The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry


Archive for the ‘International’ Category


Australian housing market boosted by incentive scheme

Posted on: September 19th, 2009 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, International

australian-homes-for-saleAustralian homebuyers – specifically first time home buyers have leapt on the incentive to get into their first home.

In the 10 months to the end of July more than 137,000 houses were purchased aided by the combintaion of both state and feral support with an incentive of between A$14,000 and A$21,000 – that would equate to a Federal funding of in excess of A$2.4bn.

There is no doubt that this incentive has underpinned the property market on the other side of the Tasman where sales were reported last week as being up 32% in a year. The June quarter saw 130,000 sales.

What is really interesting is the Australian perspective on this bouyant property market stimulated by this government stimulus package – this is the quote from the Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek:

“A strong housing market is critical for underpinning confidence and supporting jobs in the Australian economy as we battle the worst global recession in 75 years.”

A somewhat different perspective from that expressed by the Reserve Bank Governor here in NZ.


Most innovative US broker award – 2009

Posted on: August 9th, 2009 | Filed in International, Online marketing

inman-innovator-awardsAt the Inman Connect conference held this week in San Francisco a number of awards were handed out in what was a very short ceremony – the focus of the conference is on content, discussions, networking and innovation.

The award that interested me was the award for Most Innovative Broker or Franchise Award. The nominees for this award were diverse from the traditional major franchise of Coldwell Banker to the innovative new major franchise of Better Homes & Gardens; as well as leading regional players such as John L. Scott. Additionally the innovative online realtor Redfin was nominated as well as @properties a Chicago based realtor. However despite the competitive challenge of these major players the winner was a small brokerage from Charlottesville, Virginia – Nest Realty.

Reviewing their website tells me a lot about them and from within the industry more importantly tells me about their understanding of the property market and the role of a real estate agent / broker.

Nest Realty Group - winner of Inman Innovation award for realtor 2009Their website does what so many fail to do – engage with me as a prospective client in the context of the area.

For someone who has never been to Charlottesville and lives some 13,700 kms away, I can within a few minutes not only get a great sense of the city and the community, but also a clear sense of the local property market.

These are in my mind the key determinants of a great real estate company website. Too often real estate companies see their website purely as an advertising billboard for their clients properties, when the more likely scenario is that the reason comes to a company’s website is to discover more about who the company is, what they stand for, what knowledge and expertise they have and why I should select them to market my property.

This website certainly provides a property search facility, but importantly it does not compete with the primary role of providing information and insight in to the areas – why would you consider living there, and where to live. The conversation and dialogue is facilitated through a great integrated blog which is titled the Nest report and it is to here that interested clients would go to search out rich information on the market, the trends and key indicators.

So my congratulations to Jonathan Kauffman and the whole team on their success – well deserved and hopefully you can provide a benchmark for others to measure themselves against.


UK Property market sensing improvement

Posted on: August 6th, 2009 | Filed in International

I have just spent a few days in the UK on the way to attending the Inman Connect conference in San Francisco. This visit has afforded me the opportunity to see how the UK property market has been fairing.

The last 2 years has seen a battering of the UK market with price falls as reported by both of the leading market indexes (Halifax and Nationwide) exceeding 20% from peak, however the general sentiment exposed in the papers in the short time I have been here is certainly observing the green shoots of recovery.

The latest Nationwide house price report for July showed the average value of a UK home rose 1.3% to stand at £158,871. This was the third straight month of rises, and the forecast was that the year could end with a net positive increase. This outcome was reported by the mortgage lender’s chief economist Martin Gahbauer as “an unthinkable outcome .. only a few months ago”. Just 5 months ago in February the year-on-year decline reached its largest level with a 17.6% fall in prices.

The data of house price values presented by Nationwide is based on mortgage lending – in June the Bank of England reported 45,584 mortgage approvals which is down significantly and this is in itself causing concern that these lower numbers may be effecting the average house price statistic. It is interesting that the prime reported data on house prices comes from mortgage lenders rather than a real estate industry body as in NZ.

