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New brand, new look – new platform

Posted on: May 4th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Website news, Website searching

New logo May 10Over the past 48 hours you will have noticed a few changes to the website.

We have released a whole new platform, a ground-up rebuild that leaves the old site and focuses us to the future of delivering the best property finding experience in NZ. The process to this day began last year with conversations. Conversation grew into discussions and discussions grew into concepts.

We heard loud and clear from our current users of the site, and those who did not use it, what they liked, what they did not like and what they wished someone would give them – the latter component is so key, and yet at the same time so elusive as to be able to easily define what people really want when sometimes even they cannot articulate it.

We also took the opportunity to review the global leaders in real estate online solutions across the world, sites like in Australia, Rightmove in the UK and in the US Trulia and Zillow. These would be the sites that guided (but were not allowed to constrain) our thoughts and ideas.

Zipping ahead to today. We have built a new website that is different, certainly that is clear from some of the flow of emails received so far, as clearly people are not accustomed to change, however the feedback has been balanced. The essential focus of the new site is to allow anyone to use the site to easily accomplish two related but very different tasks – browsing and researching. These are two behaviours of real estate online search that are critical to understand in order for our site to deliver a unique and valuable experience.


iStock_000006685515XSmallThis is the start of any property buying (or renting experience) – it is typified by a “lean back” mode in the chair to view the screen – here the task is to chose a location and then browse through images in a large format in which property images can be scanned. This is achieved in the search result page for any location. Any property listing can be assessed by flicking through the portfolio of images without ever leaving the search results thereby ensuring you have your options in front of you.

A likely task before even scanning these images is the filtering of the properties in the area. This is done now using the right hand navigation with sliders to tightly define the key metrics of price, size of property. This filtering typically allows the user to refine the shortlist to a couple of dozen – ready for research. The great capability of the new site is that adjustments to these sliders does not require the “update” button – rather updates are made dynamically as you make a change allowing you to refine from 400 properties down to 20.


iStock_000008670275XSmallThis stage in the process is far more investigative and is typified by a “lean forward” mode in the chair closer to the computer terminal. At this stage it is all about capturing your favourites and this requires you to set up your “My Property” feature on the site. Doing this ensures that your properties and saved searches are always accessible from any computer. Storing your favorites from the search results then allows you to view each property in detail on the listing page.

This presentation is all about big images and rich content, both from the listing agents, as well as location based data such as Google maps and Zoodle property information. This is the stage when you can start to enquire about the property or plan to view open homes all of which are accessible from that listing page.

There is much we have learned over the past year that we have yet to implement, that is what will provide us with a great roll out of new functionality in the coming months, however it was important to get the new site live and bedded in – this does sometimes take a few days, and consequentially some issues, so we would ask for your patience.

Of course the other major change you will be aware of is the fact that the new only features residential and lifestyle properties for sale or rent. The comprehensive content of commercial properties are now found on Prime Commercial, with businesses for sale on Prime Business and the agricultural sectors served by nzFarms.

This provides an introduction to the new site – future articles will highlight some of the key features of the site.


NZ Property Report – April 2010

Posted on: May 1st, 2010 | Filed in Featured, NZ Property Report

blue pen and small houseThe level of new listings coming onto the market fell in the month of April on an actual basis by 15%, and on a seasonally adjusted basis by 6%. This has led to the arresting of the steady increase seen in inventory levels of unsold houses over the past 10 months. Clearly as a function of the level of new listings sellers seem confident to put their properties on the market.

These statistics are detailed in the latest NZ Property Report for April 2010, published here and available as a downloadable report.

Click here to download the full report (1.2MB pdf)

The overall level of inventory of unsold homes remains high indicating that for the majority of the country a buyer’s market prevails, albeit with a trend beginning towards a balanced market.

