The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry

 
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Slower property sales not affecting all sectors equally

Posted on: March 16th, 2008 | Filed in Money Matters, Real Estate Industry

The property sales stats released this week by REINZ showed a total of 6,356 sales for February 2008, representing 3,000 less homes sold in the month as compared to February last year. The figures for the rolling 12 month total show a 17% decline from a high of 104,675 in the 12 months to Feb 07 to just 86,720 for the latest 12 months.property price segments in NZ

However as ever behind the numbers lurk very interesting trends. The key one that caught my eye was the segmentation of sales by price band. The fact is the top end of the market is not suffering as acutely as the sub $400,000 sector. This was interestingly intimated in a Herald on Sunday article today which focused on some high end developments which show continuing demand.

The sales stats by price has only been reported by REINZ since mid 2005 and shows the price bands of (i) less than $400k (ii) $400k to $600k (iii) $600k to $1m (iv) $1m+.

The fact is that whilst there has been a 17% decline in overall sales across the country comparing a rolling 12 month period, the high end sector has continued to enjoy growth. Each sector tells an interesting story.

$1million dollar plus properties: Over the past 12 months this sector has seen a 10% growth with 2,725 properties sold. Whilst representing just 3.1% of all properties this sector has grown from less than 2% in 2005. Over the course of the the past 12 months an average of 227 properties over $1m have been sold each month in NZ .

$600,00 to $1million properties: Over the past 12 months this sector has seen the fastest growth at 11% with 9,735 properties sold. This sector of the market represented 8% of sales a year ago and today represents 11% of sales.

$400,000 to $600,000 properties: These properties are above the current median price of $337,500, however their sales represent nearly a quarter of all properties sold in NZ in the past 12 months, and have shown a volume fall in sales of 5%, less than that of the total market.

Property below $400,000: This sector is the largest in the market, in the past 12 months 53,357 properties of this value were sold – a significant fall of 25% in sales volume compared to 12 months earlier. It can clearly been seen that this sector representing slightly less than 2/3rds of the market is were the real weakness is.

The data provided in the REINZ stats does not go as far as to identify median prices per price band (maybe this could be of value to industry observers). However one means of looking for a surrogate for such information is to look at average sale price vs. median price. Clearly the median price currently at $337,500 is showing early signs of falling this year, however the average price of all property sold in NZ as reported by REINZ is actually holding reasonably well, with a figure of $415,744 for the month of February. The graph below shows the tracking of median vs average for a 3 month moving average for the past 2 years. The upper blue line is average sale price, whilst the lower red line shows median prices.

It would be safe to say that the gap is not closing, adding weight to the view that the weakness in the NZ property market is primarily at the bottom end.

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Premium photo service of open2view now featured on this website

Posted on: March 15th, 2008 | Filed in Website news

If there is one thing that people constantly request of the website – it is more photos and bigger photos!

Well now we can meet their request, we have just this week implemented an integration of the photo content of open2view into this website. So if you are currently selling a property and you decide to commission open2view to photograph your property then the photos will be featured on your listings of your property on realestate.co.nz.

To see how this works, have a look at this listing from Gary Potter and Glenice Taylor who are selling this “Colonial Splendor” on the North Shore , the property listing showcases 12 agent photos, 41 open2view photos and 3 interactive floor plans. Certainly a very comprehensive presentation of a beautiful property.open2view photos now on realestate.co.nz

High quality photos and a comprehensive portfolio of photos were 2 of the top 5 demands of the property searching public in research undertaken last year and we have been working to enhance the websites presentation of all listings; to work with open2view we judged to be the best solution.

If you are not aware of the services of open2view, then a brief introduction. They are a kiwi company who having successfully developed a franchise photographic service a number of years ago have taken their fantastic service and now operate in Australia and the USA – a great export story for NZ business.

Here in NZ if you want to use the services of open2view you need to discuss this with your real estate agent as they arrange everything directly with open2view. In terms of getting your open2view photos onto your listing on this website, that happens automatically. Currently there are over 8,000 properties in NZ which are currently on the market and use the services of open2view.

