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Realtors at odds with govt over new oversea ownership stats

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 7/06/2018
Sold sign outside a new house being built in East Auckland: no caption © RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly no caption

A real estate industry representative says the number of overseas buyers in New Zealand is actually small, however, associate Minister David Parker says new statistics supported concerns about those buyers.

New figures from Stats NZ revealed that almost one in five Central Auckland homes bought at the start of the year were purchased by foreign buyers.

The number of houses changing hands in the first three months of this year, including how many were sold to people who are neither New Zealand citizens or tax-residents.

Of the 33,000 homes that were transferred - including houses bought, sold and those whose ownership transferred after things like a death or marriage settlement - 3.3 percent were transferred to overseas people, up from 2.9 percent in the December quarter.

However, the numbers fluctuated throughout the country.

Buyers without New Zealand citizenship or residency visas made up just 1 percent in the booming Bay of Plenty and 0.5 in the Hawkes Bay, while foreign buyers purchasing property in Wellington accounted for less than 2 percent of the market.

In contrast, Queenstown had the highest proportion at almost 10 percent.

In the hot Auckland property market, more than 7 percent of buyers were offshore.

Areas like the Franklin, covering the likes of Clevedon, Pukekohe and Beachlands, had less than 2 percent, overseas buyers.

However the Waitematā local board area, which covers expensive suburbs such as, Herne Bay, Ponsonby, the CBD and Parnell, had international buyers for 225 homes - almost 20 percent of the purchases.

The Real Estate Institute said the figures came as little surprise.

"Things don't change. The total number of sales to offshore buyers is very small, even less than 4 percent, which is consistent with REINZ data which we had earlier in the year," Real Estate Institute chief executive Bindi Norwell said.

She said figures were so low the government's move to ban foreign buyers wasn't the right strategy.

"If we're trying to improve affordability banning foreign buyers is not the most effective way, it's more about supply and building more properties," Ms Norwell said.

Even in areas where their presence was higher, she said the figures didn't lend themselves to a blanket ban.

"The reason why the central Auckland CBD has a higher proportion of foreign buyers is that they're closer to universities as well, there's a lot of apartments and they typically attract people from overseas and want to be close to the universities. We're not surprised by that data but it is very small in the scheme of things."

However, the Associate Minister of Finance and minister behind the government's proposed law change, David Parker, disagreed.

"This vindicates the New Zealanders who have been concerned about the number of houses that have been bought by overseas people in New Zealand. We in the Labour Party, well in fact I should say more broadly in the government, we all agree that the housing market should be a New Zealand market and it shouldn't be influenced by overseas buyers.

"I think it's clear that these statistics back up our decision to ban overseas buyers of existing New Zealand homes ... We've no doubt that buyers are having an affect on New Zealand housing market and in our view that's wrong.

He said it was basic economics that additional demand would lead to a rise in price.

"Now how significant that price is no one really knows but in those suburbs where there's an 18 percent participation by foreign buyers buying that number of houses it must be having a significant effect I would have thought."

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