The Post

Property obsessed ‘mixing fact and opinion’: realtor

- CATHERINE HARRIS

THE outgoing head of Harcourts New Zealand is concerned that parts of the New Zealand media have not served the public well in their coverage of property stories.

Hayden Duncan has decided that after 51⁄2 years, it’s time for new blood at the helm of the New Zealand branch of the real estate group.

However, he’s not leaving the company, but rather moving to Canada where he’ll spearhead Harcourts’ entry into that market.

He’ll continue to watch the New Zealand market with interest.

‘‘I don’t think anyone could tell you what’s going to happen in the next few years.’’

But he also leaves with concern about the way parts of the media have played their part in the property sector.

The media, he says, ‘‘have swung considerab­ly to opinion-based pieces rather than facts’’.

‘‘And the reality is, I think most Aucklander­s now – most New Zealanders – aren’t aware of the difference between a reporter’s opinion and when they’re basing an article around facts.

‘‘The articles a month ago saying the market was slowing in Auckland were just simply not supported by independen­t data.’’

He feels the media has become too sensationa­l, rather than giving New Zealanders ‘‘the facts and allowing them to make up their own minds as to what that means’’.

Of greater concern to him has been the media debate about Asians stoking the Auckland property market.

‘‘Our focus on race-based commentary is, I think, a dangerous thing for a country like New Zealand.

‘‘We’re a country made up of other countries so the reality is, I think we need to be very careful that we don’t start heading down a very dangerous track and starting to think that race-based reporting or commentary is something that’s actually okay.’’

The public’s obsession with house values, is in some respects, unjustifie­d, he says. Property prices over the long-term tend to double every seven or eight years, regardless, and the headlines are always the same.

‘‘Back in 2007, if you went back and compared headlines, where they said house prices are overvalued, they’re going to have to come back by 20 or 30 per cent and all those sorts of things, well, if you go back to 2003 people were saying the same thing then.

‘‘Values will continue to go up because we live in an inflationa­ry world. The cost of your groceries has probably increased more than the percentage on houses.’’

Those sort of increases, he agrees, puts pressure on buyers, particular­ly first home buyers ‘‘but buying your first home has never been easy’’.

‘‘It does take discipline, it takes saving and I think we need to acknowledg­e that to own a home is a privilege not a right.

‘‘There’s lots of people who are buying first homes still, so I don’t share the same concerns as what the mainstream view is through the media.’’

For those who question Duncan’s price doubling theory, a quick look at the Reserve Bank’s website is enlighteni­ng.

The bank has an index based on house valuations, and it shows that it was on 100 in the last quarter of 1987.

At the start of 2015, it sat at 791, indicating that house values have risen nearly 800 per cent in 26 years.

Of course, says Massey University finance expert associate professor David Tripe, that doesn’t factor in other value-boosting factors, such as the ever expanding floorprint of Kiwi houses or an increase in quality.

And he doubts that the property cycle is quite as short as seven years.

But it certainly puts some grunt behind Duncan’s statement.

Canada is a brave new market for Harcourts. Over there, the sellers’ and the buyers’ agents split the fee.

That’s something that would be novel here and Duncan feels there are other elements to that market which lack transparen­cy.

‘‘They don’t auction. The idea of a good sale is a quick sale,’’ he says.

He’s trusting the New Zealand company will be able to prove its merits, through its selling techniques and technology.

Harcourts already operators in a number of other countries – China, Indonesia, Dubai, Fiji, Australia and South Africa.

The New Zealand-born company has grown substantia­lly since 2000 and has 4000 staff in New Zealand, 2500 of which are licensed salespeopl­e.

It manages 20,000 properties here and sells $13 billion worth of property in New Zealand a year.

So by any measure – volume, value or agent numbers – Duncan would argue Harcourts holds the title of the country’ s biggest real estate agency.

He feels he’s heart.

‘‘From a business point of view it’s important to leave something, not necessaril­y when you feel like it’s time to go, but when it’s at its best.’’

leaving

it

in good

 ??  ?? Harcourts chief executive Hayden Duncan believes the property market’s gyrations need to be viewed with a long-term eye.
Harcourts chief executive Hayden Duncan believes the property market’s gyrations need to be viewed with a long-term eye.

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