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Slowest January for 2 years as Kiwis head to the beach, not to open homes

ByBob Mountfort

The Auckland housing market began 2019 in the same way as it finished in 2018 – subdued.  The CoreLogic QV January House Price index released on 12 February 2019 reported that January saw another small drop in the Auckland index – the 0.2% dip resulted in a minor 0.1% fall for the three month period as a whole, but more notably, a 0.9% decline over the year.

CoreLogic’s senior research analyst Kelvin Davidson commented “Once again, this illustrates the problems of low affordability in Auckland and the restrictions on lending, with plenty of listings available on the market also giving prospective buyers the chance to shop around.

Davidson added: “For Auckland, and the market as a whole, the looming tax ring-fence for rental property losses and speculation about a future capital gains tax system are some of the current headwinds. To my mind, with one month of the year now gone, the prospects for 2019 haven’t changed – it’s a balanced outlook, with overall volumes set to be similar to 2018 and value growth generally continuing to be constrained.”

In tying all of this together, Davidson said: “In the current market, where banks are cautious about lending and with a lingering general sense of uncertainty, it’s no surprise that overall volumes are at historically low levels or that the January House Price Index shows continued inconsistency in value growth across areas and from month to month within areas.

“We’ve always thought that 2019 could basically be 2018 on repeat and although it’s obviously early days, that’s how things have played out in the first month of the year. The Government  will soon come into focus as a key player in the property market’s fortunes, with the Tax Working Group’s recommendations about NZ’s tax system in general – and capital gains tax in particular – being  released on February 21st.”

In a separate article, Kelvin Davidson analyses the Reserve Bank’s (RBNZ) announcement on 14 February to keep the official cash rate (OCR) on hold at 1.75% for the 15th consecutive time: “Today’s OCR decision was no surprise, as has been the case for several rate decisions in a row now. Inflation’s still pretty well contained and, although it ticked up a bit in Q4 last year, the unemployment rate is low – or consistent with ‘maximum sustainable employment’. In other words, the RBNZ’s dual mandate is still being satisfied with the OCR at its current level.”

“In terms of the property market implications from today’s decision, the story remains pretty much the same. With the OCR set to stay low for some time to come, mortgage rates are unlikely to face significant upwards pressure for a while yet – especially since competition amongst the banks to secure the best-quality borrowers is strong at present. That will support market activity levels and property values.  Overall, today’s OCR decision doesn’t materially alter the outlook for a slow and steady property market in 2019, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the risks.”

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