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Mortgagee sales statistics continue to show property hunters searching for a bargain

Posted on: March 11th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Money Matters, Website searching

Property seekers in NZ clearly feel that in today’s buyers market there are bargains to be had and the rich pickings will come from mortgagee sales. That is why the #1 search term on realestate.co.nz in the past week has been mortgagee – beating long term favourites pool, villa and furnished (as in furnished apartment – I guess?).

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I cannot claim credit for this logical analysis of search terms – I was drawn to it by Bernard Hickey who writes an excellent blog on Interest.co.nz. The blog covers a wide range of financial issues of which mortgagee sales have captured his readers interest. He has responded by creating the “Mortgagee Index” at the suggestion of one of his readers.

This index measures the number of listings on both realestate.co.nz and trade me property that feature as “Mortgagee Sale” properties. As at the 3rd March, Bernard had a level of 167 listings; up from 154 the week prior. To assist him in monitoring this index I provided not just the number of listings on our site with the word mortgagee or mortgagee sale (as at today 149), I also provided data on the number of searches undertaken on our site by people searching for these types of properties. Here is the latest data.

During the last 7 days the #1 search term used on realestate.co.nz was mortgagee recording 705 searches in 7 days – this amounts to 3.7% of all searches over the past week. At this time last week the term mortgagee was also #1 recording 1,646 searches over the prior 14 days – amounting to 3.8% of all searches over that period.

Similar terms capturing interest were mortgagee sale #59 with 50 searches and urgent #143 with 31 searches.

Other big searches being made on the site:

  • lifestyle #9 with 223 searches in the past 7 days, a huge increase from 0.6% to 1.2% of all searches
  • queenstown #13 with 126 searches in the past 7 days, increasing from 0.5% to 0.7% of all searches
  • beach #8 with 224 searches in the past 7 days, falling from 1.5% to 1.2% of all searches
  • pool #3 with 430 searches in the past 7 days, falling from 3.5% to 2.3% of all searches

So clearly it looks like property searchers are hunting out that mortgagee bargain whilst sadly accepting that summer is over and it’s time to think of the escape from the city to the lifestyle section!

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Property purchasing options: co-buying and fractional ownership

Posted on: March 9th, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Money Matters, Property Investing, Renting

The emerging wisdom of the crowd is clearly saying we are about to witness a significant correction to the housing market. (As a point of note the phrase wisdom of the crowd comes from the title of James Surowiecki’s excellent book which I coincidentally have recently read and would thoroughly recommend).

If it is any consolation – we are not alone when it comes to the property market hitting the wall in NZ. Most developed countries are to a greater or lesser extent are either about to witness this correction, or are deeply in it!. The only question is when and by how much, this useful chart from The Economist presented on Lance Wiggs blog shows the scale of some of the European property market corrections.

Whilst property is for some people a speculative investment from which to earn incremental income and establish a passive asset for retirement, the majority of home owners buy property for the pleasure of ownership and the very primal need to shelter themselves and their family.

As an option renting a property can and does meet this need. At this time there are clear arguments that renting is cheaper than buying. When you stack up mortgage repayments as well as repairs and maintenance and compare that to rental costs the incremental costs can be over $17,000 per year. However the downsides such as surety of tenure, inability to make the place your own and the thought of paying someone else’s mortgage still drive well over 60% of NZ’ers to own their own place.

Conventional wisdom always sees property purchase tied to the “nesting” mentality driving people to buy when setting up home with a partner. So with relatively low affordability the question for many is how to get on to the property ladder. Looking to trends overseas it shows that there is more people choosing for deep pragmatic reasons to buy property in partnership with friends and business partners as a means to take that first step on the ladder.