The asking price expectation in April clearly signals that sellers keen to list their property show no signs of feeling that prices are moving significantly up or down; as for 3 months now this expectation has been fixed at around $420,000. The movement in the last few months has slowed to less than 1% bringing the year on year change to just 4%. This year on year change is less than the current annual price appreciation of 7% reported in the REINZ Stratified price for March.

Regionally the market in the main metropolitan centres continues at a faster pace than provincial NZ where there has been a noticeable slowing of new listings coming onto market which however has failed to impact inventory as sales in these areas are equally running at low levels.

Asking Price

NZ Property Report - April 2010 price expectations of new listings coming onto the market barely moved in the past month. The truncated mean of the 12,225 listings added in the month was $422,520, this was unchanged against the most recent 3 month average and up just 4% as compared to April 2009. Overall asking prices have been creeping up for over 15  months from lows of $390,000.

New Listings

NZ Property Report - April 2010 New listings added to the market volume of new listings coming onto the market fell in April in what is traditionally a quieter month. The 12,225 listings though still represent a 17% increase as compared to a year ago. At that time a year ago the property market was finding an active level of bargain hunters matched to a nervous range of sellers which resulted in a rapid decline in new listings and subsequent inventory.


NZ Property Report - April 2010 Inventory of unsold homes level of unsold houses on the market at the end of April totaled 53,123.This represented the equivalent of 46.5 weeks.

The inventory of unsold homes had been rising steadily over the past 10 months, however for the first time the trend has been reversed. A component of this is the seasonal trend which sees greater levels of new listings in summer vs. autumn.

At this time last year the inventory levels were at 42.5 weeks as at that time new listings were drying up as sellers were nervous of the threat of collapsing house prices.

Regional Summary – Asking Price Expectations

NZ Property Report - April 2010 Regional asing price expectations change between March and April in terms of asking price expectation across the various regions is that whilst overall price movements nationally have hardly changed, there has been a variety of movements within the regions. Most of these movements are not significant in scale – most being less than 5% when viewed as current month compared to recent 3 month average.

Across the 19 regions, 5 showed increases of which the Coromandel was the largest with a 5.3% increase. 8 regions showed falls with the 7% decline in the Wairarapa the largest. The balance of 6 regions showed hardly any change in price.

Regional Summary – New Listings

NZ Property Report - April 2010 regional new listings the regions the trend of new listings coming onto the market indicates a view of a buyer’s market however there are changes from the month of March.

There were 3 regions in April which reported year on year listings decline for the month – Central North Island, Nelson and Manawatu / Wanganui; the latter 2 showing a significant decline of over 20%.

There still remain 8 of the 19 regions showing significant year on year growth in listings for the month including the main metropolitan centres. The largest increases were seen in Coromandel and Southland – both over 60%, with Wellington at 40% year on year increase. Auckland and Canterbury showed 22% and 26% increases respectively.

Regional Summary – Inventory

NZ Property Report - April 2010 Regional inventory levels fell across all of the 19 regions with the sole exception of the West Coast which rose slightly to 162 weeks.

Whilst the inventory levels have fallen the vast majority of the regions are experiencing levels of inventory well above both long term average (2007-2009) as well as measured against the prior 12 month average.

The broad perspective is that for 15 of the regions across the country including all the main urban centres inventory levels place the market firmly in the camp of a buyer’s market with a good selection of properties available for interested buyers.

The region of the Coromandel is the only region that based on current inventory (154 weeks) is moving very slightly towards a sellers market. The comparable data is that for the Coromandel the average inventory over the past 3 years has been 173 weeks and over the past 12 months 188 weeks – the peak of inventory for the Coromandel was reached in December 2008 at 284 weeks.

Lifestyle Property

NZ Property Report - April 2010 Lifestyle properties total of 1,124 new listings of lifestyle properties came onto the market in April. This represented a 24% year on year increase. This level has remained strong over the past 3 months all of which have been well ahead of the same months a year ago.

At $567,101 the truncated mean asking price was down 2% on March and 3% down as compared to the recent 3 month average.

