The flow-on effect of housing policy

It has been three weeks since the Labour Government’s controversial housing policy announcement and the debate continues unabated on its merits and demerits. It has drawn mixed reactions from all sides—the first home buyers who are currently renting and the investors. For our contribution to the NZMJ Digest, continue on.

What is the nitty gritty of these housing measures announced on 23 March?

For investors:

  • The brightline test has doubled from 5 to 10 years—if a property is sold within 10 years, any capital gain will be subject to tax. New homes may be exempt but this is yet to be clarified.
  • A landlord cannot claim the interest cost as an expense of owning a rental property—this will be phased in over the next four years. Previously interest was a deductible expense.

For first home buyers who are eligible for the First Home Loan and Grant: 

  • There has been an increase in house price caps in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson/Tasman, Napier/Hastings, Waikato and Dunedin, with new builds seeing the highest increase. This will help these areas where access to a First Home Loan and Grant had become increasingly out of reach.
  • There has also been an increase in the income caps for both single first home buyers (to $95,000 p.a.) and more than 2 people ($150,000 p.a.).

I have been swamped with calls from my anxious clients who are investors and also from first home buyers eager to discuss how the policy changes will affect them.

First home buyers

The increased income caps and higher house price caps will certainly help more first home buyers to access the First Home Loan and Grant. First home buyers’ reactions have however been mixed, with some from regional centres being happy, and others from big cities wanting to have the house price caps match the realistic price tags in their cities.

The first home buyers have been asking me how their plans to save for the home deposit will be affected by rent increases, due to removal of interest deductibility. Though a possibility, any rent increases will most likely mirror the gradual phasing out of the interest deductibility over next four years.

For others they see this as a possible opportunity to buy sooner, as it is likely there will be fewer investors competing in the housing market. Though how long the investors will stay away from the markets will depend on the Government working out the details on allowing interest deductibility and the application of brightline test for newly built houses.

My advice to the first home buyers has been to stick to their current saving plan for deposit and seek advice if there is any material change to their financial position.

The investors

Investors’ immediate reaction has been of anger, confusion and despair. They never expected the Government would remove interest deductibility, as this is a legitimate expense that all other businesses are allowed to claim.

For many ‘Mum and Dad’ investors, owning a residential investment property has been an important part of their retirement plan. The removal of interest deductibility will have a serious impact on their bottom line for many, as this will delay their ability to become cash-flow positive, and they may have been relying on this income to part fund their retirement. This may lead to more investors needing to sell their investment property at retirement to realise any capital growth rather than holding for the long-term income.

Some of my investor clients have expressed that they will now look to sell their property as they do not have the extra cashflow to meet the higher tax expense, while others are looking to increase the rent to match their extra tax costs.

The situation is unique to each investor, and after working through their individual financial plans, the conclusion has been that there is no need for any immediate drastic action. Over the next few years my clients’ financial plans will need to be reviewed and adjusted along the way to ensure they remain on course to achieve their financial objectives and goals.

The impact

The noted economist Tony Alexander has just released his survey of real estate agents to gauge the effects of the housing policy announced two weeks ago. According to real estate agents, fewer people have been attending auctions and open homes and there has been a drop in the number of investors looking to buy. The number of first home buyers has also dropped since February 2021.

However, firm bidding at auctions over the past two weeks indicates that the prices are still holding up, which could be due to the first home buyer sentiment of FOMO (fear of missing out).

It helps to have your financial plans reviewed periodically by your financial adviser, especially when there are significant policy changes. Now is a great time to consult your financial adviser to assess how the policy changes will impact you and what action you need to take (if any!) to stay on course with your financial plans. As part of the NZMA Financial Services team, I am more than happy to discuss these matters with you and provide advice as to how you might best navigate these latest changes.

For more information, visit www.nzmafinancialservices.co.nz