Naturally wherever there is a good idea involving the aggregation of interested parties around a shared need the web intercedes with smart functionality – this has proven to be the case with co-buying property. This concept has spawned a thriving business for a couple of UK based entrepreneurs who have taken their learning in facilitating the meeting of prospective co-buyers from their UK base to offer the service here in NZ as well as Australia and Canada. The NZ version of Co-buywithme has been operation for about a year and has over 500 members from all areas of the country and all walks of life; some looking to co-buy a first home, others looking for a shared ownership in a holiday bach; whilst others see the opportunity to explore investment property. As ever the web creates the facility for anonymous interaction – it is then up to individuals to make the buying decision, the parallels with online dating could not be more similar.

Utilising the same model of shared ownership, when people hear of fractional ownership they immediately think “time-share”. That concept may have slipped in the credibility rankings from the 1990s, but the idea of a more permanent holiday escape without the exposure to high property prices has seen this emerging segment of fractional ownership emerge over the past 5 years.

Fractional ownership is perfectly targeted to the “never-grow-old” mentality of baby boomers who fancy having a holiday home for more than a couple of weeks a year. Fractional ownership allows between 2 and 5 owner to collaborate in the purchase of a property with joint ownership rights to the title which can be sold independently and in so doing divide up the access to the property into meaningful time periods. There are a growing number of such properties being marketed in NZ’s vacation centers offering the chance for overseas buyers to grab a slice of NZ summer partnered with a kiwi family enjoying the winter activities, thereby allowing each to enjoy the benefits of a quality property for half the equity and half the mortgage and also half the appreciation in value (in time – potentially!).

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NZ’s Property slump – compelling facts cannot be ignored

In the past on this blog I have accused the media in general of self serving sensationalism when it has come to reporting the state of the property market in NZ, and the likely path that this market will take in 2008.

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Well now is the time to come out and say congratulations to Esther Harward, the feature writer of today’s headline story on the Sunday Star Times entitled “Snapshot of a Property Slump“. The article is balanced and factual, it is unemotional and as someone who has been paying close attention to this market place and commenting on it on this blog in posts such as “Will 2008 see house prices rise or fall?” “Is NZ facing an impending property crash?“, I can say I agree 100% with the article.

NZ is in a property slump. That word is well chosen – it is balanced.

We are not in the midst of a crash. We will likely see a more subdued market than we have witnesses over the last 5 years. Some properties in some areas of the country will experience price falls. Others will be able to hold a steady price at a much slowed sales pace; whilst as the article states others will be havens of opportunity which may well see some inflation pegged growth. The net impact of all this through the year will be shown in the aggregated median price and total sales both falling – the article estimates prices by as much as 10% – that is possibly quite likely; taking last months median price down from $340,000 to around the $300,000 level – the kind of levels last seen in early 2006.

The NZ property market is not one market but many thousands of markets, each with their own characteristics, drivers, demands and appeals. However all are impacted by universal issues such as mortgages and the economy. The latter is becoming more critical every day as rates continue to rise. The Reserve Band is currently hesitant as to whether to hold these high rates and risk the dollar’s spiraling appreciation and consequential “crash landing recession”; or whether to loosen rates as the US is currently doing and in so doing allow inflation to become unchecked. A tough call as ever for Alan Bollard.

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Looking to buy or sell a business?

Posted on: March 2nd, 2008 | Filed in Businesses for Sale

Whilst the majority of content on this website is related to the traditional perception of real estate and real estate agents – namely residential or commercial property for sale or rent, there is a section covering the buying and selling of businesses.

Real estate agents acting in this market (preferring to call themselves Business Brokers) may be few in number and are certainly less conspicuous than the stereotypical high street residential salesperson. However they are frenetic networkers and facilitators, building long terms relationships with investors, the self employed, business owners and entrepreneurs.

Indications point to a significant rise in the number of businesses being sold over the next 5 years as baby boomers seek to realise the value in the estimated 300,000 businesses that are owned by this group of the population. Estimates have indicated that as much as 40% of these businesses may come onto the market during this period.