The similar data from the other major lender Halifax showed July house prices also rising in July by 1.2% to £159,623 and as can be seen from the chart below the long fall in prices since the peak nearly 2 years ago is showing a small but significant turn around. The chart also tracks the NZ property price index. Both indicies track the price index from the point starting 6 years prior to the peak in the case of NZ this was in November 2007.

NZ & UK house price index pre and post bubble to Jul 2009

This lower activity in the UK market is also a function much like NZ of lower number of properties being put on the market. One of the leading real estate companies Savills reported that lower interest rates have enabled people to stay in their homes where they might otherwise have been forced to sell up in a higher interest rate environment. This shortage of listings is being judged to be reason why in London property prices are up for the 4th month in a row – in July by 1.5%.

Supporting this objective data is a survey undertaken by the property website which found that over half of respondents believe that house prices will rise by July 2010.

Countering this wave of optimism was a Sunday Telegraph opinion piece by David Blanchflower an economics professor at Dartmouth College in the USA and a visiting professor at Stirling University in the UK, as well as a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

His assertion is that house prices have further to fall as a function of affordability; an assertion similarly discussed in NZ. The affordability measure being based on the ratio between average earnings and average house prices. His view is that prices will need to fall back to the long-run average of 3.62 from the peak of the market when it hit 5.84. It has over the past 2 years fallen back to 4.33. This statistical analysis has certainly been debated well here in NZ especially through the forum of where the view of a 30% fall along a similar extrapolation from Mr Blanchflower has been recently revised to a 15% fall – as ever time will tell as to the final picture which will unfold in the next couple of years.


Aussies eye NZ property websites as much as job sites

Posted on: July 17th, 2009 | Filed in International, Website searching

The statistics released today by Nielsen Online showing the level of interest in NZ job websites is also naturally reflected in the level of interest shown by Australians looking at property websites.

As the NZ Herald reports in June 51,097 unique browsers from Australia viewed NZ job sites – an increase of 30% on September last year . At the same time 82,684 unique browsers from Australia viewed NZ property websites – a smaller 2% increase on September last year, fairly closely matchingt he growth in NZ traffic.

Clearly job searching is a precursor to any move and therefore property search may well lag behidn the forward trend. However the scale of traffic is certain an indicator to the overall level of interest by Australians in our country.

In analysing the data I was drawn to the relative strength of the website to Australians searching for NZ properties. Based on traffic (unique browsers) the website was ranked 11th placed of all NZ websites. However when judged on the metric of engagement which is the total time spent on the site it was ranked the 5th most actively used NZ website ! An amazing 15,500 hours in the month of June.

Top 5 most actively used NZ websites by aussies


Rise in net immigration reflected in property web site stats

Posted on: June 22nd, 2009 | Filed in International, Website searching

The latest data released by Statistics New Zealand show that long term migration to NZ continues to grow. The month of May saw a 727 net gain.

The reporting of the stats by Bernard Hickey Alex Tarrant on judges that the gains are being driven by a decline in outbound loss to Australia and a net gain from countries like India and the Philippines – the latter furnishing the dairy industry with workers, the former adding students.

These statements backed up by the analysis of the raw data from Stats NZ interested me to look at our own analysis of monthly trend of overseas viewers of real estate listings. The latest charts of the top 20 countries viewing rental property and property for sale are shown below:

International visitors to rental properties May 2009

International viewers to property for sale - May 2009

The key growth (year on year) in property listing views continues to be from countries like China, India and United Arab Emirates (Dubai). Comparing the Stats NZ data with our own data and then reflecting on Bernard’s Alex’s comments certainly shows some very strong correlation.

