New Zealand slipping down the rankings of global property price inflation

by Alistair Helm in ,


This may well be the kind of news that we will all may be a little bit pleased to see. For once NZ and especially Auckland are not at the top of the global leaderboard by property price inflation. The Reserve Bank and government officials, I am sure will be somewhat heartened.

This ranking is provided by Knight Frank, one of the global leaders in real estate and their international research department are providers of valuable comparisons of residential and commercial property data around the world.


NZ ranked 27th out of 56 countries in 3rd quarter 2017 Global House price index

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Full report can be downloaded here

At a 5.2% year-on-year house price index inflation the Knight Frank team now assess NZ as heading downwards and place it at 27th place of the 56 countries ranked in the survey. Our neighbour Australia is considerably higher placed at 7th with an annual rate of house inflation of 10.2%.

Tracking the past 5 years in the chart below comparing NZ median price by quarter against Global House Index shows the extent to which the NZ market ran ahead of global index through the past 2 years. It also shows to what extent that the market has come off the boil in the past 9 months, although the final quarter of 2017 is showing a rise. Note: The NZ data in this chart represent the REINZ median price data showing a 4% year-on-year inflation in Q3 2017 vs Knight Frank's at 5.2%.


Auckland ranked 98th out of 150 global cities in 3rd quarter 2017 Knight Frank Global Residential Cities Index

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Full report can be downloaded here

At a 2.7% year-on-year house price index inflation the Knight Frank team now assess Auckland in the bottom third of global cities. Interestingly in the top 20 appears Wellington with a 10.7% annual inflation in 19th place. Our neighbouring cities in Australia see Melbourne at 10th place with a rate of 13.2% and Sydney in 26th place with 9.4%.

Tracking the past 5 years in the chart below comparing Auckland median quarterly price vs Global Index shows the significant inflation ahead of the global index of all 150 cities right up until Q1 2017, the significant decline in property price inflation since then demonstrates how much the Auckland property market has come off the boil in the past 9 months. The comparison of median price as reported by REINZ for the 3rd & 4th quarter year-on-year shows declines. Note: The NZ data in this chart represent the REINZ median price data showing a -0.3% year-on-year inflation in Q3 2017 vs Knight Frank's at 2.7%.


In addition to these two rankings tables Knight Frank has also released a comprehensive report on Global Cities. Auckland is featured as a case study in the report with the following excerpt from Rachel McElwee, Head of Research, Knight Frank New Zealand detailing the developments on the Wynard Quarter and the impact this has on the city.

Auckland: Blurring the lines

"Mixed-use development is reshaping Auckland’s central city, blurring the lines between work and living environments. The largest urban regeneration project currently underway in New Zealand, Wynyard Quarter, is transforming the former industrial port into a mix of residential, retail, leisure, hotel and office space. New types of purpose built spaces will be created such as the innovation hub, housing a campus-style precinct fostering creativity, technology and originality for start-up companies. A diverse range of tenants include the Auckland Theatre Company, financial firm ASB, architects Warren and Mahoney, the Hyatt Hotel Group, and multinational dairy co-operative Fonterra. When completed in 2030, Wynyard Quarter will house approximately 3,000 residents and 25,000 workers. The redevelopment covers 37 hectares of land and stretches three kilometres along the coast. Investment backing for the project came from off-shore, private investment, third sector and government sources. The waterfront could be further transformed if Auckland stages the next America’s Cup in four years’ time".

 


Newspapers have a future. It lies in a symbiotic relationship with real estate

by Alistair Helm in


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The excellent article “The future of newspapers” written by David Williams on Newsroom got me thinking about exactly that: Is there a future for newspapers here in NZ and globally?

I find it somewhat ironic that I ask this question given I spent many years at Realestate.co.nz confidently professing a belief that newspapers would be dead before the end of the decade, however I have to confess that I have somewhat changed my view over recent years.

I can recall so well the many presentations I made to crowded rooms of real estate agents up and down the country, confidently stating “Newspapers are dying.... people in their 20’s don’t read them, people in their 30’s barely read them; their readership is 40 and older and in time those readers will not be around!” Sure it was hyperbole to support my agenda – digital media is the future for real estate advertising. The data certainly supported my assertion and the declining readership trend over recent years has not been arrested. I even recall quoting the then editor of the Guardian who when unveiling new printing presses back in 2006 stated:

as we installed the new Man Roland presses, we knew they were likely to be the last we ever bought
— Alan Rusbridger

However, newspapers are not dead. They are dying; but at the same time evolving. In my view, their world is polarising. In the glitzy corner there is the world of click bait, of which our daily lives are awash – ever more dramatic headlines fighting for our limited attention spam but sadly racing ever faster to the bottom in terms of quality and ad cost, constantly fearing the competitive threat of Facebook. Sadly, so many of NZ’s metro newspapers have chosen this route.

