Archive | Apartments

Multi-unit – there is a future

Published 23 October 2005

Seminars often present an array of views which aren’t easily joined together into a coherent article, so from 2 Property Council events in the past fortnight I’ve presented ideas & quotes which would be lost if I waited to complete more definitive articles.

This page is from 2 of the speakers at the Property Council’s annual multi-unit dinner on 12 October. The other is from the Property Council’s investment seminar on 20 October.

Many of the points made here cry out for additional information. You may want to use the Discussion forum to discuss aspects of the material below, or send me an email:

Chris Aiken, chief executive of Kitchener Group Ltd:

Big Australian trusts will enter the apartment market
We think there’s demand for 1800 units/year
Immigration is down, but so is supply
Supply is about to fall off a cliff – 600 were lost in the last few weeks
Investors’ love affair with yields continues
The Australians love our low-cost apartments, so do the English & Americans.
There’s plenty of primary & secondary funding.

We thought the apartment size controls (introduced by Auckland City Council) were timely, but there are hundreds of units in the city which are problems, not thousands.

Mr Aiken highlighted the 7 Cs from the Urban Design Protocol – 7 essential design qualities that create quality urban design: Context, character, choice, connections, creativity, custodianship & collaboration. The Ministry for the Environment’s website says they’re a combination of design processes & outcomes which:

provide a checklist of qualities that contribute to quality urban design
are based on sound urban design principles recognised & demonstrated throughout the world
explain these qualities in simple language, providing a common basis for discussing urban issues & objectives
provide core concepts to use in urban design projects & policies, and
can be adapted for use in towns & cities throughout New Zealand.

We think there will be significantly more multi-unit development in the next 5 years. We see a dramatic reduction in supply of affordable units and you will see shortages drive up rents.

Good-quality existing apartments will increase in value.

The cbd will become unaffordable for lower-paid service workers.

We’re responsible for up to 10% of the middle market, and we wouldn’t have built any under the new rules.

The focus has shifted away from the investor to the owner-occupier, $750,000-plus.

Early-stage planning is critical. We now make our margin pretty much only when we buy land.

We’ve learned a lot about our craft by getting involved in the urban design process.

We need to build our balance sheet because this is a capital-intensive environment. Where it used to cost $60,000 to get through a resource consent, it costs 10 times that now.

Jonathan Woodhams, Blue Chip NZ Ltd general manager:

Underpinning the residential investment market, the country is moving away from state subsidies, and the growing affluence of societies wanting to look after themselves is a key driver for the industry.

We’re seeing growing professionalism in design, whether a project is viable. We will manage and participate in all aspects, before resource consent if we can. We’re now planners, we’re developers from the start, we’re responsible for seeing that the investment people make is well managed.

People are taking cuts at all stages. You will see commercial project managers turn into residential project managers, and funders come in demanding a lot more say in the industry.

This year we’re predicting we will sell 800 residential units, and probably 500 apartments will be in that mix.

The market is highly stratified, not well reported on. One thing the industry has cottoned on to is what tenants do want.

An extra half million people coming into Auckland aren’t going to be able to be housed in single-storey dwellings. There is a realisation that what people 2 generations ago didn’t consider accommodation (apartments) is going to be the means of keeping Auckland inside its boundaries.

About 2 thirds of Aucklanders will be renting in 25 years. If you are looking to rent your requirements will be different – we look for an entirely different property when we look for a tenant. For security, multi-unit development is very attractive.

How we meet that demand is a significant challenge to us – about making housing liveable, not necessarily affordable, and there will have to be a balance struck. You will see project managers checking for weathertightness guarantees, guarantees that last beyond settlement, and in 10 years there will be 2-3 managers (apart from Housing NZ) who will be responsible for 3-5000 units.

Yes, our love affair with yields will continue and apartments will form a significant part of residential accommodation.

We see retirees, farmers, people wanting to get ahead investing in the market. They’re not fly-by-nighters, they’re looking to create long-term investments. They are a growing, affluent investment group that will be looking for returns, and returns of 100% over 8 years. They’re looking for yield, and that’s based on having a property people want to rent.

In terms of growth, Auckland remains one of the largest centres in Australasia. There is still significant demand for new properties to be built.

There’s a question of what councils are going to allow to be rezoned, and how. The other key trend is urbanisation – the way Aucklanders live is going to be different.

