Transfers of home ownership dropped to 26,265 in the March quarter – 44% below the level first measured, in the June 2016 quarter, and 30% down from a year ago.
When Statistics NZ launched the series in 2016, transfers exceeded 40,000/quarter (46,650 in the June quarter). But the number dived in the March 2017 quarter, to 33,690, exceeding 39,000 only in the June 2017 & 2018 quarters & December 2019 quarter.
The statistics measure some sensitivities relating to foreign ownership – signalling counts where there is at least one NZ citizen or holder of an NZ resident visa, and the now very low numbers of buyers & sellers where there is no NZ citizenship or residence visa.
But international real estate business Juwai IQI LP – formed last year from the China-based Juwai & Malaysia-based IQI – says the statistics disguise the extent of foreign ownership.
Juwai IQI executive chair Georg Chmiel said yesterday: “We consider a foreign buyer to be anyone on a resident visa or without such a visa. Stats NZ defines foreign buyers as only those who do not have a resident visa or a Kiwi passport.
“Foreign buyers [using the Juwai IQI method] accounted for a greater share of all transactions in the second quarter than at any time since the fourth quarter of 2018.
“The latest official data show that foreign buyers on resident visas or without such a visa accounted for 9.1% of all transactions in the June quarter. That is the biggest share since the December quarter of 2018. In December 2018, the foreign buyer share of home transfers was 10.4%.
“Despite the very difficult conditions, foreign buyers maintained their market share during the pandemic. It is all the more impressive given the travel restrictions & other obstacles they faced.”
NZ now way above US in passport popularity rankings
Mr Chmiel said New Zealand had become more attractive to foreign buyers —especially those from other parts of Asia & the Pacific — by virtue of its appealing leadership: “Deft pandemic management makes it look like a haven from global problems & turmoil. That adds to the traditional attractions of environmental quality, lifestyle & opportunities for English language education.
“The coronavirus has made the Kiwi passport more valuable than that of the US. The US used to rank 7th among the most valuable passports in the world. New Zealand did and still does rank 8th. But, due to its poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic & the resulting restrictions on international travel by Americans, the American passport has dropped in value to the level of Uruguay & Mexico.
“The US passport now ranks 28th in the world. The NZ passport ranks 21 positions better than the US passport, according to data from Henley & Partners, global immigration experts.
“Official & industry data reveal that Chinese buyers account for 31.3% of foreign buyer transactions in New Zealand, compared to 24.4% in Australia, 25.1% in the US & 21-50% in the different provinces of Canada.”
The official counts
Home transfers in the March quarter rose 4.9% from a year earlier to 33,279 (31,728).
In the June quarter, transfers fell 30%, from 37,695 to 26,265, but Statistics NZ said the proportion of transfers to people who didn’t hold NZ citizenship or a resident visa was steady at 0.4%.
The decrease began as the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown took effect on 26 March 2020 and eased as level 3 took effect on 28 April.
Statistics NZ said the proportion of home transfers to people who didn’t hold NZ citizenship or a resident visa had been between 0.4-0.6%/quarter since early 2019.
On Statistics NZ’s calculations, the number of buyers without NZ residency or citizenship was above 1000/quarter for 3 quarters until June 2018 but fell below 200/quarter a year ago, and dropped to 102 in the latest quarter. Sellers in that description of foreign fell to 243 in the June quarter (327 a year earlier).
In the latest count, Statistics NZ said the highest numbers of overseas buyers continued to focus on the Waitemata local board (Auckland inner city) & the Queenstown-Lakes district.
Henley & Partners, 7 July 2020: Premium passports lose their shine in a post-pandemic world
Henley passport index
Attribution: Statistics NZ release & tables, Juwai, Henley.