7 Jul 2016

Investors likely to be targeted by RBNZ

6:01 am on 7 July 2016

Property investors are likely to be in the gun once again when the Reserve Bank speaks later today about measures to cool the rampant housing market.

House prices are surging at their fastest pace since 2004, fuelled by low interest rates, a rising population and growing economy.

Open home sign at a house for sale in East Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The average price in Auckland is close to $1 million, while Hamilton and Tauranga have seen prices skyrocket by 29 percent and 25 percent respectively in the last year.

A valuer for QV in Hamilton, Stephen Hare, said it was a perfect storm.

"[Hamilton] is currently seeing a lot of strong demand, both from local investors, out-of-town investors, first home buyers, and other locals, all vying for properties ... and [houses] that are listed on the market are being quickly snapped up," Mr Hare said.

Reserve Bank deputy governor Grant Spencer will speak this evening about measures to cool the market.

Investors, who make up 46 percent of transactions in Auckland and 40 percent nationally, have already been pinpointed as targets.

Prime Minister John Key, unsettled by the sharp jump in prices and the meagre returns from the government's own plans to boost housing supply to ease price growth, has urged the central bank to get on with it.

Kiwibank senior economist Zoe Wallis said extending lending restrictions to investors outside Auckland "could be the way to go".

Tougher rules in Auckland has had an impact on house prices in Hamilton and Tauranga, Ms Wallis said.

"Certainty, anecdotally, you're seeing a lot of commentary about that's a lot of money coming out of Auckland, because they're looking at other investment options.

"So, by tightening up across the whole country you get rid of that disintermediation effect really."

Nevertheless, these policies do have a limited shelf life.

Last November's restrictions on investors in Auckland only managed to slow house price inflation for less than six months.

CoreLogic research director Nick Goodall expected something similar if restrictions are expanded.

"If the investor restrictions come in across the rest of the country we'll probably see a similar sort of picture.

"It will impact the market but only over a short period before people find ways to either get round the rules or get finance in other ways, and look at other areas to invest their money," Mr Goodall said.

"But still, property is going to be an area where people are invested in."

While investors may be the biggest group in the market, it tended to be first home buyers who paid extra and set the benchmark for the next sale, he said.

The Reserve Bank could reinstate tighter lending limits on first home buyers outside Auckland with small deposits.

It could also say more about the eventual introduction of loan restrictions based on income.

But all agree it won't solve the fundamental problem of too much demand, and too few houses.

That is something the Reserve Bank can't fix.

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