Trade Me Property assumes the mantle of data insight leadership

by Alistair Helm in ,


Trade Me Property today released a new competitive attack on its rival Realestate.co.nz with its inaugural Property Price Index. This report provides insight into the trends in asking price by region and also by property type. In my view vital information from a credible source that will be greatly appreciated by the real estate and financial community.

In launching this new report Trade Me Property has literally picked up the baton from Realestate.co.nz - a baton it seems Realestate.co.nz was only too happy to relinquish, but this may turn out to be a decision it comes to regret in time.

The NZ Property Report from Realestate.co.nz was conceived of over 5 years ago and has become a vital insight into the supply side of the property market, data that was quoted and reviewed by financial institutions and real estate industry as well as the media. Sadly the last 12 months and especially the last 6 months has seen less and less effort focused on the report by the management of Realestate.co.nz. The lack of focus started with the timeliness. When it first came out and for the first 3 years it was published on the 1st day of each month and the media become accustomed to this information which built brand profile and credibility. Latterly however it often took until the 15th of the month before being published. Added to tardiness was incompleteness and lack of openness. The release of the monthly information ceased to be a complete report and became simply a press release and just last month the data was not even published online and no access to the raw data has been made available. At this time the online source still only shows the July report. Clearly Realestate.co.nz attach little importance to being judged and viewed as a respected knowledge base and thought leader - that is the baton that Trade Me Property is grasping.

So what is there to like about this new report from Trade Me Property?

As with all things from Trade Me there is a simplicity and clarity of communication I admire, clean graphics aid comprehension.

However the real value is in the detail. They are the first source to have segmented any property information by property type. To describe NZ property sales price by one number when that number is made up of such a variety of differing house sizes and types from apartments to townhouses and units is too simplistic but that is what all the other source do - be it REINZ or QV.

Trade Me Property Price Index details the typical listing price for 1 & 2 bedroom houses as compared to 3 & 4 bedroom houses and the trend over the past year. Who would have thought that within the headline price of property in Wellington rising at an annual rate of 6.8% that large 5+ bedroom homes are down 5.2% over the past year.

 

The overriding benefit of this report is timeliness, being produced on the 2nd day of the month - ahead of all other property reports on the September data. This is how it should be as a property portal has the data at its finger tips to compute and present in minutes.

As to future wishes. I hope the raw data will be published so those organisations who have found the Realestate.co.nz so valuable will have access to this alternative data which is potentially more comprehensive as it features private listings as well as licensed agents (of course the boycott of Trade Me Property by some agencies may still limit their ability to represent the whole market but statistically this data should be representative). It will also be great to get more granular data so people can see the trend in listing price for a suburb and for 1 & 2 bedroom houses in a particular suburb over time - now that would be great.

In my view Trade Me Property has made a smart move and Realestate.co.nz have dropped the ball - let's see if there is a reaction and Realestate.co.nz realise how important this move has been.


Auckland property prices - so much data!

by Alistair Helm in


There are now 6 separate sets of property price measures for the Auckland market. All of which are seeking to provide an insight into the trend of price across our largest city. This barrage of statistics published in our daily newspaper is enough to confuse at best, and paralyse at worst, the most ardent of property buyer / seller / investor and even agents!

Here was how the first 2 weeks of July appeared in the Herald:

2 July: Barfoot & Thompson - Auckland's biggest real estate agency has this morning released sales data for June, showing a slight decline in sales volumes but average sale prices up $11,088 in the 30 days - which equates to a daily price rise of $369.60.

7 July: QVQV said the Auckland region as a whole had increased 2.7 per cent over the past three months and 12.3 per cent year on year

14 July: Realestate.co.nzThe country's largest house sales website showed Auckland's asking price hit a new all-time record of $732,240 last month.

14 July: REINZ - The stratified median housing price index showed that in Auckland, prices rose 1.6 per cent in the month

Fair to say that an average person could walk away from reading these reports from the first 2 weeks of the month with a sense of confusion as to which set of data to trust and belief. Sure they all point to rising prices and some speak to hitting a peak, but the margin of increase varies considerably as does the indication of a trend.

Charting these separate measures produces a chart that is worthy of some analysis and commentary.

First let me explain the format of the chart. All of the price data has been indexed to a base of January 2008 = 100 and all monthly data has been computed on a 12 month moving average which makes it easier to view in terms of trends and also excludes the seasonality that impacts all property stats.

As you can see there is a fairly significant disparity between the highest index in June (REINZ median price at 136 as against the lowest being the Realestate.co.nz Asking price at 126. Equally as you will see the path of the index through the property crash in 2008/9 saw some of the measures drop by 10% (QV) whilst others barely dipped into negative (REINZ median price).

Examining each of these as to their composition provides a method of evaluating the value and relevancy of each.

1. Realestate.co.nz Asking Price

This measure is actually the odd-one-out within this group as it measures the advertised price or advertised search price of property coming onto the market, whereas the other sets of data analyse the outcome of sales. A noticeable aspect of this measure is 'consumer sentiment' which tends to result in over estimated values in down-turns and under estimated values in up-turns.

This may seem counter-intuitive as you would expect to see over estimation of value - the 'over-inflated expectation of sellers' in bubbly markets as we have been in in Auckland. The reality though is that whilst the vendors may genuinely have inflated expectation, their agents tend to price for search online at more conservative levels as we have seen recently.

So tracking the path of the index of Realestate.co.nz Asking Price shows it currently tracking at the lowest of the 6 indexes over the past 6 years.