The largest rise in new listings was seen in the Bay of Plenty with 102 new listings, more than double the levels of April 2009


NZ Property Report - April 2010 Apartments number of new apartments listed remained steady in April with 601 listed in the month. The overall level of new apartment listings is strong with a 48% year on year growth. In the first 4 months of this year 2,393 new apartment listings have come onto the market – a 35% increase over the same period last year

The truncated mean asking price of new apartment listings at $416,986 was up 5.9% on the latest 3 month average, up 12% on prior year.

The Wellington market continues to see strong growth in listings with a further 108 listed in April taking the 4 months total for 2010 to 471 a 126% increase compared to 2009.

The full report can be downloaded here (1.2MB pdf document). Additionally the raw data is accessible here as an Excel spreadsheet enabling anyone to analyse the raw data and establish any trends or observations. Usage rights are governed by attribution to the source of the data being The next NZ Property Report for May 2010 will be published on this website on Tuesday 1st June at 10am.


Notification of weekend work on

Posted on: April 30th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Website news

Construction croppedWe just want to let you know that we will be undertaking significant work on the website this weekend. This work is an exciting development of the website.

We need to shut off the site from 9am on Sunday morning (2nd May) – we should be back online again around lunchtime.

I really hope this is not inconvenient for you – it does however give you a chance to have a long leisurely lie-in and possibly breakfast in bed!

If you want to be kept informed you can follow us on our Twitter account @realestateconz we will be tweeting progress.

Naturally we have lots of exciting developments to share with you once we go live so stop by later on Sunday!


New websites better meet the needs of our customers

Posted on: April 20th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, Website news

New sites - April 2010 as a company today embarked on a major strategic move designed to cement its position as the most valued and comprehensive source for real estate information in New Zealand.

Since the launch of the website of back in August 2006, the website has maintained a leadership in content, supported by its ownership within the industry; the single site has hosted over 1 million listings spanning the wide diversity of real estate from rental properties to businesses for sale, from high country farms to lifestyle properties and from townhouses to retail premises to lease. Today the site hosts over 120,000 listings and regularly receives over 26,000 unique visitors everyday.

Whilst the site provides great capability to find all sorts of real estate we have never assumed that it was the best solution of how to find the best property. In business there is always a need to constantly want to strive to find a better solution. Solutions come from insights and through much of 2009 we talked with consumers, as users of the site and also our real estate customers, to better understand what they felt was important in a tool to assist them. From the standpoint of the homeowner – how to more easily find listings; from agents and offices – how better to display and feature listings.

These insights lead us to develop a new website structure, and not just one website. As one of the key insights we learned, was that there was a desire to separate the different content of listings – separating commercial property to buy or lease, from businesses for sale, separate from farms; all separate from residential property to buy or rent. Our solutions launched today is a family of websites – 3 brand new names and websites to provide the industry and consumers of New Zealand with the most comprehensive focused means of easily finding the property or business to suit their needs.

Prime Commercial headerPrime Commercial – the new brand for commercial property showcasing the most comprehensive collection of properties for sale or lease across NZ. At this time 25,322 listings are featured on this website from over 94% of all licensed real estate offices – this site has more than 20% more content than any other website featuring commercial property. Whether you want to find leasehold property on the North Shore or commercial land in Nelson this site has it all.

Prime Business header smallPrime Business – the new brand for the specialist area of business broking, this site provides the most comprehensive selection of businesses for sale anywhere in NZ. At this time a total of 3,768 businesses for sale are featured on the website – more than double the content of any other website in NZ featuring businesses for sale. Whether you want to find a new franchise opportunity in the Canterbury region or a manufacturing company in the Hawkes Bay this site has it all.

nzFarms headernzFarms – the new brand for the rural sector of the NZ market, this website provides the most comprehensive slection of farms, agricultural land as well as lifestyle properties for sale across the whole of the country. At this time a total of 7,917 farms and agricultural businesses are featured on the site together with 11,809 lifestyle properties. This comprehensive portfolio of rural NZ properties and agricultural businesses is more than 50% more than any other website featuring such content. Whether you want to find a dairy farm in the Waikato or horticulture in Central Otago this site has it all.