In the opposing corner are the newspapers that still take the time to report and investigate rather than just regurgitate. Those I would place on a pedestal would include The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post – major newspapers with significant backing. I am a big fan of the approach advocated by Gavin Ellis of the Trust structure. Whilst NZ doesn’t have the global scale opportunities to leverage as these major mastheads do, all is not lost. I am more confident that we can expect to continue to see local and regional (and potentially national newspapers) decades from now.

Newspapers have for the past 150 years relied on advertising, it's a symbiotic relationship at the core of their business model. One of the major groups of advertisers newspapers rely upon is the real estate industry. Pre-internet real estate agents relied on newspapers 100% - providing the right medium to the right audience at a cost-effective rate. Buyers valued it as a catalogue of what was on the market and equally sellers liked it as they felt it perfectly promoted their property. Property advertising in print is logical - strong images with clear attributes look great.

However the world has changed over the past decade or two and today newspapers are no longer the medium to showcase all properties on the market, certainly not for large national or regional papers. This is where I come to my point.

Local newspaper serving local communities can and do leverage local real estate advertising as much because properties advertised ‘feels’ right at home for the very reason that the content is hyperlocal. Sandwiched in with the local school events and sporting club news and all the other hyperlocal going’s on in communities real estate is complementary, comfortable, personal and local. Where I live in Devonport we are blessed by a great fortnightly publication the Flagstaff, it is the very epitome of this. If you want to know what is on the market in Devonport, it’s actually easier to flick through the latest edition of the Flagstaff than even to search on Trade Me or Realestate.co.nz. The same I am sure is as true and relevant for the Raglan Chronicle as for the Ruapehu Bulletin or the Te Awamutu Courier. There are 48 free local newspapers across the country which find a symbiotic relationship with local real estate companies, clients and agents.

As for the national or regional papers; in my view their approach has to be different, they can’t be the hyper local newspaper but on a larger scale. As clearly in the case of Auckland with the NZ Herald they can’t possibly offer to profile 9,000+ properties for sale across Auckland. What it can do though is deliver what is such a key part of real estate marketing – the serendipitous moment.

Advertising a property for sale is about reaching out to as many buyers in the market. These are the people who are deeply engaged on Trade Me and Realestate.co.nz. Buyers who set up email alerts and notifications and addictively check their mobile property apps. But not all actual buyers are so deeply engaged at the time, many don’t actually think of themselves as buyers; sure they certainly don’t represent the majority of people who buy property, but they could be buyers if as serendipity happens, they see a property that gets their heart racing, something that kick-starts them into action. This serendipitous moment doesn’t happen online. It happens in more traditional media of newspaper adverts, catching the eye of the reader as they disassemble the numerous Saturday supplements.

I put these thoughts forward as over the past year I have experienced first-hand the value of such real estate marketing – both hyperlocal newspapers and the serendipitous advertising in major metro papers, with significant success.

So, the truth is I have changed my tune over the years. Real estate marketing is about a broad marketing campaign, not simply online which is undoubtedly a critical base, but the complementary use of print media in newspapers as well.

It is just too important a process in the marketing a property not to consider the dual media, and for that reason we in the real estate industry need newspapers, so let’s hope they can survive and prosper.


Clearance rate tracks property market trends

by Alistair Helm in


The latest NZ Property Report from Realestate.co.nz was published at the end of last week. Its value lies in the key market indicators of inventory and listing numbers, providing a guide to the state of the property market and the trends we are likely to see in the coming months. It can be judged to be a forward-looking report as compared to historical sales data from REINZ. As an industry-owned site, Realestate.co.nz is without doubt the most comprehensive window onto the market with pretty much universal support from all agencies.

The January report covering the last month of 2017 was clear in its headline:

All-time low for new house listings across New Zealand while asking prices continue to climb despite increasing total stock numbers

I might argue, that far from being a surprising headline, the notion of new listings being at “all-time low” is something that has perplexed the market for the greater part of the past 9 years since the GFC.

The chart below shows the annual total of new listings for the past 11 years.

