International Real Estate: House Hunting in . . . Auckland, New Zealand
Down the hall from the foyer, a lounge opens through sliding doors to a sandstone tile terrace with an in-ground pool, spa and barbecue. Also on the foyer level is a bedroom, a study, a bathroom with a shower, another bathroom with a Swedish-style sauna, a laundry room and access to a two-car garage.
Wall-to-wall glass sliders in the third-floor master bedroom open to east- and north-facing balconies. The private full-floor suite also includes a study and a spa bath with black and gray marble, a free-standing tub and a separate shower.
The house is in the upscale seaside suburb of Glendowie, a four-minute drive from a picturesque beach and a waterfront promenade with cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques in nearby St. Heliers village, Mr. Robson said. Downtown Auckland is a 15-minute drive on 30 m.p.h. roads; the Auckland airport is a 35-minute drive.
Auckland is “going through a building boom,” said Ross Hawkins, a salesman with New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty, noting that at the moment you can count 40 or so construction cranes on the skyline.
The past year was “one of the most buoyant markets” since the global financial crisis of 2008, Mr. Hawkins said, adding that it was helped by low interest rates, a growing economy, a stable government and an influx of expatriates returning from Australia, as well as the general feeling that New Zealand is a “safe haven well away from the Northern Hemisphere issues.”
As Mr. Robson observed, “The number of Brits has doubled since Brexit. The number of people from the U.S. with inquiries in the first month after the election was seven times the normal inquiry rate.”
New Zealanders moving from smaller towns and country locations to Auckland, the main city center, for work, as well as empty nesters and baby boomers seeking a “lock-up-and-leave lifestyle” are boosting the apartment market, Mr. Hawkins said. Among the luxury buildings under construction is the International, a 17-story, 88-unit structure wrapped in a white steel exoskeleton; prices for some of the three-bedrooms there top $6.7 million.
According to year-end data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, Auckland’s $830,000 median sales price from January through November 2016 rose 11 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, while the number of sales decreased 12 percent; days on the market increased 10 percent compared with that of a year earlier, to 33 days. And Auckland’s luxury market — anything above three million New Zealand dollars — “has seen some significant growth in the last two years,” said Mark Harris, a managing director at New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty.
Demand is hottest in the central business district and nearby suburbs (like Parnell, Remuera and Orakei to the east of the city) and near the beaches (Herne Bay, St. Marys Bay and Ponsonby to the west). Buyers “are looking for high-quality homes with good-size land and views over our stunning harbor and beaches,” Mr. Harris said.
Between 75 and 78 percent of homes are sold by auction. “You get people in a room fighting each other to buy a property,” Mr. Robson said. “In a rising market, it is good for the vendors.”
WHO BUYS IN AUCKLAND
The majority of foreign buyers come from the United States, Australia and Canada, said Pete Hill, a research and support officer for the Overseas Investment Office of Land Information New Zealand. Buyers also hail from Britain, China and Germany, real estate agents said.
International buyers tend to prefer upscale seaside suburbs and coastal regions, like the Bay of Islands and Northland, Mr. Harris said. On South Island, the Queenstown Lakes District is popular with foreign buyers, including Americans, Mr. Hawkins said.
Legislation introduced in 2015 requires nonresident buyers to register with the county tax department, Mr. Robson said.
Buyers of “sensitive land,” including farmland that exceeds 12.3 acres, lots of more than an acre adjoining certain types of reserve or conservation areas and lots of more than half an acre adjoining tidal waterfront require approval from the Overseas Investment Office, Mr. Hill said, noting that residential lots are generally “a lot smaller.”
Overseas applicants must demonstrate how the transaction “may benefit New Zealand,” including, in some cases, how that benefit is “substantial and identifiable.”
Acquiring more-urban Auckland property is “generally very relaxed and straightforward,” Mr. Hawkins said, though local banks may require a deposit of 20 to 30 percent from overseas buyers who want a mortgage.
Home sales close quickly, usually within 30 days, and occasionally as few as nine, Mr. Robson said. The real estate agent “has to do a lot of due diligence” and draws up the contract, which is then overseen by a lawyer.
New Zealand tourism: newzealand.com
Auckland tourism: aucklandnz.com
Auckland real estate listings: realestate.co.nz
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY
English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language; New Zealand dollar (1 New Zealand dollar = $0.70)
TAXES AND FEES
The real estate commission of 2.6 to 2.8 percent is paid by the seller, but the buyer’s legal fees can run from about $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the mortgage. Taxes on this property are 7,203.96 New Zealand dollars (or $4,989.93) for the current year.
Robbie Robson, Harcourts Charlton Realty; 011-64-21-840-208; charltonrealty.harcourts.co.nz
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