Website: Ministry for the Environment, 7 Cs


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Trass says cbd apartment values will plummet in next year

Published 22 September 2005

The stage is set for Auckland‘s cbd apartments to fall in value by up to 40% by the end of 2006,” Hybrid Group managing director Kieran Trass said today.

Hybrid specialises in services for residential property investors and Mr Trass, who’s worked in property for 20 years as an investor, financier & advisor, says he practises what he preaches, using the same property investment strategies he promotes through the Hybrid Group.

One of his investment guides is the quarterly Hybrid Hotspots Report, on where to invest in property and he recently published Grow rich with the property cycle.

In a market commentary today, he said:

Great caution must be exercised if you are considering buying into this falling market. If you buy too soon you may suffer from “catching a falling knife” as values continue to fall after your purchase. It is obviously dangerous to catch a knife before it hits the ground and buying into Aucklands cbd apartment market right now is equivalent to catching a falling knife.

Auckland’s cbd apartment values are already falling due to a combination of factors, including a severe oversupply, dwindling international student numbers, lack of demand from tenants & subsequently plummeting returns. Now may look like a great time to buy into this distressed market as apartments can be bought at prices much lower than their inflated asking prices, but caution in any distressed market is wise.There is literally a flood of supply of apartments available to buy or rent, which is resulting in a distressed market. The number of apartments in the cbd has nearly doubled from that of just 2 years ago.

 We have seen an increase to over 12,000 completed apartments in Auckland’s cbd, plus another 4000 are under construction, plus another 3000 are planned to be constructed in the next few years. But there are an estimated minimum of 2000 apartments on the market for sale now and this figure could increase within 18 months to more than 5000 (the equivalent of 25% of Auckland’s entire cbd apartment stock).The current oversupply is having a detrimental effect on the level of achievable rents & sale prices. One example of falling rents is a studio apartment in central Auckland whose owners were originally achieving $350/week just over a year ago but had to reduce the rent to $200, to secure a tenant for just 3 months.

 Studios of around 30m², which were originally being sold for around $150,000, are now only worth about $100,000, if you are lucky. Local buyers have all but dried up, as increasing local concern about the ever-increasing dire state of the apartment market has become more apparent.

 Many banks only lend 50% of the purchase price of small apartments and some refuse to lend on them at all. Many large apartment projects are still under construction, accounting for several thousand more apartments yet to hit the market, which will continue to impact on achievable rental levels & sale prices. Some developers are offering “discounts” for buying off the plans, but these “discounted prices” will most likely still be higher than what the apartments are worth upon completion.Many apartments were sold off the plans in the last few years whilst being promoted on the strength of the strong influx of international students who needed suitable accommodation. There has, however, been a dramatic reduction in the number of international students choosing to study in New Zealand over the last 2 years.

 Student numbers down, Chinese numbers way down

Recent Department of Labour statistics reveal new student levels have dropped from 30,486 in 2003 to just 17,488 in 2005. Many of these students were being accommodated in Auckland’s cbd, within close proximity of many language schools, several of which have since closed. Even more alarming is the large reduction in Chinese student numbers from 14,100 in 2003 to 2,700 in 2005. Many of these students were located in and around Auckland’s cbd. Every day the pool of apartment owners increases as buildings are being completed. So seeking tenants amongst a dwindling pool of potential tenants continues to get harder. Some apartment owners are now offering rent holidays or free trips overseas if tenants will sign up for just a 6-month rental term, and this is attracting tenants who already live in the cbd occupying older or inferior apartments. The short-term prospects for Auckland’s apartment market look grim as the stage is set for the oversupply of apartments & the undersupply of tenants to continue. Many buyers who purchased off the plans are trying to sell their apartments before completion but to no avail, as potential buyers are few & far between at current prices.

Website: Hybrid Group


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Oil prices may boost inner-city living again, Cairns Lockie suggests

Published: 26 August 2005

High oil prices may make inner-city apartments more popular, Cairns Lockie Ltd partners William Cairns & James Lockie suggest in their latest newsletter.

In a brief note entitled Will higher oil prices affect property? they suggest current higher oil prices may be permanent.

