Evidence of LVR in sales figures

Dunedin sales volumes below $400,000 hard hit; pictured is an Andersons Bay house in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dunedin sales volumes below $400,000 hard hit; pictured is an Andersons Bay house in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The impact of the Reserve Bank's loan-to-value ratio (LVR) restrictions on banks' mortgage lending may be beginning to bite, judging by figures of national sales of homes below $400,000 down 20% on November last year.

Despite matching the decline in overall sales, Queenstown's median price leapt more than a third on last year's, to $642,500, while Dunedin house sales below the $400,000 range have plunged more than 30%.

Queenstown is well ahead of Auckland's median $620,000, but many suburbs in the City of Sails overshadowed the southern tourism mecca.

Mount Eden, Devonport and the eastern suburbs all had medians over $1 million, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand's November sales data said yesterday.

More than $541 million was spent in November on homes valued over $1 million, a 138% increase on the 227 million-dollar-plus homes sold in November 2011.

The LVR, which restricts banks from having more than 10% of their overall loan book with people with less than a 20% deposit, came into force on October 1.

Housing data since then may have been skewed by boosted spring-time listings and the use of pre-approved loans.

ASB economist Daniel Smith said the data provided some ''further evidence'' the LVR restrictions might be slowing house sales volumes.

''However, the housing market remains very tight, which is maintaining upward pressure on house prices,'' he said.

Otago REINZ spokeswoman Liz Nidd said, when contacted, Dunedin's sales volume had taken ''quite a chop'' from November last year, down 31% from 270 homes to 186. LVR restrictions were affecting not only first-home, but second-home buyers.

''They [Reserve Bank] have achieved their ends if they wanted to reduce volumes, but has it really taken the heat out of prices?'' Ms Nidd asked, citing Auckland's $80,000 house price gain to $620,000.

She highlighted overall Dunedin sales down, especially in both the $200,000-$300,000 and $300,000-$400,000 brackets. November 2012 sales totalled $84 million for the city. That was $56.5 million last month.

For buyers to remain outside the LVR restrictions, an Otago buyer at the median price ($242,000) requires a more than $48,400 deposit, Dunedin ($278,500) a $55,700 deposit and in Queenstown ($642,500) a deposit of more than $128,500.

''They [deposits] are significant. The LVR [restrictions] have raised the bar for first, and also second-home buyers.

"They're asking parents for money or staying renting for two years,'' Ms Nidd said.

Overall, house sales around the country were down 6.6% to 6961, when comparing November last year with last month, but a new median high price of $425,000 was struck, the REINZ said.

REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the small, national, 2.7% sales increase, from October to November, was weaker than expected and well below the 10% average over the previous 10 years' data.

''The restrictions on high LVR lending may well be a driver of the softer sales figures, with sales below $400,000 falling almost 20% compared with November last year,'' she said in a statement.

Together, the regions of Auckland and Canterbury-Westland accounted for 85% of the median price increase, compared with November last year.

Around Otago, sales volumes compared with a year ago were down almost 27%, from 351 to 257, while the median price fell by 6.2%, or $16,000, from $258,000 to $242,000.

Ms O'Sullivan said Otago agents had reported there to be fewer first home buyers in the market, and while listing numbers were rising, vendor expectations in some places were higher than the market.

In the separate Central Otago Lakes region, sales volumes fell 5.6% from November last year, from 124 to 117 and the median price rose 15.3% from $425,000 to $490,000 - the second highest in the country after Taranaki and just ahead of Auckland's percentage gain.

In usually buoyant Queenstown, sales were down a third from 60 to 40, but the sub-region booked a massive annual median price gain of 34.8%, from $476,500 to $642,500.

Agents reported ''definitely fewer'' first-home buyers, Ms O'Sullivan said, and while there was ''good interest'' from investors, they were ''quite firm'' on value expectations.

- simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

House sales
New Zealand November total sales - $3.73 billion
Central Otago Lakes sales - $81.4 million
Otago sales - $71.3 million (Dunedin $56.5 million)


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