The most recent 12 months has seen a total of 118,647 new listings hit the market. The lowest annual total since data was first collected in 2007. Compared to a year ago, new listings are down 4.5%, with 5,500 less properties for buyers to choose from.

For Auckland though, the most recent 12 months has been a slightly bit brighter. A total of 40,870 new property listings have hit the market, up 8% as compared to last year, however nothing like the c. 60,000 new listings per year seen a decade ago. Auckland may well be finding a new balance between a buyers’ market and a sellers’ market as the NZ Property Report stated and the media promoted, but the City of Sails is far from awash with an abundance of listings.   There are currently at this time just under 9,000 residential properties of all types for sale across Auckland – this for a city of 1.377 million people. Pre-2008 GFC there were around 11,000 properties for sale, at the time, judged a fairly balanced market.

Whilst defining the state of the property market by the measures of inventory and new listings and comparing them to long term averages as Realestate.co.nz does is a fair method. I have though long been pondered how best to measure the state of the property market as a valuable guide to future trends. There is certainly no shortage of stats on the market – sales volumes, new listings, days on the market and inventory. Looking afresh over the past few weeks I have been pondering the notion of clearance rate as an indicator. The idea being that the state of the market can be reflected in the proportion of new listings that actually sell. Simply put, what percentage of properties that are listed are sold in a given time period? This is difficult to do in respect of specific properties, but in aggregate, for a specific time period we can look at the number of sales as a percentage of the number of listings; mashing together the REINZ sales data with the Realestate.co.nz listings data. These two data sets pretty much match apples-with-apples as they represent 100% of all licensed agent listings.

The chart below shows the clearance rate for total NZ residential listings from 2008 to date using a 12 month moving total comparison. To my way of looking at it, a fair representation of the activity in the property market over that period.

Peaking at 74% in the middle of 2016 before slipping back to 62% currently. At its worst, at the start of 2009 in the depth of the GFC just 34% of listings were selling.

For Auckland the picture is somewhat similar, although the most recent 2 years has seen a more significant decline; peaking at 76% at the end of 2015 and slumping to below 50% today – so effectively in Auckland today only half of all new listings are selling, a situation not seen since 2011. The market in Auckland has stalled.

However I feel this analysis of clearance rate is only half the story as everyone always rightly wants to know “how will this effect property prices” – far closer to most people’s real concern in many cases than the clearance rate.

So I decided to overlay property price movements on to this clearance rate data using REINZ median prices and their annual percentage change each month.

The result is the chart below for all NZ property spanning the past 11 years.

The split axis allows for the ability to align the data to better see the correlation – looks like a strong correlation. However would I be going too far to say there is a causation?

The logic is not new or rocket science. As the property market becomes more active with growing confidence of buyers and sellers enabled by encouraging support of banks, so the clearance rate rises, and prices start to rise reflective of demand pressure. The opposite being an easing in sales as finance dries up and confidence falls leading to falling clearance rates, flowing through into easing price pressure.

Undertaking the same analysis for Auckland not surprisingly mirrors this close correlation.

However what I found even more interesting is that if I adjusted the clearance rate and instead of using a 12 month moving total (which provides for the smooth even curves), I used a 3 month moving total.

This representation of the Auckland market certainly supports the hypothesis of the NZ Property Report that Auckland is now a buyers market. But this is not a sudden change which just happened at the end of the year. No; Auckland has been in a buyers market for most of the past 6 months and by December it has plummeted with close to just a third of all listings selling. The key question now is what is the new year likely to bring and how will this chart of clearance rate look after the summer?

 

 

 


Property Market Summary - Year end 2017

by Alistair Helm in


It is time for me to get back into the swing of writing articles on the status of the property market in NZ. I thought that since it’s over 3 years since the last such analysis I would start with a bit of an overview and what better time than the close of the calendar year.

 

2017 could best be described in my view as a bit of a ‘steady’ year – certainly not the most dynamic, but then again not a particularly ‘frothy nor exuberant’ year. In this regard the pressure of an overheated market witnessed in 2015 and 2016 seems to have somewhat abated – not I should stress that heat gone away, simply that the pressure valve has been reduced somewhat.

 

I like to starting any analysis with sales volumes, which in my view is the most important indicator. The volume of sales and to a lesser extent the pace of sales, reflect the confidence of property buyers and sellers to engage in the market. In the past year total residential sales look to be at the level of 74,500. A level almost identical to the recent years of 2012 and 2014, and fully 19% down on the recent heights of 2015 and 2016 which topped 90,400.