“It will be interesting to see if this will affect where people want to own property. Back in the 1970s, during the last oil crisis, the older inner-city suburbs such as Ponsonby in Auckland & Newtown in Wellington did become more popular.

“There is a current move towards inner-city apartment living – a higher oil price may give this an added stimulus. It is much easier & cheaper to live in the city, walk to work and enjoy the restaurants rather than paying an increasing price for petrol.”

As an innovative property lender, Cairns Lockie also says it may no longer need a formal registered valuer’s report before approving a loan because council valuations are being updated.

“In a number of circumstances we are happy to approve the purchase of a new property without the need for a formal registered valuer’s report. Later this year a number of council valuations are being updated. Most have not been done since 2002 and many properties have risen substantially since then. This will enable us to use more council valuations when we are being asked to refinance other lenders’ mortgages. This is good news for our borrowers as it will save both time & money.”

Website: Cairns Lockie


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Action closer on unit titles review

Published: 7 June 2005

A reference group the Department of Building & Housing has appointed to evaluate submissions on the Unit Titles Act will hold its first meeting on Friday 10 June, when it will identify key issues, evaluate dispute resolution models and consider overseas comparisons & body corporate models.

The Property Council mentioned that point in its latest newsletter, while law firm Alexander Dorrington, in its latest newsletter, went on to discuss some of the changes suggested in the review of the act.

It expects the act to rein developers in, particularly on contentious matters such as appointing property managers under long-term agreements so the new body corporate can’t make its choices.

Alexander Dorrington also expects a high degree of consumer protection – compulsory sinking funds and requirements for bodies corporate to have trust accounts.

Also on the review agenda are:

broader disclosure statements by developers for buyers
review of the way unit titles are created – the boundary definition might be changed and the method of measurement might be more tightly prescribed
relative values might be reconsidered to calculate unit entitlements
the cost of some common property, such as lifts, mightn’t be borne by all owners
developers might become liable for a share of body corporate costs while they continue to hold units, and
different types of development might have different types of body corporate.

Alexander Dorrington also mentioned that the Law Commission’s proposal for mandatory conversion of cross-lease schemes within 10 years was still live.

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Remaining VicCentral units on market

Published: 17 February 2005

Remaining units in the VicCentral student accommodation block on The Terrace in Wellington are being marketed by the Entrepreneurs Success Centre Ltd, still at the price when the development opened in mid-2004.

According to the Gillies & Mark Real Estate Ltd website, 30 of the 97 apartments have been sold.

The project was a joint venture between EdPac Consortium Ltd & AMP Capital Investors NZ Ltd’s property ventures unit, formed in 2003 with former Property For Industry Ltd manager Peter Alexander as its manager.

EdPac VicCentral Ltd is the lessee, on a 17-year lease to coincide with a Victoria University accommodation agreement. EdPac’s management fee is 6.5% of gross rental, with a performance incentive kicking in when the guaranteed return ends in December 2008, calculated on an increase in net income over a CPI-adjusted base.

Units are priced from $94-196,000 ($4820-5600/m². Rents are the same on every floor, with an 8% guarantee to the end of 2008. Parking spaces are priced at $25,000 plus gst.

During the university vacation the building is turned into the Orange Apartments, leased on a nightly basis.

The units are made up of 71 studios (19.5m² on average), 17 doubles (28m² average) & 9 2-beddies (35m² average).

Edpac Consortium Ltd (Erne Joyce & John White) is owned by Edpac Holdings Ltd. On formation in 2002, Edpac Consortium’s shareholders were Heather & Mark Ware, AMR Holdings Ltd, John White & Erne Joyce (50%).

Edpac Holdings’ owners include Mr Joyce (25%), Mr White & AMR (17% each), Heather & Mark Ware 8% each.

Edpac VicCentral Ltd, formed in 2003 as Edpac House Ltd, is owned by Edpac Holdings Ltd.

The Edpac website describes it as the Education Property Accommodation & Care Consortium, formed in 2002 to respond to the specific requirements of educational institutions in New Zealand for quality student accommodation and professional student care & support. It aims to provide turnkey student accommodation.

Education Plus NZ Ltd (EdPlus) was formed in 2002 by Mark & Heather Ware, Philip McCaw & John White, with AMR also a shareholder. It’s dedicated to helping international students adjust to living in a foreign country and supporting them throughout their stay.