Auckland property prices – not quite the increase portrayed in the media

Posted on: April 19th, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured, Media commmentary, REINZ Monthly data

Auckland Property prices in March 2010

There was a sense of deja vu about the article in the NZ Herald over the weekend.

“Booming Auckland house sales jump $709 each day”

Are we back in the boom years of 2002 or 2007 when headlines of “Homeowners riding a $500-a-day rocket” or “Auckland homes rise $540 a day” were published?

Whilst the specific statistics quoted in the article were accurate (median price increase), I would judge that the inference that property is appreciating by $709 per day is not valid.

The headline used as its source the REINZ monthly median price data for the Auckland region which showed that between February and March the median price had risen by $22,000 from the February figure of $453,500 to the March figure of $475,500.

These median figures are accurate. Taking the total data set of 2,187 properties sold in March 2010 – the midpoint of that range ranked by price will be a single house sold for $475,500. Equally taking the total data set of 1,578 properties sold in February 2010 – the midpoint of that range ranked by price will be a single house sold for $453,500. However it is not accurate to state that by inference that all properties in Auckland have risen in the month, nor that in fact property prices on average have risen by $709 each day.

The issue with these statistics is that median price is a volatile measure and is susceptible to changes in the composition of property being sold. If there are more properties being sold at the higher price end of the market, then median prices will be reported as higher. That is likely to be the case at this time. The chart below sourced from the regional property sales by price band provided as a subscription service from REINZ – Residential Housing Facts displays the make up of all sales in each of the two months set out by price range along the horizontal axis. The red line represents the percentage of sales in February by price range, with March in blue.

REINZ Auckland price range analysis Feb March 2010

The very clear picture shown by the chart is that for property sales below the median in March represented less than for February, whilst sales above the median in March represented more of the sales. This supports the view that the composition of sales changed significantly and therefore impacted the median price.

Let’s look for a moment at the broader picture for the whole of NZ. For the whole of NZ the composition of sales by price segment is very telling. In the month of March total sales increased by 22% from the February figure of 5,029 to 6,161. In the lower price segment of properties sold at prices below $400,000 sales volumes increased by just 17%; properties sold at prices between $400k and $600k, sales increased by 25% – slightly ahead of the total. However for properties sold at prices between $600k and $1m sales increased 38% and the sales of properties over $1m increased by 55%. This clearly shows a skew towards higher priced properties selling in March.

The Real Estate Institute (REINZ) does produces a more accurate measure of property prices published in its monthly report. In collaboration with the Reserve Bank REINZ publishes the monthly Stratified House price index specifically to minimise the impact that changes in the composition of sales has on price.

The Stratified price of Auckland property sold in March was $479,438 – this was down very slightly on the February figure of $479,975. The chart below tracks the stratified sales price in Auckland over the past 5 years.

Auckland stratified house price March 2010

As the chart shows the fact is that property prices are not booming. Auckland property prices peaked in July 2007 at $510,197, it then fell to a low point some 16 months later of $435,700, a total fall of just under 15%; subsequently prices have crept back up towards the peak but currently are still some 6% below that peak.

The chart of stratified prices for the whole of NZ as detailed below equally show that despite the peak of property prices being reached some 28 months ago, nationally prices as measured by the stratified price are still some 3.3% below that peak.

New Zealand stratified house price March 2010 -


Could this be the start of a resurgent property market?

Posted on: April 7th, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured

March 2010 property sales from Barfoot & ThompsonBarfoot & Thompson, the leading real estate company in Auckland and Northland released their sales figures today for March. A total of 927 properties were sold in the month of March. This figure is encouraging and raises hope for the property market across the country as Barfoot & Thompson release their sales figures well ahead of the Real Estate Institute data which is due on the 16th April.