The prospective buyers of these businesses whether New Zealanders or from overseas are likely to be from within the generation for whom the internet is a natural part of life, where searching for a business to own or invest in, is no different from searching for a cheap flight or that perfect weekend getaway. These investors turn to the net and seek out the easiest way to review prospective options, because as the saying goes they are “time poor and hopefully cash rich”!

I have no experience in this area, but am pleased that some of the NZ Business Brokers are stepping into the online space and providing a rich and valuable service. I came one across recently – Sharon James.Sharon James Business Broker NZ


Sharon has her own blog suitably called Business Broker, and on it she has recently written some great posts on Why use a Business Broker? Buying a Business, Selling a Business, 12 questions to ask a Business Broker and What does a Business Broker do ?

So if you have an inclination to run a motel or buy a video business (52) or want a heavy engineering company (31) then get in touch with a Business Broker – they will not only be keen to help you realise your dream but offer some honest sound advice.

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“Real estate speak” – what the agent is really saying!

Posted on: February 29th, 2008 | Filed in The lighter side

Real estate is an industry full of cliches and language all of its own, and at the same time is is well recognised for what is known as “puffery” – which is a legal term which refers to promotional statements and claims that no reasonable person would take literally! Interesting that, when put in the context of real estate with all its associated risk and commitments.

Anyway this post is on a lighter note.

I had been looking for quite a while to be able to quote the kind of true interpretation of much used “real-estate-speak”and I found this article within a specialised wiki set up by Inman Publishing – a specialised real estate publisher that hosts the twice annual Real Estate Connect conference which I attended in January and spoke of in the post on video blogs.

So if you have ever wondered the true meaning behind “bring your paintbrush”, “Motivated sellers”, “updated kitchen” or “cozy” then have a read and a smile at these – and of course if you have experienced another one or have an idea for a new one then post a comment here.

On the other hand you would like to better understand the true definition of some more specialised terms on real estate I would encourage you to have a sort through our on line glossary of over 150 terms on the realestate.co.nz website.

Additional Content

I found this today in a book I had at home “It’s not rocket science and other irritating modern cliches” – so with due reference to the authors Clive Whichelow and Hugh Murray, some amusing real estate cliches:

Bijou – Cramped

Compact – Very cramped

Convenient for local schools – Convenient for several thousand local schoolchildren passing through your front garden; their parents parking their SUV’s across your lawn and half a ton of sweet wrappers stuffed through your letterbox every morning and afternoon.

Deceptively spacious – Cramped even if you are a midget contortionist

I could see you in this place – Seeing that this is a phrase uttered by the agent while he/she is in the property showing round the potential purchasers, it doesn’t require a huge leap of immagination

If you don’t snap this up, someone else will – In other words, “Why don’t you just get your chequebook out now and let me get on with the rest of my day?”

In need of modernisation – Which means, “how this building remains standing is something of a mystery”

It’s got potential – This house is a wreck

Much sought-after – Sales agents will tell you that every house on their books is “much sought-after”. If they are all so “much sought-after”, why are agents necessary? Couldn’t you just sell your house to one of the vast hordes of people coming in each day and night seeking it?

Original features – The property benefits from many “original features”. In other words the place hasn;t had any work done on it since 1974

Popular area – Yes, of course it’s a popular area. People live there. They live there because once upon a time someone built some houses there. It is therefore a popular area!

Spectacular view – This property has a spectacular view – well, it would if you removed all the other buildings round it

This one’s going to go quickly – I am waiting for to get your chequebook out!

Up-and-coming area – If you move into this area you will be a bit like a pioneer staking your claim in a wild, lawless territory

Vibrant area – Probably vibrating with the sound of 500-watt loudspeaker systems, the rumble of riot-squad trucks and sub-machine-gun fire

(The) wow factor – All houses put up for sales these days must have a “wow factor”. This is often a nice fireplace in the front room or it could be a sacrificial altar in the guest bedroom

You could build on it – Said even when the property involved already has 36 storeys

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Birds eye view of properties on the web

Posted on: February 25th, 2008 | Filed in Cool sites, Online marketing, Website searching

I was drawn yesterday to the very large images splashed across the front page of the Herald on Sunday as I went about my weekly supermarket shop – Graeme Hart’s $20 million make over was the story. The images clearly were taken by some rather nosy helicopter-accompanied photo-journalist. However whilst fascinated as to what Graeme Hart decides to spend his money on may interest some people, my bit of voyeurism prompted me to solicit some opinion from readers of this blog as to whether it is a good thing or not that ever more detailed images of properties are available on the web for literally any property in the world.