  • China shows a 21% year on year growth (full 12 months) with 5,459 new long term arrivals – our data shows that year on year viewings of property to buy is up 116% from China, rental viewing is equally up 63%
  • India shows a 36%  year on year growth (full 12 months) with 6,827 new long term arrivals – our data shows that year on year viewings of property to buy is up 72% from India, rental viewing is equally up 97% – clearly showing student interest in renting
  • Philippines only shows a 6%  year on year growth (full 12 months) with 3,715 new long term arrivals – our data of viewings of property to buy does not hit the top 20 countries from Philippines, rental viewing is up but only a more modest 13%
  • France shows a 26%  year on year growth (full 12 months) with 1,173 new long term arrivals – our data shows that year on year viewings of property to buy is up 38% from France, rental viewing is equally up 43%
  • United Arab Emirates (Dubai) shows a 27%  year on year growth (full 12 months) with 379 new long term arrivals – our data shows that year on year viewings of property to buy is up 77% from UAE, rental viewing is equally up 53%
  • And finally a decline has been seen consistently from South Africa over the past few monthss in regard to viewing properties on this website. In terms of Stats data it shows an 8%  year on year growth (full 12 months) with 2,860 new long term arrivals – our data shows that year on year viewings of property to buy is down a massive 47% from South Africa, rental viewing is equally down a massive 58%

Looking to draw some comment here it is important to realise that whilst these 2 sets of data relate to the same month (May 2009) clearly there is likely to be lag effect from viewing property online and making a move to a new country. This may explain the data on South Africa which could be fore-telling the data from 6 to 9 months from now as a decline in new immigration from this country could eventuate.


Global ranking of real estate websites

Posted on: June 7th, 2009 | Filed in International

globaledge-global-top-100-logoThe No.1 source of real estate information is nowadays without doubt the web – whatever research you turn to here in NZ or overseas the statistics bear it out.

The most recent National Association of Realtors Home Buyers Survey from the USA undertaken late last year showed that at 87% the web is the most widely used source of information. In fact of the age group of 25 to 44 years old 94% rated the web as the top source of real estate information.

The latest NZ survey data will be released this month with the Nielsen Online NZ Real estate report for 2009. The data from last year showed that at over 70% the web was rated the top source of real estate information.

With this as the backdrop there is great interest globally to assess who are the leading online players in each market. The latest analysis of this subject undertaken by Global edge – a UK based property portal that has established itself as an analytical tool for the online marketplace, provides some interesting insight and has sparked some reaction.

To create their Global Top 100 Property Portals Global edge decided to use a calculation based on how searchable web portals are rating each based on a a propriatory application called LinkScape from a specialist search engine optimisation company SEOMoz. The technology tries to assess the richness of inbound links to each website as a surrogate for the appeal / credibility / rating of a site in much the same way as Google does for its search engine.

Naturally the top 100 has a top 10 has a heavy bias to US website with half being US and being the #1 site. This is not surprising it is the website of the National Association of Realtors and much like with the support of the industry is the most trusted, respected and used website.

Aside from the 5 US websites the other 5 in the top 10 showed sparked some interest – in Holland and Both of these are major players in their market but certainly operate in smaller markets compared to the US. This naturally got me thinking as to the impact scale of population would have on the results, especially as to how our own site would rate on a per population basis. was rated number 60 in the Top 100 – the only NZ website in the top 100.

So accepting that this calculation methodology is not statistically full proof I applied a weighting to the web links of LinkScape based on population to arrive at a revised Top 20 Global Property portals.

I am naturally delighted to show in the table below the fact that when assessed on this basis blasts into the Top 10, as the 7th most linked real estate portal globally based on a proportion of population – clearly another great example of NZ punching well above it’s weight.

Global Egde Top 100 property portals - revised per population NZ

Credit should also go to the other standout web portal operators, from Ireland at #2, complemented by fellow country operator at #4 and from Sweden at #8, and its complentary country operation


Rise in international property searching reflects rise in immigration

Posted on: May 26th, 2009 | Filed in International, Website searching

international-focus-on-immigrationThe media commentary of the last few days has polarised around the impact of returning kiwis and increased long term migration:

Whilst most of the articles in commentary or in posted comments are quick to dispel the presumption that such increased demand will fuel property prices, none can refute the assertion as the NBR commentary rightly says “Certainly they will all need somewhere to live. The buyer pool will be boosted and rental properties will have more tenants scrambling to get in the door“.

This is exactly what has been witnessed by some key indicators of international searching for NZ homes for sale and homes for rent on this website over the past year. We have analysed these trends and provided some detailed statistics.

Searching for homes for sale

This is the largest segment of the website – currently there is over 53,000 listings of properties for sale including lifestyle properties. In the past month there were over 134,000 searching sessions from countries outside of NZ for these properties – around 1 in 3 of all visitors to the website are viewing from overseas, making it the #1 website of choice for international visitors.

