Easing of LVR has little effect on campus

Otago Property Investors Association president Cliff Seque at his new 10-month old Dundas St...
Otago Property Investors Association president Cliff Seque at his new 10-month old Dundas St rentals, of two units with three bedrooms each, worth at least $600,000. PHOTO:GREGOR RICHARDSON
The Reserve Bank's easing of its loan to value ratio (LVR) restrictions is not expected to have much effect on investors in Dunedin's popular campus accommodation market.

While the central bank's restrictions mean investors now need a 30% deposit, instead of 35% previously, the percentage of borrowers a bank can have on its books remains "capped" at 5% of its total loan books.

Cliff Seque, a veteran Dunedin campus landlord of 45 years and at present the Otago Property Investors Association president, does not believe the easing will boost investment in Dunedin.

"No, it won't have much effect on the market here ... not with the cap [on bank lending numbers]," he said when contacted.

When asked to describe Dunedin's campus market, he said good properties were selling fast, often to out-of-towners, but there had otherwise been a "softening" in the market recently, although there was an increase in listings in recent months.

"For the first time in six months I'm seeing properties for under $200,000," Mr Seque said.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand regional spokeswoman in Dunedin, Liz Nidd, also believed the Reserve Bank's easing on restrictions would not affect the market.

"I can't see that bringing a lot of investors back to the market," she said.

Mr Seque said banks were likely to strictly adhere to the 5% cap on their investor portfolios, as none would want to fall foul of the Reserve Bank's restriction.

There have been anecdotal reports campus landlords with old properties at the lower end of the market, around $400,000 to $500,000, were selling out, rather than complying with pending regulatory changes to improve heating and insulation.

This has been reported as supposedly good for first-home buyers looking for a foot in the door.

However, Mr Seque believed those older campus properties were still going mainly to investors, as opposed to first-home buyers, who were buying on the "fringe of campus".

He said first-home buyers might meet stumbling blocks in buying the older properties, as banks' criteria required detailed reports on the state of plumbing and electricity, which they might decide not to lend against, given the high costs to fix.

However, he noted that first-home buyers of the lower-end properties did not face the same regulatory changes to improve heating and insulation, and could in their own time, redevelop the older stock.

"That's an `ideal' property, where owner-occupiers [first-home] can go in and work on it, and build up their equity," he said.

Last week, he looked at a three-bedroom, brick, South Dunedin home in "pretty original condition", which he expected would sell for about $200,000, complete with coal bin, tongue and groove paneling and a claw foot bath.

He estimated a further $50,000 to $70,000 would have to be spent redeveloping it.

"Owner-occupiers could get it up to standard over time," he said.

Mrs Nidd welcomed the easing of restrictions for new homeowners with a 20% deposit as banks were allowed to increase their lending on that criteria on their books from 15% of the book to 20%.

"It might make it a little easier, meaning less going to the bank-of-mum-and-dad," she said.

However, there was still a listing shortage and strong competition.

A family home in Pine Hill recently sold for just under $400,000, not only meeting "vendor expectations", but sold within a fortnight, she said.

Mr Seque said "prime" $600,000 campus properties were selling fast, often to out-of-town investors.

While capital gains were lower in Dunedin, he highlighted rental yields were about 7.5% here, as opposed to 4% to 4.5% in Auckland.

"Six hundred thousand dollars for prime student accommodation here is cheap compared to Auckland.

"[However] when you're talking quality student accommodation [here], there's not enough to go round," he said.

Although some southern investors were missing out on sales, he did not believe local or South Island investors were being "displaced" by cashed-up northern investors.

"They will bide their time and just move on to the next one," he said.

He believed investment in Dunedin was "still hot", because Auckland's housing boom had since spread to the regions, which created a "lag", given Auckland's rising prices had cooled.

"This is the third time in 45 years," Mr Seque said of the repetition in the housing cycle.

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