AMR Holdings Ltd (Richard Abbott, Philip McCaw, Ian Miller & Mark Richter) was an investor whose shareholders put it into liquidation on 19 January – substantially in the black, with assets of $3.9 million, net equity of $2.54 million.

Mr Joyce, of Waikanae, heads Joyce Group Ltd, New Zealand’s largest independent specialised building quality assurance company, and is also a director of AAA Design Ltd, Carm Holdings Ltd, Edpac Holdings Ltd, Edpac Management Ltd, Edpac Securities Ltd, Edpac SG Ltd, Edpac SGA Ltd, Edpac Ventures Ltd, Edpac VicCentral Ltd, EDPS Ltd, Ensor Partnership Ltd, EP Nelson Ltd, Greece Holdings Ltd, Joyce Group Holdings Ltd, Italy Properties Ltd, Joyce Projects Ltd, Nationwide Building Certifiers Ltd (which ceased trading in 2002 and was wound up last November), Nationwide Building Certifiers Group Ltd (which went into receivership as Nationwide Building Certifiers went into liquidation), NBC Whitianga Ltd, Orange Apartments Ltd, Orchard Block Ltd, Resource Management & Planning Ltd, Plan Processing Services Ltd, Southern Cross Apartments Ltd, Southern Cross Holdings Ltd, St Marc Group Ltd, SX Developments Ltd & Vorstermans & Associates Architecture Ltd (which is working on the Village at the Park proposal for Athletic Park).

EDPS Ltd is a joint venture between Edpac Consortium (40%) & Dongsheng Lifeng NZ Education Holding Co Ltd (60%), owned by petroleum & oilfield companies in Dongying City, Shandong Province, China.

Mr White is a director of Edpac Consortium Ltd, Edpac Holdings Ltd, Edpac Management Ltd, Edpac Securities Ltd, Edpac SG Ltd, Edpac SGA Ltd, Edpac Ventures Ltd, Edpac VicCentral Ltd, Education Plus NZ Ltd, EJ Developments Ltd, EP Nelson Ltd, EPNP1 Ltd, Irish Lands Ltd, Italy Properties Ltd, Nationwide Building Certifiers Group Ltd, Orange Apartments Ltd, Orchard Block Ltd, Southern Cross Apartments Ltd, Southern Cross Holdings Ltd, Southern Cross Warranty Ltd & Whitcom Ltd.

Websites: VicCentral

Entrepreneurs Success Centre/Richmastery

Joyce Group


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City gets more stringent apartment soundproofing tests

Poor soundproofing inside apartment buildings has been a bugbear for many occupants throughout the dozen or so years of Auckland’s apartment boom. Now the city council is doing something about it – for new developments.

The council has introduced a testing system to check soundproofing in apartment walls & floors, replacing the visual assessment inspectors previously relied on, principal building officer Bob de Leur said.

The specialist equipment will measure the transmission of sound through walls & floors. Testing will be carried out by specialist inspector Bob Russell, and the soundproofing testing reports may be used to assure potential buyers that apartments meet the new requirements.

“This testing regime will lay the ground for the proposed higher minimum standards which may be introduced next year. If apartment developments are failing at this stage they will be certain to fail next year under the new, more stringent criterion, unless standards are improved,” Mr de Leur said.

He said the council was committed to working with developers to ensure they pass the soundproofing tests and would take an information-sharing approach with soundproofing engineers & suppliers. But the council’s soundproofing test requirements will be written into new building consents, so it’s more than a matter of guidance.

Code compliance certificates won’t be issued on buildings that fail the final soundproofing tests. Any new developments failing testing will need to have their walls & floors reinforced until they comply with the testing standards.

Mr de Leur said developers who enlisted the services of soundproofing engineers during the design & construction phases of development might face a lighter final random testing regime. This would be at the discretion of the council & contracted inspectors.

“Privacy & soundproofing are important to everyone living in the city. As our city changes we want to ensure we are accommodating the needs of all residents & business owners. With closer inspection of construction methods we can ensure that Auckland remains a very liveable city,” Mr de Leur said.

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BIS Shrapnel says Sydney apartment vacancies peak, supply dwindling, real growth 4 years away

Leading Australian research firm BIS Shrapnel Pty Ltd has concluded that vacancy rates in the Sydney inner-city apartment market have peaked.

