House prices lifting faster than before despite Government changes causing investor drop-off

Much has been made of how the Government's recent housing changes would cool New Zealand's overheated property market - but new data suggests Kiwis' demand for real estate hasn't waned yet.

The changes, announced in March, included the removal of interest deductions on investment properties - a move that made owning multiple homes significantly less lucrative.

But while this has caused some investors to drop away from the housing market, the changes are yet to have any real impact on residential property prices, according to new data from state-owned valuation company Quotable Value (QV).

In fact the latest QV Quartile Index - which tracks the most and least expensive 25 percent of residential properties in New Zealand - shows despite the tax change, prices increased even more in the most recent quarter than the one previous.

The most notable increases were recorded in Hawke's Bay, the Hutt Valley and Marlborough.

House prices in Napier's upper and lower quartiles both lifted by more than 15 percent in the last three months to April, with Hutt City's lower quartile, Marlborough's lower and upper quartile and Hastings' lower quartile trailing just behind with increases of more than 14 percent.

Whangarei and Hastings' upper quartiles and Upper Hutt's upper and lower quartiles rounded out the top 10 - with all rising by more than 12 percent in the last three months.

House prices lifting faster than before despite Government changes causing investor drop-off
Photo credit: QV Quartile Index

QV general manager David Nagel said while there's growing evidence to suggest investors are dropping out of the market, it's not yet resulted in a cooling of the housing market.

"We've yet to see any impact of this on house prices with the entry-level houses they typically target rising in value even faster than before the announcement," he said.

Nagel says the return of expat Kiwis due to the COVID-19 pandemic could be playing a key role in house prices, as they're not confined to one end of the market or another - they're "competing with first-home buyers at the lower end of the market and also with next-home buyers further up".

He's intrigued to see what happens to the property market when the world recovers enough for these people to pick up their old lives.

"It'll be interesting to see whether these Kiwis will stay put when the world slowly begins to open up again or whether we'll see more stock become available as they head off on their next adventures."

The Quartile Index indicates the prices of New Zealand's most expensive houses have increased even more rapidly this quarter than last, narrowing the gap between increases in the lower and upper quartiles as "price pressure begins to shift upward". 

For the most recent quarter, the difference in average price growth in the upper and lower quartiles was less than 0.5 percent - down from 0.9 percent and 0.6 percent in previous months.

Nagel says this gap isn't narrowing because the heat is coming out of the market, however - it's narrowing because "next-home buyers have been feeling confident enough to make the most of low interest rates and previous capital gains to up-sell their home for something better".