Auckland property listings down, prices up and how to get an interest free mortgage

Barfoot and Thompson sold fewer properties in April than at any other time in the past 4 years.

The agency sold  944 properties in April, down almost 30 percent on its March figure and  almost 12 per cent  down  when compared with April 2015.

Peter Thompson, Barfoot’s managing director, says  the likely cause of the drop in turnover  was buyer caution around high prices and  restricted choice due to the low number of properties on the market.

Barfoot’s  average selling price for April was  almost  $874,000  up  0.8 per cent on the figure for March. For the past year the  monthly year-on-year increases have been  around 12 percent.
New listings in April at the agency was 1496,  down more than 20 per cent on March.

According to quotable value,  average values on Auckland North Shore’s and across Auckland City  stand at $1.1 million.

The latest monthly QV House Price Index shows that nationwide residential property values for April have increased 12.0% over the past year. Values rose by 2.1% over the past three months and are now 37.1% above the previous market peak of late 2007.

When adjusted for inflation the nationwide annual increase drops slightly to 11.6% and values are now 16.9% above the 2007 peak. The average value nationwide is now $568,058.

The Auckland market has increased 16.5% year on year which is a slightly slower annual rate than we saw in March, when it rose 16.9%.  Home values in the Super city have risen a total of 1.5% over the past three months reversing a downward trend in values seen in the previous quarter.

Values there are now 72.5% higher than the previous peak of 2007.  When adjusted for inflation values are 16.0% over the past year and are 47.1% above the 2007 peak. The average value in the Auckland region is now $942,760.

How do you fancy having the bank pay you to have a mortgage? It is not as silly as it sounds, and is already happening in Europe as interest rates are placed into negative territory.

You may have heard about negative interest rates, where some banks actually charge ‘‘savers’’ a percentage of their electronic bank deposits.  In Switzerland, the bank deposit rate is  minus 1.25 per cent for wealthy savers.

Negative interest rates have been adopted by central banks in Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and the European Central Bank.

The theory was that by imposing a negative interest rate on banks they would either lend money or lose it.
Central banks hoped this cheap money would be lent to people wanting to start businesses that employ people who would  spend their wages into the economy.

Unfortunately, cheap loans have mainly been used to buy real estate the world over, and by listed companies to buy back their shares  (some critics claim this has artificially buoyed the markets). Few new jobs have been created.

Now the next natural step has occurred.  According to the Netherlands’ consumer financial products watchdog, a customer of lender Achmea NV should have been paid when the interest on their mortgage slipped to minus 0.3 per cent. (Yes, you can scratch your head at this point).

The mortgage was in Swiss francs, with a variable rate of 0.7 per cent above the (Swiss Libor) OCR. When the OCR fell below minus 1 per cent in January  last year, the customer asked the lender to pay them. The lender refused, saying there would instead be no interest charges on their loan.

The financial watchdog came down on the side of the borrower and ordered Achmea to pay €971 ($1600) in back interest and expenses.
Achmea spokesman Stefan Kloet wouldn’t tell Reuters how many of the firm’s customers would be affected by the watchdog’s decision.

It now seems that when loan rates go into negative territory, not only do savers get hit, so  can lenders.
With interest rates in the UK at 0.5 per cent, some commentators fear Britain could be the next stop for negative rates.

There’s no hint anything like it will happen in New Zealand. But you can bet our local banks are enjoying access to this cheap money.
As for our official cash rate, there was no surprise when the Reserve Bank kept it at 2.25 per cent last week.

But Governor Graeme Wheeler is walking a tightrope with low economic growth on one side and high house prices on the other.
Nevertheless, with calls for increased economic growth, expect Wheeler to lower the OCR to 1.75 per cent, to match Australia, before spring.

Feel free to  squeeze your lender for a better-than-advertised rate on your next home loan.