Hamilton housing market takes off

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2013
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Hamilton's five-year housing market drought looks to be over, with the real estate sector reporting almost unprecedented activity over the holiday break, and the first genuine optimism for rising sales volumes and steady prices in years.

Agencies are unanimous in their forecast for 2013: Sales volumes will steadily increase and the second-guessing will go out of prices - they will be steady and may lift in line with demand for houses.

Agents say the reason for their optimism is a turning tide of confidence among buyers, who are emboldened by continuing low interest rates, a realisation that prices are not going to fall any more, pent-up wishes to make a commitment, and generally a more positive economic outlook.

The improvement is manifesting itself in competition at auctions, solid open-home turnouts, and multiple offers, agents say. Hamilton section prices had fully recovered from their post-2007 downturn doldrums and were fuelling improving house prices, said Lugton principal David Lugton.

The year started with 921 listings, compared with 1130 in January last year.

Inquiries from the market and appraisals for sellers have kept many agents from their holidays, something agency principals say they cannot remember happening before, even before the economic crash of 2007.

No one expects the Hamilton property house market to heat up to the extent of Auckland's, but Bayleys regional manager Stephen Shale reckons that if Auckland prices keep getting stronger, Hamilton could be in line for some new residents who will be happy to pocket the big capital gains on offer, and find jobs in Waikato or take advantage of improved roading between the two cities to commute.

Another sign of new confidence is the entry of a new real estate agency. Prominent Bay of Plenty player Eves Realty opens in the city next week. Ross Stanway, chief executive of Eves operator, Realty Services Group, which also operates the Bayleys brand in the Waikato, said Eves' move was a vote of confidence in the Waikato economy and the Hamilton market.

Eves will be going head to head with dominant city agency Lodge, whose managing director Jeremy O'Rourke said the current market is "an equilibrium market", not favouring the buyer or the seller, but with strong competition in specific cityside areas like Hillcrest and Hamilton East for specific offerings.

Mr O'Rourke expects renewed buyer interest this year in other cityside suburbs, including Forest Lake, Maeroa Beerescourt, Woodstock and Claudelands.

"As stock decreases and sales increase, pressure is gently being applied to pricing. We would predict a general price rise across the market during the year."

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Mr Lugton expects monthly sales volumes to rise this year to 300 and more. In the market doldrums of recent years, monthly sales were around 160-170, moving above 200 late last year.

The post-global financial crisis Hamilton market low was the 2011 March quarter when only 431 houses sold.

Harcourts Hamilton principal Brian King said the market had "a completely different feel".

"It's a bit more solid. There's really good activity in the bottom to mid level market and strong inquiry. Anyone [seller] who is realistic will sell, but last year even those who were realistic, it made little difference."

Mr King classed $250,000 to $400,000 as "mid" price bracket.

Bayley's Mr Shale expects selling time to shrink in the improved market. Currently the average time to sell is 40-42 days.

In the 2007 boom it was 21 days.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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