Auckland woman's warning to homeowners after losing property in mortgagee sale

This was one of Newshub's top stories of 2023. It was originally published on July 22.  

Rising interest rates are coinciding with an increase in homeowners losing their properties in mortgagee sales. 

One of them is Auckland woman Janna Gilligan, who has lost the biggest investment of her life, and is warning homeowners how easily it can happen.  

"It's heartbreaking when you try, because I tried, believe me, I begged," Janna, whose Glen Eden property sold in a mortgagee sale earlier this month, told Newshub. 

"You get to the lowest of the low in your life when you're living in a house that you're looking around, and you're losing it." 

The past few years have been tough for Janna. She split from her partner in 2018 and took over the mortgage. She soon fell into arrears and Westpac shifted her onto a floating interest rate of 8.64 percent - more than double what she started on. 

"So, that's what started the ball rolling."  

To make things worse, she was in and out of hospital after a serious leg injury left her unable to work, and now relying on Work and Income.  

Janna Gilligan sitting in her kitchen.
Janna Gilligan is issuing a warning to homeowners about how quickly things can change. Photo credit: Newshub

Janna does not dispute Westpac had the right to sell the property. But she is disappointed in the bank's communication with her. She now wants others to understand how quickly things can spiral out of control.  

"I don't do the 'woe is me' act or claim anything like that, or it's not fair, but in this case it is not fair, because I didn't have an accident on purpose." 

Janna has lived in the property for more than 15 years. All of her memories and possessions are tied up in the house. But she's been told she has to leave in two weeks.  

A Westpac spokesperson told Newshub the bank does not want to see anyone lose their home, and they "empathise" with Janna's situation.  

But the bank said Janna "has not made any repayments for over two and a half years, resulting in substantial arrears" and say they "provided her with a long period of time to sell the house herself, which she had agreed to do, but not completed." 

Roger Beaumont from the New Zealand Banking Association says mortgagee sales should be a last resort. 

"More often than not, these situations occur when there has been a breakdown in communication," he told Newshub.  

Roger Beaumont from the New Zealand Banking Association.
Roger Beaumont from the New Zealand Banking Association. Photo credit: Newshub

Mortgagee sales right now are nowhere near the heights of the Global Financial Crisis when they peaked at 772 in the third quarter of 2009. 

There were 27 mortgagee sales in the second quarter of this year, up from 13 in the three months prior, and up from just six in the final quarter of 2021.  

But the numbers are trending up. Trade Me saw a 180 percent increase in the number of properties listed as a mortgagee sale in June, compared to the same time last year. 

And with half of mortgages up for re-fixing in the next 12 months, Janna hopes raising awareness might help others avoid losing their homes the way she did. 

"It's been pretty horrendous, and I know I'm not the only one in this position." 

Janna will soon be forced to hand over the keys to what she thought would be her forever home.