The top 20 countries searching for property to buy is detailed below:

NZ international visitors searching for properties to buy April 2009

The major markets in terms of traffic are the big 3 of Australia, the UK and the USA which account for close on 70% of all international traffic. Significant year on year growth is seen from the US up 63% in a year as compared to total international traffic up 14%. The UK and Australia however are flat or in the case of Australia down 9%.

Significant increases in traffic are seen from China and Spain both showing growth of over 200%, equally Russia, Taiwan, Singapore and not surprisingly United Arab Emirates feature with traffic more than doubling in the year. A very significant drop has been seen from South Africa, which a year ago, was the 5th most active visiting country, slipping now down to 17th with a 49% decline in traffic

Rental Properties

Interest from overseas tenant looking for property to rent of which there is over 7,000 on the site currently has grown by 17% over the past year with over 25,000 visitor sessions in the past month.

NZ International visitor traffic for rental properties April 2009

Again as with searching for property for sale the same top 3 countries dominate. In this case the growth again is from the US with another decline from Australia and a flat performance from the UK. Canada at #4 equally showed significant year-on-year growth up 82%.

Big movements are witnessed with interest from Spain and Ireland, the latter up 172% moving up from 12th to 7th place. Just as with property for sale – South Africa is witnessing a decline in rental property searching recording a 55% fall although the scale of interest still warrants a top 5 spot.

India ranks much higher in rental property search (#10) as compared to #20 in terms of property for sale with a more than doubling of interest for rental properties over the past year.

Notable departures from the Top 20 are Fiji and Switzerland, the former seeing a 33% decline in rental property.


The data of traffic for Australia has been adjusted to account for the significant increase in traffic to following the closure of the website of in Dec 2008. That website a subsidiary of the leading Australian real estate website ( derived a significant percentage of traffic from Australia which now re-directs to

To enable a like-for-like comparison the historical data from that website for Australian traffic has been de-duped with the data of traffic from for those months of last year to create a true picture of Australian searching trends.


The Great American Dream – how sub prime’s impact reaches deep into ordinary lives

Posted on: May 16th, 2009 | Filed in International

istock_000000041242xsmallThe US economic meltdown that has lead to this “Great Global Recession” can be very clearly traced back to the at-best lapse, and at-worst semi-fraudulent home loan mortgage schemes of the early past of this decade.

These were the sub prime mortgages that allowed people with the inability to pay or the inability to demonstrate the ability to ,the opportunity to secure loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars against the purchase of a house which they could have in the past only dreamed about – all on the premise that house prices would continue to rise and any risk of rising interest rates would be completely overshadowed by equity gains.

Well as we all are only too aware this pack of cards came tumbling down, and over the past 2 years the foreclosure consequence of this unwinding has catastrophically depressed the US housing market and seen the average house price in the US fall by 28% from the peak of the market over two years ago.

A lot of what I have read on blogs and heard in conversations over the past year has tried to stereotype the recipients of these sub prime loans as financially illiterate members of the public and has made the accusations that these people were seduced into these types of these schemes to invest in  speculative developments – especially true in NZ with the likes of the schemes promoted by the now defunct finance companies.

I have always felt that against these claims, people always applied a too-simplistic view that these people were buying houses as some form of financial instrument. To this claim I respond that the purchase of a house is far more about emotional and social triggers than financial – it just relies on the financial support.

It was therefore for me very interesting and enlightening to read an excellent article today from the New York Times Magazine written by Edmund Andrews. Edmund is an economics reporter for the NY Times – as he himself says in the start of the article

If there was anybody who should have avoided the mortgage catastrophe, it was I. As an economics reporter for The New York Times, I have been the paper’s chief eyes and ears on the Federal Reserve for the past six years. I watched Alan Greenspan and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, at close range. I wrote several early-warning articles in 2004 about the spike in go-go mortgages. Before that, I had a hand in covering the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Russia meltdown in 1998 and the dot-com collapse in 2000. I know a lot about the curveballs that the economy can throw at us.