BIS Shrapnel released the 5th edition of its Inner Sydney Apartments, 2004 -08 report today.

Senior project manager Angie Zigomanis said the conclusion that vacancies had peaked was based on 2003-04 being the peak year for completions.

Rents had become static or weakened and investor demand for off-the-plan apartments declined as the prospects of capital gains similar to recent years diminished.

Mr Zigomanis expected rental growth to remain nonexistent in the short-term, until vacancy rates fall to more balanced levels.

He said BIS Shrapnel anticipated the existing excess of rental apartments would be fully absorbed within 18-24 months. The city would continue to have a strong foreign student population and the inner-city workforce would continue to grow, attracting young professionals to the inner-city rental market.

“This will underpin strong rental growth beginning to emerge in 2005-06,” he said.

Mr Zigomanis anticipated that a weakening economy & rising interest rates would further damage investor sentiment & kill off any recovery in prices, despite investor fundamentals improving with low vacancy rates & the re-emergence of rental growth.

“In this environment, prices are still expected to fall 10% over 2006-07 & 2007-08,” he said.

Investors make up 60% of market

Analysis carried out for the study showed 60% of owners were investors, 21% owner-occupiers under 45 & 19% owner-occupiers over 45, and the drivers of each group were different.

“While investor owners will closely watch the movements of vacancies & prices before purchasing, younger owner-occupiers, who are typically comprised of professionals on relatively high salaries, will make a decision to purchase independent of the stage of the economic cycle.

“On the other hand, older owner-occupiers are more likely to be empty nesters downgrading to an inner-city apartment and will be driven by the price they can get for their detached home. Consequently, they will make a decision to purchase during an upturn in the Sydney residential cycle, when they are most likely to find a ready market for their existing property.”

The stock of inner-Sydney dwellings in apartment buildings 3 storeys or greater has doubled during the past 7 years to an estimated 43,300 dwellings at June 2004.

3800 dwellings were completed in 2003-04, and the research indicated new apartment supply was declining – 3000 apartments to be completed in 2004-05, then 2850 in 2005-06. “These completions are largely the result of solid off-the-plan sales made up to 2002-03, as investors avoided the weaker equities market and placed their funds into the more strongly performing residential property market.

“However, pre-sales of apartments began easing in 2003-04 as vacancy rates rose and investors found the prospect for rental returns & capital gains diminished. This will translate into a sharper decline in apartment completions after 2005-06. A continued weakening in the off-the-plan purchaser market will see new apartment completions continue to decline up to 2007-08.”

Mr Zigomanis said tenant demand in 2003-04 was unable to absorb the additional rental stock of inner-Sydney apartments completed during the period, causing vacancy rates to peak. However, the expected fall in new apartment completions and improving tenant demand would see the vacancy rate start to decline & approach balance during 2005-06, followed by a deficiency of rental stock emerging in 2007-08.

He expected the current oversupply would prevent rental growth until then, but tightening of the market after that would underpin strong rental growth. Overall, rents are forecast to rise by an average 3.6%/year over the 4 years to June 2008, although little growth would be apparent in the first 2 years of this period.

However, high interest rates (forecast to exceed 9% during 2006) & the subsequent economic downturn from 2006-07 would prevent the rental growth translating into stronger prices.

Mr Zigomanis predicted real growth in the inner-Sydney apartment market wouldn’t resume until 2008-09, when emerging strong rental growth, receding interest rates & returning investor confidence would set the scene for a very strong upturn in inner-city apartment sales and prices.

The lag between off-the-plan purchasing, recovering in 2009, meant new supply wouldn’t be seen for another year or 2. Economic, rental & price growth should have gathered momentum that new supply began moderating prices, he said.

Website: BIS Shrapnel

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8500 apartments in cbd, 7970 more being built or planned

Recent completion of new projects has taken the Auckland central business district’s apartment inventory to just under 8500 units, Bayleys Research calculates in its latest count.

Another 4570 units are being built and 3200 more are proposed. (Example in photo is a Tony Tay block up Wakefield St).

The report was issued before the Bluewater consortium was confirmed as developer of the above-ground Britomart portfolio – 17 heritage buildings & 6 new structures, which will have about 25% of their space taken up by apartments. The number of units hasn’t been set.