Now I am not of the same league of Graeme – being of somewhat more modest means. But that does not stop me searching online to find images of my house, my neighbours house, my last house and most every house we have on the site. Now Google in NZ provides very good high resolution images from satellite to show a view from effectively say 500 feet, and we utilise this service to power the maps and satellite images for properties on the site.

Very good as this is – it is nothing compared to parts of the US and UK that are now searchable using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth “birds eye” view. This as you will see provides a very much more detailed view of property than we have yet in NZ. The property featured below is actually the first house I bought in the UK – many years ago! It is found on the website aboutmyplace.co.uk which is a sister site to the leading UK property site – rightmove.co.uk.

Birds eye view of property curtosy of Microsoft virtual earth

I like most people when presented with this kind of technology, tend to leap at the opportunity to check out current houses and past houses just to see what people have done since you sold up; in this case added the ubiquitous English conservatory! It is almost as popular as doing Google searches on old school friends and ex-girlfriends!

Now the power of Virtual Earth “birds eye” is the fact that the images are taken from a 45 degree angle so instead of seeing just the roof you get to see the side of the house from the North, South, East and West.

The question I am interested in hearing comments on, is given the leaps in technology it will only be a matter of time before the images can be so clear as to see colours of rooms as well as how well cut the lawn is, and if the car in the drive has been washed! Is this service a heaven-sent opportunity to provide us with a richer property searching analysis or a further invasion of privacy.

And finally I could not help but highlight that what we saw on Graeme Hart’s house – as if a rare treat, is common place in the US – try out Zillow’s section of their site highlighting TV star homes – see the home of the Soprano’s in New Jersey, of course who would not recoognise that gothic house from Six Feet Under or where the actual Friends NY apartment building is!

As to when we will have such high resolution, low level imagery in NZ ? – I did ask Microsoft at a recent conference, they were not specific, but their ambition is to map the whole world at this level by the end of the decade. Google are hard on their heals with their Google Earth product.

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Thinking of putting your house on the market – don’t be afraid of being a tall poppy!

Posted on: February 24th, 2008 | Filed in Agent Tips, Buying / Selling a home

tall-poppies.jpgThat great NZ syndrome – don’t stand out from the crowd could not be further from the truth of what you need to do in today’s real estate market. If you don’t stick your head (read your house) up above the crowd of others in your areas then chances are you will not be viewed by prospective buyers and your house will not sell quickly.

The facts are clear – the level of properties on the market are at record highs and if you are thinking of selling or have your house on the market then you need to seriously look at the issue of presentation. Just look at our website – just 2 months ago we featured 94,000 listings, today 102,000 and growing at around 500 per week at the moment.

Just as you wouldn’t think of going to an interview in grubby clothes and an un-pressed shirt so you should address the same issue with your house. Think of prospective buyers as employers looking to interview your house – first impressions count.

Here are a few pointers to issues that you should think about.

Keep the place tidy – especially around open homes times and that all important photo shoot. Remember people take in information with their eyes far faster and more reliably than through their ears. So make the place look easy to move into. It is no good getting your agent to explain how things could look – make the changes and allow people to see the house.

Decorate where it is appropriate – but keep colours neutral. Plain colours open a place up and make it look bigger –as does removing clutter. Consider placing some of your stuff in storage whilst the property is on the market.

Have a think about staging a property. This service is growing in appeal as it so easy to make a big first impression with smart new furniture and well presented decor. It is even more important to think about this if the house you are selling is empty.

