Otago house values rise but gains less

Photo: ODT
In Dunedin, the Maori Hill  suburb continued to have the highest value, while the largest percentage gains were in St Kilda and Andersons Bay. Photo: ODT
Median house values in suburbs and townships around Otago all made gains in the last quarter of 2016, but appear to have cooled,  most now in the 4% to 6% range.

However,  changes in value tracked during the past five years by government agency Quotable Value reveal plenty of 30% to 60% gains.

Fernhill in Queenstown made a gain of 116%, while Arrowtown and Wanaka ended the year still in the $1 million-plus category.

There have been  more than 30 confirmed sales over $1 million in Wanaka since October.

Although signs of cooling in the hectic Auckland market have been appearing for several months,  regional areas have been more volatile, and Otago’s median sale price for February hit a record high of $317,250, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

Around Central Otago, Arrowtown and Wanaka retained their  median values of just over $1 million.  The largest percentage gain was in Albert Town, which rose 8.6% to end 2016 on $778,150.

QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush said the rate of growth had eased  slightly over the Christmas period,  In addition, the new loan to value restrictions (LVRs) were affecting the ability of some buyers  to raise finance in the market.

"Some developers have been reporting it’s been more difficult to raise finance with banks implementing stricter lending criteria in some circumstances," Ms Rush said.

A low inventory  of listings  on the market in Otago was also constraining sales  volumes. Ms Rush said both Arrowtown and Wanaka continued to experience high demand for property, both from locals seeking homes, and from New Zealanders and those from overseas looking for holiday homes or investment properties.

There had been more than 30 confirmed sales of over $1 million in Wanaka since October, including several at $1.5 million and one $3 million sale, which pushed QV’s median value for Wanaka beyond $1 million.

"This follows a significant 24.9% rise in residential property values in the area over the past year," she said.

Arrowtown had had similar growth and the demand for property continued to exceed supply, driving values up. However, the township was effectively "ring-fenced" and could not be expanded beyond its boundary.

"Until more land is rezoned, there will be no extra land for future development and expansion beyond the existing town boundary," Ms Rush said.

There had been increasing movement in the high end of the market.

Properties that might have sold for $2.5 million a year ago, were now selling for $3.5 million, she said.

That included properties in the Arrowtown area and Kelvin Heights, where average values had been more than $1 million for some time, she said.

"That upper end of the market was quite flat since the Global Financial Crisis.

"While the lower end of the market had been rising strongly since late 2014, it has only been this year that values have been strong at the high end of the market," she said.

It was also a trend  in the Auckland market in suburbs such as Herne Bay, Mission Bay and Remuera.

"There are also reports that New Zealand is increasingly being seen as a favourite for wealthy Americans to purchase a bolt-hole property," Ms Rush said.

Queenstown Lakes district reports an increase in property values over the past year, up 32.2%, or up 45.4% since the market peak of November 2007. The average value of all developed residential properties was now $1,000,205, she said.

Agents were reporting robust sales activity, particularly for affordable  property, and the strongest demand was for lower cost housing, Ms Rush said.

"Shotover Country, originally marketed as an affordable housing area, now regularly records improved residential property sales in the $800,000 to over $900,000 price range," she said.

Demand for properties was  clearly ahead of supply and multiple offers on property were now relatively common, she said.

In Dunedin, the Maori Hill  suburb continued to have the highest value, the 5% gain during the previous three months raising its house value to $585,225. 

The largest percentage gains were in St Kilda and Andersons Bay, up respectively 7.1% to $283,550 and 6.2% to $392,450. Dunedin-based QV valuer Duncan Jack said value levels in the city throughout last year, and up to December, had continued to increase steadily, the main driving force being  strong buyer demand during 2016.

"The low interest rates and relatively limited supply has also assisted in driving values upwards," Mr Jack said.

Out-of-town investors attracted by relatively good yields had always been a factor in Dunedin and last year they were likely to have contributed  to value growth in the city.

"It would be fair to say that they have had a stronger presence in the past 12 to 18 months," Mr Jack said.

On the question of the effect of rising interest rates, Mr Jack said any increase to the costs of home ownership or borrowing could have an  impact on demand, from both investors or home occupiers.

Although demand in several regions around the country appeared to have been curtailed by the imposition on investors of the Reserve Bank’s loan-to-value restrictions,  Mr Jack said, so far, the LVRs  did not appear to have significantly affected demand within the Dunedin market.

When asked, Mr Jack was cautious about forecasting how Dunedin’s market might perform during 2017.

"I can say that with the current record high net migration and relatively low interest rates it’s possible values may continue to rise.

"But if interest rates increase and other economic factors come into play, this may change," he said.

Ms Rush said the latest LVRs already appeared to have led to a slowing in the rate of value growth in the Otago region, as well as in other parts of the country including the Auckland and Hamilton markets.

LVRs had effectively constrained investors and developers as it had been harder for them to finance with the banks but that was viewed as being short term only, Ms Rush said.


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