First-home buyers missing out: Survey

Monday 17 February 2014

Reserve Bank loan-to-value (LVR) rules have had a big impact on first-home buyers, but not made much difference to investors, the latest BNZ/REINZ survey of real-estate agents shows.

By Susan Edmunds

BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander said all the measures used to gauge the strength of the property market had improved compared to the last survey, conducted in December.

A net 5% of agents now think it is a seller’s market, compared with a net 16% in November who thought it was a buyer’s market. A reading of 0% would indicate that agents were evenly split in their opinions on whom the market favoured.

The net percentage of agents reporting fewer first-home buyers in the market dropped in January from the near 80% readings in November and December. But still a net 40% were seeing first-home buyers forced out of the running.

But the number of agents seeing more investors has jumped to a net 21%, well above the three-year average of 16%.

Survey respondents estimated that 19% of sales were to investors, from 18.5% a year ago.

Alexander said it seemed that the market was recovering from the shock of the LVR restrictions. “After recording our weakest-ever result two months ago with a net 52% of respondents saying they are seeing fewer people attending open homes, this month a net 15% of our 469 respondents say that they are seeing more people. This is equal to the average outcome since our survey started in April 2011.”

A net 14% of respondents said they were seeing a rising proportion of written sales going unconditional, up from the net 12% in December who were seeing fewer.

And a net 1% of agents were seeing an improvement in auction clearance rates. “This signals to us the ending of a period when buyers were backing away from auctions,” Alexander said.

More people seem ready to try to list their properties on the market, too. Alexander said: “There has been a strong lift in this measure to a net 26% of agents saying that more people are asking for appraisals. In December a net 8% said that they were seeing fewer people coming forward, leading us to comment that while the LVR rules were scaring away buyers they appeared also to be scaring sellers away as well.”

A net  35% think prices are rising, compared with a net 13% in December. Before the LVR rules kicked in, a net 51% felt prices were increasing.

Agents were seeing more buyers from Auckland moving into their regions, particularly in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland. But Alexander said it was too soon to claim a trend.

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