rather than a year ago when it was more likely to be less well informed opportunist seeking to “jump” on the property band-wagon.
A couple of articles have sighted the rise in the listings of mortgagee sales on websites, this is true for realestate.co.nz. Currently we have 100 properties featured as “Mortgagee Sale” – a year ago we had 63. Does that mean that we are seeing a 60% increase in the prevalence of mortgagee sales? – there is no statistical proof. Mortgagee sales happen all the time for many reasons and whilst there is no doubt many property owners (not necessarily home owners as the properties concerned may be speculative investment properties) are suffering under increasing debt it is not close to the scenario in the US. The situation in the USA was driven by the most lapse of financial systems and fueled a mega-surge in new property development which is mostly where the pain is being felt right now.
Rather than look to the US for the prediction of where the NZ property market might end up, I think it is better to examine the UK market as the picture there is surprisingly similar to NZ – possibly a few months ahead of us.
UK house prices fell for the third month in January by 0.1% to 180,473 ($451,200) (as stated in a recent Bloombergs report), however they still show a 4.2% increase over this time last year (NZ year on year prices are up 3.97%). Already interest cuts are being predicted of between 0.25% and 0.5% over the next 6 months as the credit crunch has impacted on the economy as a whole and property in particular.
Despite this situation, the UK market is predicted to see prices to drop by around 5% in 2008 – a realistic picture given credit tightening and the current trends. This I would judge to be a rational prediction rather than the NZ snake oil merchants parading as property market experts who talk of 25% falls in prices. The UK property market is underpinned by the same foundations as the NZ market – their economic outlook remains strong, demand for property far outstrips supply and they have low unemployment. Just last week the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors stated :
“In the near term, the housing market will continue to be shielded from significant price falls while employment conditions are strong”…”if mortgage lenders filter the recent interest rate cuts into the market, demand should begin to increase”.
For NZ we face continuing high interest rates, it is unlikely that we will see cuts in these rates until the 2nd half of the year when there will be a fierce competitive battle again as large component of fixed term mortgages come up for renewal, this however will be in the middle of the election campaign which traditionally is a slow time for property sales.
So as ever interpreting all this information is difficult as just with Lotto if we knew the future we would win every week! – however it is realistic at this stage to say that the indications are for a very slow property market in 2008 – sales well down on 2007; with the likely hood of property prices of property ending the year at or just below the levels today.