Expats and first-home buyers buoy regional markets

Thirty houses on a new sub-division in Masterton will go some-way to addressing the area’s housing shortage says Anita Baker of Baker & Co.

She sold a 3 hectare block of land to a developer on the day we spoke and is looking forward to seeing building work start.

“We are short of two-bed townhouses,” she says. “We have people such as farmers coming back into town and there are people who want to sell their large homes and downgrade a bit.”

At open homes at the weekend she saw 25 parties pass through one property and expats based in the UK, France and Australia and buying homes in her area sight-unseen.

“They are buying land, city houses, town houses, we are getting calls from older professionals coming home,” she says. “I’m also getting calls from the parents of adult children – trying to get a property lined up for their return.”

In addition, Anita’s fielding enquiries from Auckland and Wellington “buyers are coming from everywhere”.

But while demand is high, listings are down on last year, says Anita.

“It has been a bit quiet,” she says. “But it is starting to pick up now. Although it is always a bit slow around election time, so you couple that with the huge demand we have and the stock doesn’t last very long. It’s all selling very quickly.”

Invercargill has also seen a spike in activity, not least because of the number of people relocating to the district to work on a number of major commercial and residential building projects, says local agent Tim Frampton.

The award-winning real estate agent and auctioneer with 17 years’ experience says the Professionals agency he works out of doesn’t have one rental on its books. As for sale listings, his office currently has 260 properties on its books – down on 400 a year ago – and investors aren’t selling.

“People are staying put,” he says. “We have a housing shortage just like other parts of the country and there is strong demand from buyers so prices are holding up.

“It’s not so much expats returning to New Zealand, it’s people from across the country moving to Invercargill for work, and there are lots of first-time home buyers looking for property.

“There’s plenty of trade jobs here, due to a lot of construction going on, and it is still one of the most affordable cities in New Zealand.”

In Taupo, Sotherby’s International Realty estate agent Penny Lyons says international enquiries for property in the district have “boomed since lockdown”.

“In fact we had a property in Acacia Bay that went under multi-offer, sight-unseen, by two international expats who wanted to secure their piece of paradise,” she said.


“However, volumes have come to an all time low, and the spring rush has been late, but it seems more properties are coming on the market now, but certainly the demand is still outweighing supply.”

Penny says there are lots of holiday-home buyers visiting the area too.

“So there’s a shortage of stock in areas with great lake views and closeness to the lake. Families are moving to Taupo for the lifestyle – so school zoning has a large impact on their buying decisions.”

As for price trends, Penny says it’s a hard one to call at the moment.

“There’s certainly a good percentage of properties selling above the CV in some areas,” she says.

“It’s all about location and multiple offers. And so many buyers sitting on our database waiting for more options to buy.”

Kelvin Davidson, a Senior Property Economist at property valuation firm Corelogic, says Taupo, Carterton and Invercargill are “continued out-performers”.

“All three areas are still more affordable than the national average, giving them headroom for growth, while Carterton and Invercargill have the surrounding agricultural bases to support them,” says Kelvin.

“Taupo will have seen some knock from the lack of tourism, but I was there a few weeks back, and domestic visitors were in abundance.

While estate agents in many areas report demand from expats, that may not continue for much longer according to a report by Westpac economists.

In its weekly commentary for 5 October, the bank says the recent surge in migration inflows has now come to a “screeching halt”.

“In fact, the number of New Zealand citizens and residents returning home each month has fallen to just one-third of normal levels.”

However, the bank says those reduced inflows have been matched by a reduction in the number of people departing our shores.

It also restates that the housing shortage is ongoing, saying New Zealand is still wrestling with a significant shortage of housing.

“In fact, compared to the increases in our population, we estimate that New Zealand has built around 50,000 too few homes since 2013.”

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a specialist freelance writer covering all aspects of real estate.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a specialist freelance writer covering all aspects of real estate.

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