The figure of 927 for March compares with a more subdued figure of 626 in February, but is in line with March 2009 when 924 properties were sold. That month of March 2009 was the turning point in the market then with an increase in sales which ran for 7 months until the Spring of last year.

The chart below presents the monthly sales figures on a seasonally adjusted basis – this better demonstrates true growth stripping out the seasonal factor of the market. The month of March is the biggest selling month of the year accounting historically for 9.8% of all annual sales.

Barfoot & Thompson seasonally adjusted sales March 2010

The sales for March at a seasonally adjusted level of 789 is very strong – 34% up on the February seasonally adjusted figure of just 588.

In terms of average sale price, the March figure of $545,156 was up over $20,000 on the February figure and $53,000 on March last year. The chart below tracks the monthly average sale price over the past 4 years highlighting the more than 10% year-on-year increase.

Barfoot & Thompson average sales price to March 2010

Given this month’s increase in sales activity and given the scale of the business of Barfoot & Thompson (based on the past 12 months Barfoot & Thompson represent 13.7% of national sales) it is possible to make an educated extrapolation of the total sales for March.

Using seasonally adjusted monthly sales for February and March 2010 and applying the percentage month-on-month increase seen by Barfoot & Thompson of 34%; this would extrapolate to a March total sales for the whole of NZ of around 7,000. This level of sales would start to bring the market back towards a more normal market for property.

One caveat to this extrapolation is the likelihood that within the performance of the Barfoot & Thompson sales figures is potentially a higher level of activity in metropolitan regions of the country as expressed in the March NZ Property Report. We shall have to wait for the final sales numbers from REINZ in two weeks time.


NZ Property Report – March 2010

Posted on: April 1st, 2010 | Filed in Featured, NZ Property Report

NZ Property Report - property market is very definitely in the defined state of a buyer’s market as witnessed by the key metrics of supply; being the available stock of unsold houses on the market and the number of new listings hitting the market.

March_2010_report_cover_pageIn the first 3 months of 2010 a total of just under 40,000 new listings have been added to the market. The total stock of residential property for sale at the end of 2009 was 49,149. That has grown to 55,623 – an extra 6,500 properties on the market. The current average monthly sales total is just 4,551 over the past 3 months.

Closer analysis of the data shows that seasonally adjusted, the total of new listings in March was down 3.3% at 12,595. Compared to March last year which saw a seasonally adjusted total of 10,014, the latest monthly data clearly shows the extent of the new flood of listings searching for buyers.

Breaking the total down by region shows a more significant split between provincial and metropolitan NZ. The major centers of Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury show a lower overall inventory level of unsold homes at 40 weeks as compared to 70 weeks for provincial NZ. Equally when looking at the new listings coming onto the market in March the total of new listings in provincial areas of the country actually rose in March up from 6,450 in February to 6,719. This level is the highest number of new listings for two years. The major metropolitan regions saw a 11% decline of new listings on a month-on-month basis with 7,689 new listings.

Asking Price

NZ Property Report March 2010 Asking priceProperty owners placing their homes on the market are clearly signaling the belief that property prices are rising. The first two months of this year when activity of new listings have reached highs, have been accompanies by month on month price expectation rises. The truncated mean asking price in March was $422,648 which is 4.2% up on March last year.

New Listings

NZ Property Report March 2010 New listingsThe number of new listings coming onto the market in March; whilst down slightly on the February total, was still up 26% on the prior year. A year ago the scale of the inventory of unsold houses had begun to impact the confidence of new listings coming onto the market – indicating confidence by sellers to be able to find buyers and move onto to buy another property.


NZ Property Report March 2010 Inventory of unsold housesThe level of unsold houses on the market at the end of February totaled 55,623.This represented the equivalent of 53.0 weeks.

