New Zealand - Pacific Hideaway
September 01, 2010 - New Zealand
Comprising the North and South Islands and about the same land mass as Japan, New Zealand's strikingly varied landscape and near-mystical beauty has inspired artists and film- makers alike.
The country also offers a wide range of lifestyles, leisure activities and luxury lodgings from the bays around Auckland to the serene shores of Lake Wakatipu.
New Zealand is too often compared to its antipode outpost big brother, Australia. Yet, having ranked ninth in the The Economist Quality of Life Index for 2009, ‘Kiwi Country' offers ample investment opportunities and its own range of lifestyle choices that enrapture urbanites and nature lovers alike.
Having experienced a rollercoaster ride during the global financial crisis, reports suggest first and second home property purchasing is picking up again.
"During 2008, the luxury market just stopped" says Bryan Thomson, CEO of Harcourts International New Zealand. "But as confidence comes back into the business community, the demand for luxury property and lifestyle will pick up again."
While the 2009 GDP remains down, unemployment up and negative retail sales continue, the value of commercial building consents is increasing, and net migration and export growth remains steady. All of this is positively affecting the luxury home market.
According to Harcourts International figures for the Exclusive Listing sector, property prices in the North Land increased by 17 per cent between September 2008 and 2009, representing a 22 per cent increase in the Central Area.
Harcourts' nationwide team of sales consultants also wrote 44 per cent more sales in September 2009 than in the same month last year.
An official statement from REINZ (Real Estate Institute of New Zealand) also indicates that the market is experiencing an upturn in buoyancy.
"The rises aren't dramatic, but slow and steady over the past few months as confidence returns to the market," Peter McDonald, Institute President, says.
"For the first time we are over the peak of prices in 2007, which is a very reassuring milestone." MacDonald adds that the national median of 31 days [to sell] again compares favourably with the October 2007 figure of 34 days.
The passing of the 2008 Real Estate Agents Bill, which came into action on November 17, 2009, will heighten the level of transparency and expertise required to enter the industry and is also viewed as positive movement.
Auckland in the North Island is a thriving hub as noted for its scenic beauty and rainforests as its cultural pulse.
It is also New Zealand's economic capital. Access to beautiful bay areas, such as St. Heliers Bay and Mission Bay, provide a focus for international property buyers. "When people think of luxury property in Auckland, the first thing they think of is the beautiful views of water," Thomson says.
Home to 1.4 million residents - 31 per cent of the country's population - buyers can expect to pay approximately US$4 million for a luxury family home in a fashionable suburb such as Epsom, says Thomson, though recent purchasing levels have reached as high as US$11 million.
As for rental yields in the area, depending on the area and suburb, second-home buyers can typically expect an apartment in the Central Business District to have returns between 4 and ten percent.
"Residentially you might be looking at a net return around five or six per cent", says Rachel Dovey, Residential Manager of Bayleys International New Zealand.
Migration to New Zealand also positively affects the property market. Estimates published by the Auckland City Council indicate that net migration to the city increased by 10 per cent in 2008-2009, and this is set to continue.
"The market in Auckland is influenced by immigration. We [also see] impact from expatriates returning home with pounds in their pocket", Thomson says.
Buyers from the Asian market are predominantly Singaporean, but given the recent relaxation of immigration regulations, there is a prediction of growth from the Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong markets.
"The Chinese are a strong community for us in New Zealand," Thomson says. According to Rachel Dovey, Chinese buyers typically like suburban properties in areas like Epsom, Remuera, Meadowbank and Howick.
Roughly an hour away from Auckland by plane, Wellington - or ‘Windy Wellington' as it is known by locals - is the capital city and third most populous urban area of New Zealand.
The birthplace of renowned writer Katherine Mansfield, this city is home to a variety of architectural styles, from 19th century wooden cottages and streamlined Art Deco structures to post-modern architecture in the Central Business District.
In 2008, exclusive end property in Wellington declined in price by almost 20 per cent and erosion in rental yields between 2004 and 2007 meant that positive cash flow property investments disappeared.
However, reports indicate the trend is slowly improving, with low interest rates making buy-to-let investments an attractive option.
Harcourts figures for the Wellington area indicate a six per cent increase in price in Exclusive Listing sector between 2008 and 2009. Areas such as the Lambton precinct are particularly sought after.
"The property market in Wellington is quite confined and as there is this significant connection to the government, there are a lot of commuters", Thomson comments. With excellent restaurants, leisure pursuits and amenities within walking distance, the area proves a great choice for the second-home buyer.
Other prime spots include Queenstown, in the Southland area of Otago, which is surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of crystal clear Lake Wakatipu.
The town was allegedly named after a local gold-digger exclaimed that it was ‘fit for Queen Victoria'.
The area is also fit for the ultimate retreat, offering easily accessible hiking, golfing and skiing, sumptuous lake views and giving wine connoisseurs a chance to enjoy the best of New Zealand's internationally renowned wineries, including the famed Gibson Valley.
Buyers can expect to pay between US$1.5 and US$2.2 million for villas and townhouses in Queenstown. "Many expatriate Kiwis return here for holidays, and we have a lot of interest from the Hong Kong and Singapore markets", says Browns Sotheby's International Realty's representative from the Queenstown office, Julian Brown.
More and more architectural offices are opening in Queenstown, offering a mixture of contemporary styles. Most of them incorporate a lot of natural timber and ‘schist' stone.
"An empty ten-acre plot of land would cost approximately US$900,000, and with this in mind, imaginative home makers are seeking to add their individual mark to New Zealand soil" says Brown. "Compared with resorts in the U.S, for example, this represents remarkable value for money."
Brown continues, "In the high end of the land-purchasing market I think interest will grow in 2010. Unlike Australia, we have no land tax, no capital gains tax and no stamp duty.
As a property investment, it is quite unique. I also don't think that such a beautiful living environment can be found elsewhere."
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