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Tough economic times are not over yet for property owners, with mortgagee sales figures for the first quarter of this year reaching record levels nationally and in Otago.
The total of 524 mortgagee sales throughout the country to the end of March was 100 more than the number in the corresponding period last year and five more than the previous record of 519 two years ago, when New Zealand was at the height of economic recession.
In Otago, there were 38 forced sales - almost half of them in Queenstown-Lakes - 15 more than last year and three more than two years ago, data released yesterday by Terralink International showed.
The number of sales in Southland also increased over last year, but only two forced sales were recorded in that province in 2010.
Nationally, mortgagee sales figures are still five to six times higher than they were before the recession hit in 2008.
This year was shaping up to be the toughest ever for "embattled" property owners, Terralink International managing director Mike Donald said yesterday.
"These new figures indicate we may be a long way off economic recovery. In fact, things have never been worse for property owners."
He said he was not surprised Otago's figures mirrored the national trend.
"What is happening in the economy is not good."
Other regions to record increases compared with last year were Northland (up from 20 to 51), Waikato (up from 58 to 69) and Wellington (up from 24 to 41).
Massey University Centre for Banking Studies director Associate Prof Dr David Tripe yesterday said record sales were a consequence of the economic climate "being bad for longer than expected".
Property owners "thought they could hold on until the economy came right" but many were facing difficulties, possibly because they had overextended themselves with mortgages or because job growth was low and jobs were being lost.
Because Terralink's data was based on legal registrations of actual foreclosures, Dr Tripe said the number of people losing their homes or investment properties would actually be higher than the figures indicated.
"There are a lot more sales being made by property owners who are in financial difficulties but whose banks or financial institutions have not forced a sale yet."
Asked whether the high number of mortgagee sales would continue for the next year or so, Mr Donald said he expected so.
Dr Tripe said he would not be surprised to see the figures slow down or even decline during the remainder of this year, but rise next year as mortgage interest rates lifted.