The cbd’s apartment splurge began with conversion of redundant office space. But Bayleys Research said the recent proliferation of new purpose-built product had taken over, accounting for 62% of supply.

85% of apartments under construction or proposed will be residential (not service or student), but developments such as Unilodge on Beach, Columbia and Auckland Unicentre will grow the student sector by 56%.

Conversions of redundant office space began Auckland’s apartment boom and have continued to keep overall office vacancies in the cbd & cbd fringe at healthy levels. Bayleys Research calculates that 30 buildings were converted from 1991-97.

2 current conversions, both on Queen St and both by Greg Wilkinson, are of the Guardian Trust building into the Guardian Apartments and the 3rd apartment development in the Whitcoulls block, the QVB Apartments above the Whitcoulls store on the corner of Victoria St.

Website: Bayleys                                                     Weekly residential apartment rentals:





1 bed


2 bed


3 bed





1 bed


2 bed


3 bed









Source: Bayleys Property Management Services

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Hudson starts Hyatt Residences with 18 units to sell

$5200/m² units make development highly competitive

Hudson NZ Ltd has 18 apartments still to sell out of 111 in the Hyatt Residences development, to be built between the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Waterloo Quadrant and the Princes Court building on the Princes St/Eden Crescent corner, but has started work in earnest.

The company has hired Walter Construction for the project, Walter’s second in Auckland. The first was the tunnel into Britomart — where it was to have been the main contractor under the previous development arrangement canned by the Auckland City Council in November 1999. Walter is also on the shortlist for the Quay Park arena and Queen St station projects.

Walter comes to New Zealand through Australia, where the German construction group Walter Bau AG took over Concrete Construction.

The Residences (right) will become an integral part of the 273-room Hyatt Regency hotel (left), which the Savoy group and Hudson Investments Ltd of Australia bought for $40 million in a joint venture in 1999. Savoy subsequently sold its interest to Hudson.

Demolition starts

Demolition of the Hyatt ballroom floor began on Friday to make way for the new building, which will have three levels built below ground and 17 above.
Hudson NZ chief executive John Dalzell said Walter won the contract through the speed it was able to pick up by building both upwards and below the ground-floor slab simultaneously (top down construction).

They need to be quick — completion of the first 50 suites is scheduled for October 2002, to enable an America’s Cup syndicate to move in. The rest are scheduled for completion a month later.

The next piece of demolition will be the display suite balcony on the first floor of the Princes Court building, a saw-tooth design which has been changed to a rounded style which gives more deck space.

Prices for remaining units range from about $347,000 for an 81m² one-beddie to $614,000 for a fully furnished two-beddie. The two-bedroom units range from 118-147m².

Marketing project manager Jillian Clarke said about 15% of the units had been bought locally, with another 5% taken up by expatriates.

One reason for their popularity was the price/m², which was highly competitive at a top rate of $5200/m² fully furnished. Metropolis, by comparison, ranged from $7800-8800/m², and Viaduct properties such as the Quays, Sebel and The Point were about $5800-6000/m².

The classified Eden Hall building at the foot of the 11,000m² hotel & development site will also be refurbished after use by Walter Construction as a project base.

Related stories:

Savoy chairman outlines company’s parlour state

Hyatt Residences launch

Savoy Group, first Residences description

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Building company failures a worry for off-the-plans market

Development trend towards suburbs, says Toogood

The collapse of building companies has raised concern about the viability of developments, particularly in the apartment market. Bayleys apartment marketing specialist Phil Toogood told the Property Council’s market preview breakfast on 21 February it had to make it harder to sell off the plans, which had become customary for new projects.

“In Australia they have the backing and experience to build first and sell later. It is going to get very difficult if we don’t address those issues.”

Central Auckland ended 2000 with 6000 residential units, 6500 residents, 70% up on 1996. Mr Toogood said the focus of apartment development had moved to the suburbs, terraced housing was moving out to the second circle of suburbs, and the inner-city secondary market reflected quality of product.

“The owner-occupier market is maturing in the $400,000-plus range.”

Mr Toogood said in the early days “45-plus people bought for investment. Now it’s owner-occupiers.”

Future developments would be concentrated on arterial routes and be 4-5 storeys high, larger floor areas — and with play areas.

Other Property Council preview addresses: Retail: Eden Quarter

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