The inventory of unsold homes has been rising steadily over the past 10 months, slowly at first then as the rate of sales has slowed the inventory levels have accelerated over the past 3 months going from 34 weeks on December to over 53 weeks in March.

At this time last year the inventory levels were on the way down having peaked at 56.9 weeks in February.

Regional Summary – Asking price expectation

NZ Property Report March 2010 Regional asking price expectationThe truncated mean asking price for all new listings coming onto the market in March rose again to $422,648, up 4.2% on February and representing a 0.9% increase on March 2009.

A key observation of the March data is that the variances in asking price across the regions of the country are considerably smaller than has been seen during the past year indicating less volatility. Within the total of 19 regions, 13 are recording an increase in March as compared to the latest 3 month average. Only one region came close to a double digit asking price change which was Central Otago / Lakes district which was down 9.8%, this was accompanying a rise in new listings with 350 in March up from 313 in February.

An interesting observation from the data is the Waikato region, which has consistently had an asking pricing in a very close range from $342,000 to $359,000 for over 12 months.

Regional Summary – New listings

NZ Property Report March 2010 Regional new listingsThe chart depicting the scale of new listing coming on the market in March across the country paints a clear picture of a strong buyers market with only one region showing a year-on-year decline in new listings – that being the Coromandel, down 39%.

The balance of the 19 regions all showed increase in new listings – 16 of them reporting year-on-year growth of more than 20% with the Gisborne showing the highest growth at 61% with Central North Island reporting 50% growth in new listings.

The total number of new listings added in the Gisborne region in the month at 153 was the largest recorded over the past 3 years. Equally the Bay of Plenty region saw 1,104 new listings up 20% on February and 33% up on March last year, the highest level of new listings in that region in the past 2 years.

Regional Summary – Inventory of unsold houses

NZ Property Report March 2010 Inventory of unsold houses by region of NZAnother leap in the inventory of unsold houses took the total to a level of 53.0 weeks of equivalent sales. This is now the second highest level of inventory seen over the past 3 years. The prior high of 56.9 weeks was in February last year – a time of major global economic fragility as consumer and business confidence tumbled.

The clear impact of this level of inventory is the clear image as portrayed by the adjacent chart which depicts a blanket state of a buyer’s market. The legend for this chart uses the measure of current inventory to long term (3 year) averages to represent a buyers or a sellers market.

Out of the 19 regions, 6 reported the highest level of inventory spanning back over the past 3 years. They were Manawatu / Wanganui, Northland, Otago, Southland, Taranaki and Waikato.

Lifestyle Property

NZ Property Report March 2010 Lifestyle property new listings A total of 1,106 new listings of lifestyle properties came onto the market in March. This represented an increase of 17% over March 2009, however reflective of the total residential sector the month saw a small fall from the February total of 1,133.

At $592,438 the truncated mean asking price was down 2% on February and in line with the latest 3 month average.

Across the regions, Canterbury saw a large number of newly listed lifestyle properties with 144 as compared to 134 last month and 113 in March last year. The mean asking price in the region was up 12% in the year to $581,236.


NZ Property Report March 2010 Apartment listingsThe number of new apartments listed fell significantly in March with 613 in total, down from 747 in February. This does represent a year on year increase of 31%. In Auckland the number of new apartments did not show such a significant fall in the month down from 368 in February to 362 in March.

The truncated mean asking price of new apartment listings at $390,211 was up 4.4% on the latest 3 month average, however 11% down on prior year.

A large number of new apartment listings in the Wellington region in February (217) was not repeated in March with a more normal level of 93 new apartments listed.

The full report can be downloaded here (1.5MB pdf document). Additionally the raw data is accessible here as an Excel spreadsheet enabling anyone to analyse the raw data and establish any trends or observations. Usage rights are governed by attribution to the source of the data being The next NZ Property Report for April 2010 will be published on this website on Saturday 1st May at 10am.