As a rule empty houses are harder to sell. Firstly because the lack of furniture leaves people with difficulty imaging how big a room is, as furniture defines a room. Secondly the lack of personal touches – that feeling of a cared-for house where people live generates a natural reaction of “we could live here” far more of the time than an empty house. Finally an empty house tends to give the buyer the upper-hand as the perception is that owners tend to be more desperate to sell an empty house as the implication is that the circumstances that required the family to move have occurred and now they desperately need to sell.

Gardens like the inside of a house should be kept tidy – this really makes a statement of care and attention by the current owners as well as creating an impression for the prospective owner of an easy care garden if everything looks tidy. Nothing would put off buyers more than a rambling jungle of a garden which invokes fear of excessive work.

The bottom line is likely to be that it is worth spending some money to enhance your property. That way you can more easily attract interest and thereby achieve a realistic price quickly rather than having to concede on the sale price to win the sale. For in today’s market speed-of-sale is becoming the objective as realistic expectation of price has already pervaded the market.

A little bit of calculating can be quite illuminating. Taking the national median-priced house at the moment of $345,000, with say a 75% mortgage of $260,000. To be able to sell after 21 days on the market could save you over $2,000 as compared to sitting on the market for the median selling period of 49 days. Additionally an investment of say $3,000 in cleaning up, a bit of decoration and some additional marketing could well see you sell at the asking price in those 21 days rather than conceding a sell based on reduced price of $10,000 after 49 days – leaving you $9,000 better off.

So go on don’t be afraid to be a tall poppy!….to assist you, have a look at some of the additional advice sections on the website:

The Essential Checklist for Home Sellers

A Guide to Open Homes

Moving Home Checklist

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The joys of Invercargill

Posted on: February 22nd, 2008 | Filed in Buying / Selling a home, Property Investing, Regional News

Politics brings out the worst in people, but you have to have respect for Tim Shadbolt – he is the very epitome of a walking advertising billboard for that Southland city.

Yesterdays’s challenging interjection in the government’s housing affordability inquiry to which I have referred to on more than one occasion on this blog is another classic example of this one man promotion machine capturing the headlines – this time is is “Auckland to blame for country’s housing woes”. He claims that in Invercargill many families could easily afford to buy a three bedroom house for under $150,000. This statement got me thinking as to what you could buy in Invercargill for this money – quite a bit really!

Currently there are 35 houses in Invercargill city with 3 or more bedrooms, by comparison Auckland city has zero and Tim’s former home Waitakere offers no options.

(By the way if you do a search out of interest for Auckland or Waitakere, please be aware that you will find homes in this price range, but as you will see they look to be a bit too good to be true. That is because some agents tend to send us information on pricing for which the range is a little large, we unfortunately have to take their content at their word and display it. Our role cannot reach to auditing content – we get somewhere close to 7,000 new or amended listings daily. Although having seen some of these “error” I will highlight this to the respective agents today!)

This selection in Invercargill though is very interesting, how about this 4 bedroom home in Appleby at just $142,000 this is great value – beautiful decorated, but not sure about the duvet cover!

If you don’t mind the tin fence then this one in Appleby at just $140,000 would seem to be a steal given it has a fixed tenancy paying $190 per week – that is a 7% yield! Would have looked a bit better if the tenant had made the beds before the photos were taken!

But my winner would be this fabulous art deco 4 bedroom home in Bluff – shame just the one photo but it is a classic and a cheque for $140,000 will secure.

Just before we all rush off to Invercargill with our sacks of gold to swell the local council’s coffers with due rates and licensing trust contributions, I would like to correct Mayor Shadbolts assertion that the only other countries in the world with a similar concentration of population in a single city were Uruguay, Armenia, the Bahamas, Iceland and the small African state of Gabon. I would encourage him to visit a very successful, very prosperous, very sophisticated collection of countries collectively called the Nordic region. Norway, Denmark, and Finland all have similar populations to NZ and have a dominant supersized city accounting for over 30% of the populations – the cities of Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki respectively!.

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