 

2. Barfoot & Thompson Average Sales Price / Median Sales Price

The data from Barfoot & Thompson whilst not reflective of the whole of Auckland is more timely than the others and with close to 40% share of the Auckland market and representation in all suburbs, does afford it credibility.

The average sale price though is an imperfect measure of property prices as it is open to skew if the composition of sales in a month changes significantly. For this reason Barfoot & Thompson has started publishing a median price which is a more statistically valid measure of property prices. It is though interesting to see that the median price has crept ahead of the average price over the past 2 years. This situation would tend to occur when sales volumes of extreme high value properties slows in proportion  to other segments of the market. This though would seem to be contrary to the data which shows $2m+ properties have doubled in each of the past 2 years, whilst sales of sub$400k priced properties have fallen off. More likely is a situation where the majority of sales in the $500,000 to $1,000,000 bracket have edged up significantly driving that median from $450,000 to $625,000 in the space of just over 3 years.

 

3. REINZ Median Sales Price / Stratified Median Sales Price

The data collated by the Real Estate Institute is the most comprehensive and timely data in that it aggregates sales records from its members as licensed real estate agents who account for around 90% of all transactions each year. The data is of unconditional contracts and thereby is recorded closer to the date of transaction than settlements registered at LINZ and utilised by QV for their data. 

The REINZ median sales price has been reported monthly since 1992 and is one of the most complete data sets for the whole country. However as presented in this chart, the index is the highest of all the data sets presenting what from outside would seem to be an optimistic view of property prices as it hardly reported a dip in sales price in 2008/9. 

The reason that the median price in Auckland as reported by REINZ is so out of kilter from the other metrics is exactly the reason why REINZ implemented the Stratified Median Sales Price in 2010. The Stratified price index makes adjustments within the market to ensure the composition of suburb sales is representative when the market tends to skew towards certain suburbs as has been the case in Auckland over this 7 year period. For this reason the Stratified price index provides a much more accurate representation of true price movements and the trend on the chart certainly bears this out.

 

4. QV

The data from QV is in many ways the most accurate, yet it does suffer somewhat from lagging the other data sets, requiring as it does the data from property settlements and title changes to be registered at LINZ. Something that largely happens online nowadays and thereby removes some process time delays.

The data is not reported as a median or stratified median but is analysed to assess the actual sales price of each property sold against the estimated property valuation that QV has on record for every property in NZ. So their system and the resulting valuation index is a closer evaluation of the trend in core property values and takes into account the improvements and developments that are undertaken on properties that do materially effect the value of a property which are not accounted for in any of the other data sets and can cause skewing of data. This factor has been a driving component of the Auckland property market for many years as the pace of gentrification of the inner suburbs has seen extensive renovations drive enormous price movements


One of the benefits though of these numerous data sets of property prices in Auckland is the ability to see the variance between these data sets on the chart and also to provide the ability to visually see the the set or sets of data that are in someways the midpoint and therefore the most likely to be the most accurate. From my reading of the data this would be the QV valuation data and the REINZ Stratified median price. Both of these data sets benefits from computational analysis by qualified and trusted professionals. In the case of the REINZ Stratified price with the assistance and guidance of the Reserve Bank and in the case of QV the professional teams of valuers and the resources and skills of Core Logic.

What I find very interesting is that it would appear that the Barfoot & Thompson median price data tracks very accurately to the trend of these other two. It may still be a bit too early to tell for sure, but the indication is clear. This could well be the result that Barfoot & Thompson sales are a true representative sample of Auckland property without extreme outliers.




LVR impact in Auckland market hidden in the data

by Alistair Helm in ,


November_2013_Market_Update___Barfoot___Thompson-3.png

The headline from the Barfoot & Thompson's November Market Update stated confidently "Mortgage restrictions no barrier to Auckland house price increases". The commentary then went on to say that the LVR impact has yet to show up in housing activity (sales) or sale prices.

The data then stated that both average sale price and median sale price were up again as highlighted by the chart below.

B& T price Nov 13.png

 

A cause of the further rise in sale price for November was the record level of sales of homes over $1m - 189 of them a record for the company. In November last year that total of sales over $1m was 129, a variance of 60. That increase in sales at the top end would impact the average price but the median price would be less impacted. However what is more likely to impact the median price and the average price was a variance of 97 in sales of lower priced properties. In November 2012 B&T sold 292 properties below $400,000 this November that number was 195. Seen as a proportion of all sales in the month as the chart details below the drop is significant.

B&T Nov 13.png

 

Clearly the monthly drop in November was significant but the trend has been established for quite a few months now as the lower end of the market as served by B&T in Auckland (who represent around 40% of the market) has fallen away. The November one month fall from October this year is more significant than either of the past 2 years indicating that the impact of the LVR restrictions are being felt through the numbers.

These detailed sales by price bracket data is provided by B&T on their site and I applaud them for that openness, something that we have seen withdrawn by the Real Estate Institute who used to make such data accessible but now decides to charge fees to access. 

As I stated last month in the article "The LVR speed limit - crippling or merely cooling the market"

We will need to wait until at least the November sales figures and more likely until the new year as well as to study housing loan approvals before the definitive statement can be made as to the true impact on the changes as a consequence on the high LVR restrictions, indications certainly show an impact, though that impact in sales is not huge as yet.

Here we have the first indicator through the Auckland market from B&T - not featured in the headline, but buried in the detail. As I said the November sales figures should give us some indications. Here is some such data - will we get detail from the Real Estate Institute in their data or will the headline smooth over the facts?