Clear decline seen in sales and listings of mortgagee properties

Posted on: March 28th, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured

NZ mortgagee properties The latest data on mortgagee properties being repossessed by lenders and marketed for sale indicates that the trend is on the way down. Whilst far from returning to normal levels the extent of mortgagee properties on the market has declined over the first quarter of 2010.

As seen from the chart below the peak of mortgagee listings on the market was at the end of 2008, just at the peak of the global recession. Through 2009 a patchy decline was observed with a significant clearance through the year end of 2009. Since the start of this year the market has seen a new selection of mortgagee properties come onto the market, however this has not been to the extend of the levels seen through 2009. As at this time there are some 309 mortgagee properties comprising homes and lifestyle properties on the market.


These statistics of listings are also reflected in the latest data of mortgagee sales released by Terralink International. The data compiled in the monthly report cover sales of properties of all types that have been sold on behalf of the lender as a statutory mortgagee sale, they can and do include non residential properties.

Sales for January totaled 196 down from the December total of 252, but still up 30% on the total sales in January 2009. However when adjusted for seasonality the sales for January reflect a slow decline which began in October 2009 following the peak of seasonally adjusted sales in September of 336 – the seasonally adjusted sales for January 2010 was 232 as highlighted in the chart below.

NZ mortgagee sales - seasonally adjusted

The final measure of mortgagee activity can be seen by examining the extent of searches undertaken on for mortgagee properties. Mortgagee properties are not a defined category of listings and therefore are found within the 120,000 listings on the site through the keyword searching. The chart below shows the level of keyword searches for such terms of “mortgagee”, “mortgagee auction”, and “mortgagee sale” on a weekly basis since the start of 2008. Very clearly the level of activity were considerably more active back in 2009, with the past 6 months showing a very stable level of around 600 to 700 searches a week.

NZ mortgagee listings and keyword searches Mar 2010


Are property prices going to rise or fall?

Posted on: March 24th, 2010 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Featured, Money Matters

Question marks croppedThis is the question…..are property prices going to rise or fall?

It is the question that everyone seems to want to know – and rightly so, given the extent of investment savings NZ’ers have tied up in real estate. I am not going to make any judgment here about the rights and wrongs of that. Nor am I going to make any predictions as to where property prices are going in the next week, month or year.

If you are about to click the back browser button – thinking that I have mislead you with this title, then please wait a moment to hear the rationale.

I heard a quote a year or so ago from a credible and respected economist. He stated that there were many expectations put on him to make predictions and foreshadow future trends with all kinds of economic indicators. At the end of the day the one he was most reluctant to make a prediction on though was the property market and especially the future price of houses. I took away from that quote a very clear view that if an economist who has (a) far greater access to a far greater set of data than I do, and (b) is far better positioned to make such extrapolations due to focus and extensive financial career experience is not prepared to make such predictions – then I am certainly not going to.

However to provide some helpful insight to current property owners and aspiring property buyers and investors, I would recommend a read of this great article from the New York Times of last week titled “Great time to buy (famous last words)“. It does offer as would be expected an economists view of the 3 macroeconomic drivers of property prices: Affordability (median price to median income); Alternative options (rent vs buy) and Asset Appreciation (Asset value of housing stock to GDP). Interestingly a recent guest article on covered these metrics for NZ by Philip O’Connor who is a Senior Lecturer in finance at the University of Auckland’s Department of Accounting and Finance.

Whilst the article from the NY Times speaks to the US property market – the relevancy of a comment within it from Glen Kelman, the CEO of online real estate company Redfin is the blinding flash of inspiration in his statement:

“Instead of betting on home prices, you make a bet on whether money will become cheaper or more expensive, allowing you to buy more or less house”.

I have often read and from personal experience believed in the principle of buying a family home based on personal affordability. The key question is, or should be: “based on my current earnings and future prospects, can I afford the mortgage repayments assuming future interest rates?” This is the question that is far more important than the question of what will happen to house prices in the next week, month or year.

