ANZ gauges find demand is making property a sellers’ market

Tuesday 26 May 2009

ANZ National Bank’s eight gauges of the property market predict the housing market is “showing signs of life” with a surge in migration lifting demand, although the overall tone is negative as unemployment remains the big uncertainty.

By Paul McBeth

Of the eight indicators, three are neutral for house value prices, while two are neutral with a positive bias and the last three are negative.

Migration, affordability, and interest rates were the indicators deemed unlikely to impact on the direction of house prices.

Migration was found to be rising as immigration increased to a five-year last month as a net 2,160 migrants arrived in April, the highest since January 2004 and up from 1,730 in March, according to Statistics New Zealand.

"A surge in migrants has caused demand to swell," the bank said. "Coinciding with this is a reduction in supply of houses, as the construction of new houses remains in the doldrums."

The bank said job security would weigh on affordability, despite mortgage rate cuts freeing up the buyers' market, as rising unemployment tests the positive signs emerging.

Interest rates were lower, but stuck in the middle of the lending curve as banks were forced to rely "less on offshore funding and more on retail deposits, whose rates have risen above wholesale interest rates," the bank said.

The supply-demand balance and consents and house sales were both considered neutral with a positive bias as rising house sales with fewer building consents were buoyed by the lift in inbound migration.

"Against the backdrop of tightening supply, the affordability gauge is still flagging a period of adjustment," it said.

Serviceability and indebtedness, liquidity, and globalisation are the three indicators dragging prices down.

The bank said "debt serviceability has improved for two consecutive quarters", its first such move in seven years, while liquidity, which relates to growth in the private sector relative to GDP, is slowly "moving into line".

Property prices in relation to the U.S., U.K. and Australia continued to be negative, according to the bank.

The bank concludes that despite the negatives weighing on house prices, sales were up sharply in April and the market could be back on the ascendency.

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