Recent data published in the media seems to be pointing to a impending bubble in the Auckland market – described in the NZ Herald as “a bubble that will burst and cause a painful property recession”.
I confess that our own NZ Property report for November contained a component of this speculation stating as it did that
The price rise in Auckland (asking price expectation) of 4.1% (Nov ’09 vs. 3 month average) is a direct result of the tightness of the market with inventory levels remaining tight as the flow of new listings seems to be being met by a steady demand
As ever any analysis of a market in order to be able to establish trends requires access to the most comprehensive data. It is appropriate to gather this data and undertake some detailed analysis.
The chosen data I have analysed for the Auckland region is the REINZ sales figures and the new REINZ / Reserve Bank Stratified House price index. Both of these sets of data are geographically defined as being the compete Auckland Region comprising the current 7 local authorities. The sales data is sourced from all of the licensed real estate offices selling properties which are in this region.
To this data I have analysed the realestate.co.nz data of property listings which uses the same geographical boundaries as the REINZ data and is compiled from the listings of licensed real estate offices for properties listed in the region. The website is the most comprehensive source of property listings of real estate agents with over 94% of all offices loading listings to the website.
As a point of note the NZ Herald article made its assertion based on data from Barfoot & Thompson sales data as representative of the Auckland market. There is potentially some error in this assumption as B&T operate extensively in Auckland as well as Northland and down through the middle of the North Island – of the current 7,568 listings on their website 17% (1,322) are for properties outside of the Auckland region.
Taking sales data first. The fact is that sales in Auckland are back from the extreme lows of 2008. At that time average monthly sales were around 1,406, the most recent 6 months in Auckland have seen an average of 2,059 up 46%; however the average through 2007 (albeit clearly recognised as a heady peak of the market) was 2,537.
The chart below details sales over the last 3 years with the respective months of Aug / Sep / Oct / highlighted in red. The key thing to note is how the sales level appears to be relatively stable over the period since March 2009 at a consistent level similar to 2008 albeit 50% higher.
Turning to pricing which is naturally the key concern to most people as most people only want to buy or sell one house.
The Real Estate Institute have with the assistance of the Reserve Bank produced a very credible Stratified House Price Index which stands up to the extreme scrutiny of economists and academics as it is not impacted by the externalities that affect average or median price as a function of the performance of house sales within differing price bands.
The data for this House Price Index goes back to 1992 and the Auckland data is presented in the chart below:
The striking rise through the last decade is most evident from the graph as is the fall from the peak and the subsequent resurgence. However what is also very clear from the graph is the fact that using this credible house price index the market price in Auckland has not as yet returned to the peak level seen in July 2007 – the current price index is still 5.8% below the peak.
In terms of actual stratified median price from the same data the current (Oct 09) price in Auckland is $480,510 and the peak in July 2007 was $510,197. This does contradict the article which stated that Auckland prices had “recovered all the losses experienced over the past two years“.
It is useful to match side by side the sales across the Auckland region with the sale price as the chart below does. There is a recognised fact, in that prices tend to follow sales volume trends and the rise and subsequent decline in volumes and price through 2007 and into 2008 would attest to that, as would the volume rise and price rise in early 2009. The key issue now though is the trend of price rises extending whilst sales volumes have moderated – this could foretell a softening of prices in the coming months.
As a further support to the view that the Auckland market is stabilising and not about to create an inflated bubble is the additional data set of listings. The chart below tracks the number of new listings added in the market in the Auckland region matched to sales. What is interesting is how conspicuous is the rising level of new listings which is leaving a fair gap from the monthly sales – this would indicate that the market has a growing stock of houses for keen buyers.
A growing inventory of new listings takes pressure off prices and buyers feel less pressured to have to “grab a property” in the fear of missing out which was the symptom so conspicuously seen back in the peak of the bubble through 2006 & 2007.
Overall I believe that in analysing this comprehensive and robust set of data there is more than enough evidence to take the view that the Auckland market is fairly well balanced and therefore unlikely to suffer a “painful property recession” – however forecasting the property market is never an exact science and only time will tell, after all this data is all historical – telling us what happened, nothing for certain ever tells us what will happen!