For the majority of property buyers in NZ the decision is a major commitment, one they will likely make only a few times in their lives. Given the average occupancy of a home owner in any one property is 7 years, the most important question is personal affordability. A repayment mortgage is a great savings vehicle and as long as property prices keep close to long term inflation then at the end of the period of ownership most people will benefit in owning more of their home as an asset than they owe their lender. To try and play the market in terms of future property pricing is the same as trying to play the stock market on a daily basis.

As to the question of future interest rates. I am not going to offer any personal opinion, again there are more qualified people to offer advice – provides a rich source of data and comment and John Bolton at Squirrel has recently written a view on 2010 mortgage rates on his blog


If you are selling your home – please read this!

Posted on: March 17th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing

Perfect image of houses croppedAn early lesson I recall when starting out to write this blog, was that if ever you feel that you need an inspiration for a blog post – just recall a recent conversation. The topic of the conversation is sure to be of benefit to share.

Well this post, although stimulated by a telephone conversation, was not originated through a dry spell of me searching for a topic – quite the opposite, there seems so much to write about real estate these days! However as you will see this issue is a pet issue for me. So here goes!

Why is it that so many properties featured on this website and in fact so many websites, showcase such poor photographs?!

This is a serious question, and it was asked of me by a professional photographer who was struggling to get his local real estate agents to take seriously his service. (as an aside I would like to point out this is not an advertorial for any particular photo service or photographer, this is simply something that I think is really important. In the spirit of openness and reciprocity the photo service he works for is Essential Images)

As we spoke and we discussed this issue, it struck me that whilst the real estate profession should be motivated to present the very best images for every property they market on the web, there is a sense that vendors should be far more demanding of this from agents. This seems so strange, after all where else do people begin searching for property these days? At the time of the last research nearly a year ago close to 80% of all buyers used online in the recent week to search for property; whilst traditional media such as newspapers and magazines languished at just 31% and 46% respectively. In the US the percentage is over 93% of all buyers using online search.

We all know the expression – a picture is worth a thousand words. Well in the same vein when it comes to advertising property online; 20 photos are probably worth a hundred time more than half a dozen photos; and a high quality photo set for a property is worth thousands!

Courtesy of the photographer I spoke to, here are some of his examples of the difference professional photos can make to a property presentation online.

Lounge basicLounge professional

The presentation of this lounge is considerably enhanced through the use of the right light balance to better show the relationship between indoors and outside.

bathroom basicbathroom professional

Whilst the bathroom may not be the most appealing part of the house, good lighting makes all the difference; in this case bringing the room to life and show off the polished floor.

deck basicdeck professional

The all important exterior deck can be challenging to photograph right, without the expert eye. Whilst a bight cloudless day shows off the appeal of the deck; without the right skills the interior is left as a dark hole!

The web is a visual medium. The human eye can scan a page of images of property in a mere second or two. In that time your house (be that your house as the vendor, or as the appointed agent has to be seen and then clicked on to elicit interest and a further review.

At that stage the photos, and nowadays that selection of photos should be extensive (ie. more than 20) needs to captivate the interested buyer to engage them and hook them in, so they then go on to read the details and really consider the property for a physical inspection.

This all seems so logical. Why would you not get a professional photographer to undertake an extensive photo shoot? – yet so many properties on this website are poorly presented with barely a handful of images some of them taken with a camera phone.

If the answer is money – then think again. Most photographers charge much less than $500, many times less than $250. Yes; that has to be paid up front. But then if you are serious about selling you need to help sell the house, and in this cluttered and competitive market how else are you going to standout? – certainly not if you only have 5 average quality photos.

The median price of property across the country is $350,000; even in the cheapest region Southland the median price is $190,000. Why then would you not spend $250 to really help the sale of a $190,000 property – that amounts to just 0.13% of the sale price. Or think of it another way $250 is little more than a week’s mortgage payment. A well presented property is far more likely to sell faster and therefore save you more than a single week’s interest on the mortgage.

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