 

Residential property sales have been falling (month vs month prior year) since June of last year, a consecutive run of 18 months. At that time the 12-month total of sales amounted to 94,631, this has fallen to a level in November of 74,187. That is a fall of 22%. However by analysing the variance trend, it can be seen that rate of decline is slowing and by early next year the trend is likely to be reversed and sales will show year-on-year rises.

 

By then this decline will have represented the second longest consecutive run of falling sales since the turn of the century (the GFC period of May 2007 to Feb 2009 was 22 months of consecutive declines). That GFC period saw a significantly drop in property sales. Total annual sales dropped by close on 50% from 106,000 in the 12 months to May of 2007 to just 53,000 in the year to Feb 2009.

 

Whilst sales volumes are the best indicator of the state of the property market, there is an important denominator that needs to be considered when looking at time-series data, that is the number of actual residential dwellings in NZ over time.

When the Real Estate Institute started collecting monthly sales data from agents back in 1992 there were around 1.2 million dwellings, speed forward to today that number is now over 1.6 million, an additional 400,000 new dwellings. This denominator therefore needs to be laid as a measuring rod against any comparative sales figures. The chart below tracks the residential sales figures over that period as a % of the dwellings in the country at the time to show what proportion sold each month as moving annual total.

Over the past 24 years, the long term average rate is 5.8% of all residential dwellings are sold each year. At the very peak of the market back in the early years of this new century that rose to a peak of 8.5% in 2004, post GFC that figure slumped to just 3.5%, currently at this time we are sitting at around 4.5%.

I have in this analysis kept to the volume of sales as the single data point, this I believe is key in analysing the market as price does tend to follow transaction levels, something I will explore in a future article.

As to the ever present question "so what is the property market likely to do in 2018? - well the fact is forecasting the property market is not an exact science, to back me up in this assertion, I was heartened to hear the Managing Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde make just such a statement in regard to forecasting on a recent podcast from Freakonomics

forecasting is not a mathematics science and is more an art than (then) something else, although there is a huge effort on the part of our teams here to improve and refine. But there are totally unpredictable events and there are things that we simply do not understand, which are related to human nature, with behavior, as the Nobel jury has recently acknowledged by celebrating and acknowledging the contribution of behavioral economists
— Christine Lagarde : Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

If one of the leading bankers of the world recognises the uncertainty inherent in forecasting, who am I to try to second guess as to the future of the NZ property market!


Re-starting Properazzi

by Alistair Helm


It seems strange to look back through the archives of this site and see how much I wrote over a 2 year period between 2012 and 2014. This was when I was searching out my next move after my time leading the development of Realestate.co.nz as its first CEO. During those two years I spent sometime working with Simon Baker at Property Portal Watch, engaging in the wider global landscape of property portals, whilst at the same time commentating on the real estate industry and analysing the real estate market here in NZ on this blog.

 

I’ve not written an article here for close on 3 years, during which time I have been an employee of Trade Me Property leading the digital product team to enhance and grow the product portfolio to support buyers, sellers and agents in the quest to leverage digital technology.

 

That time in Trade Me has now ended, and I find myself free to write again about my passion - the property market and the real estate process. During my time at Trade Me I was not a straight-jacketed; but as an employee I recognised that I was inextricably linked to the brand and the company and it was not right to write the type of opinion pieces I had done in the past. I did though maintain my analytical role, authoring the monthly Property Price Index of sales and rental data published on the site, keeping my hand in to maintain my skills, knowledge and awareness of the property market.

 

Trade Me is an outstanding company, a great team of people with the most amazing culture and my time there was rewarding, challenging and fun. I will follow very closely the future of Trade Me and Trade Me Property especially in the coming years, just as I do with Realestate.co.nz, they are part of my history, something I am proud of.

 

So here I am gently stocking the embers, and taking tentative steps to my future and sharing them on Properazzi.

 

I left Trade Me because I didn’t feel I was doing my best work. I have not though left the real estate industry. I have been in this industry now for close to 12 years and have clearly found my niche. The future will see me stay within this industry and seek out my next career move. More of this to come.

 

So I'm back, with a slightly re-designed Properazzi. I expect to contribute articles that are informed, analytical and I hope interesting. Thanks for stopping by. Follow me on Twitter as this is my most active platform for the full picture of opinions and articles, equally feel free to sign up to my email newsletter (if you're not already an existing subscriber).