The fact is that Edmund became one of the casualties of these financial instruments of sub prime mortgages. Not as part of some speculative property investment scheme, but just because he wanted to live a dream for himself, his partner and his family – what they call the Great American Dream. Have a read and ask yourself – what would you have done and who would you blame if you were in Edmund’s shoes?


Downward spiral of US housing market sees demolition as viable option

Posted on: May 9th, 2009 | Filed in International

victorville-demolitionIt may seem hard to believe, but as reported by the Wall Street Journal “A Texas bank is about done demolishing 16 new and partially built houses acquired in Southern California through foreclosure, figuring it was better to knock them down than to try selling them in the depressed housing market”.

The houses had become vandalised as unoccupied homes and partially built homes succumbed to the effects of spiraling house deflation. The area where these houses were built 140kms north east of Los Angeles was effectively desert a decade or so ago, but became one of the many areas of the US where speculative home building fueled by easy credit created satellite towns that are now fast becoming ghost towns. The legacy left behind from the bursting of this housing bubble is a nightmare for local authorities that have to deal with the implications of deserted neighbourhoods with risks of crime and decay.

In this situation the bank found it cheaper to demolish than to pay to complete or repair the homes based on what they thought they could sell them for in the current market.

The current median new-home price in Victorville is US$265,990, according to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, a housing-research firm. Homes in the Victorville development were priced at a range of US$280,00 to US$350,000 in early 2008, according to Hanley Wood.

Searching on Zillow to review the current re-sale market shows fairly clearly the state of the market. This house sold recently in Victorville for US$60,000 – its a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom 140 sq m homes on a new subdivision.


The beauty of the Zillow website is the rich data on market stats and historical sales (very much our aspiration for Zoodle – accepting for the fact that in the US the recent sales data is freely accessible). For this particular property the historical stats makes for compelling reading.

The property at 15975 Barranca Way was built in 2003 and sold to its first owner for US$149,500, then based on the Zestimate algorithm provided by Zillow the property appreciated in value to peak at US$275,000 in mid 2006. The onset of the sub prime collapse then started to erode the value of the property falling below US$200,000 in early 2008 until it was sold in September 2008 for US$102,000.

The property was then resold at the end of April of this year for US$60,000. That represents a staggering 78% decline in price from its peak valuation.

The fact is the US market continues to be plagued by a legacy of oversupply of homes built on the back of hyper speculation that in some areas of the country amount to over 2 years inventory. This backlog of unsold / unoccupied properties continues to result in depressed prices. Radical measures appear to be the only means to break the viscious cycle or doom loop of property values. These circumstances are exception and unique to the US and within the country just certain states and cities – they are not symptomonious of the NZ housing market.


Growing interest in NZ commercial property from international buyers

Posted on: April 8th, 2009 | Filed in Commercial, International

auckland-cbd-commercial-propertyThe recent article in the NZ Herald highlighted a renewed interest in NZ commercial property from counter cyclical buyers from the South East Asia region.

Bayleys’ senior broker James Chan is quoted as saying that “the company’s marketing activity this year is in Southeast Asia and particularly Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China because this is where most international interest in New Zealand property is coming from“.

This focus naturally lead to an analysis of the visitor statistics on for commercial listings as to whether there had been an appreciable increase of visitors from South East Asia in particular. Comparing the first 3 months of 2009 with the same period last year visitor numbers are up significantly at the same time inventory of commercial property is at a peak. It turns out that close on in 4  of all visitors to commercial listings on the website in the past quarter were from overseas up from 1 in 5 a year ago, a total of 71,000 visitors checked out such listings in the past 3 months, up 19%.

The chart below shows the major growth areas of the world reviewing NZ commercial property. In overall terms international visitor numbers are up by 48% clearly driven by major interest from across the Asian region.


Whilst absolute visitor numbers for commercial property listings are small as compared to residential (total monthly visitor sessions for commercial in a month for example may amount to around 25,000 as compared to residential which can be over 600,000) the fact is though that commercial listings tend to only attract genuine interested parties as opposed to residential which has a broader audience comprising many visitors for whom browsing real estate property for sale is very aspirational and not genuinely grounded in the likelihood of ever buying any of the viewed properties.

Page 3 of 512345