8 Feb 2010

Real estate market slow to pick up - QV

9:00 pm on 8 February 2010

Activity in the real estate market has been slow to pick up this year, according to residential property valuer QV.

Property values were 4.4% higher in January than they were in the same month last year, but are still 4.3% below the market peak in late 2007.

The average sale price increased to $409,807 in January, from $404,671 in December.

QV valuations manager Glenda Whitehead says the flat December and January market can be partly attributed to indecision fuelled by uncertainty over interest rates, employment, property prices, and the recently announced tax working group recommendations.

Another factor is that people may have been forced to take additional leave over this holiday period.

Ms Whitehead expects activity should pick up in February and March.

Growth in almost all regions

Values in most of the main centres continued to increase in recent months and are all above the same time last year.

In January, Auckland region values were 7.3% up, Wellington was 5.7% higher and Christchurch increased by 6.3%.

Values in the other main centres have fluctuated in recent months, but remain above last year. Hamilton region values rose by 3.5%, Tauranga by 0.6% and Dunedin by 5.0%.

In the provincial centres values have been more variable over recent months. However, in nearly all areas, property values are above the same time last year, with Whangarei the only centre below last year, at 3.9% lower.

Investors concerned at tax proposals

QV says the market activity, particularly in the main centres, was being driven more by existing homeowners and first-home buyers rather than investors.

The head of a property investor group says proposals from the Tax Working Group - which include a land tax and changes to the tax structure of rental properties - are driving investors from the market.

Investor group Property Plus chairman Ashley Church says some investors don't want to risk being hit with a tax they may not be able to afford.

Property Investors Federation vice-president Andrew King told Morning Report the possible changes to property taxes could lead to rent rises.