Real estate booming in Kawerau

Date published: August 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Comments

Forget Auckland, Queenstown is not even close and you can count out Hamilton and Tauranga.

The current real estate hotspot is the small Bay of Plenty milling town of Kawerau. Prices have skyrocketed by 41 percent in the past year.

It’s hard to comprehend when, according to the 2013 Census, the population is just over 6000 people, the unemployment rate is 24.7 percent and the most common occupation is listed as ‘labourer’.

So who is buying and why?

Kawerau is cheap. Even with the massive jump, the average price is about $143,000. That buys a four-bedroom investment property in the cheaper part of town.

Local real estate agent from Realtycom, John Friis, says it’s not just investors buying.

“We are looking at semi-retirees and retirees; of course, we are the biggest motorhome town in NZ. We are also seeing a lot of younger people moving into Kawerau and commuting back to Rotorua, Whakatane and Tauranga for jobs.”

Mr Friis says his agent alone has sold about 80 homes in the past year, and that’s backed up by statistics from Quotable Value which show 280 residential sales were made in the 12 months leading up to July.

One of those who bought is Bill Marshall, who has just moved from Tauranga. Mr Marshall sold up for about $600,000 and bought for $225,000 so he could be mortgage free.

“I think there is a lot of people coming to Kawerau for that very reason – I have other friends who have done exactly the same.”

Jade Adams moved from Australia to be with family and actually get on the housing ladder. She has set up a small clothing boutique and coffee shop and says the housing market is a big talking point.

“To own a house was one of our goals and it was very easy to do in Kawerau,” Ms Adams said.

Kawerau has been through a boom and a bust recently. Leading up to the global financial crisis in 2007 prices doubled, then they fell by 40 percent.

Estate agent John Friis says the town is playing catch-up as its values have yet to recover to those 2007 levels.

Ashley Church from the Property Institute, which represents New Zealand property valuers, is sceptical the boom can continue.

“A 41 percent increase in Kawerau is unbelievable and unsustainable. It is not based on anything real, there is no population growth of any magnitude taking place in Kawerau, there is as far as I am away no increase in jobs , no great drive of economic growth which is creating new employment opportunities.”

Of course, locals beg to differ. Helen Stewart has worked at the Kawerau Enterprise Agency (KEA) for 14 years and been through the previous boom and bust.

“I think it will level off; I certainly don’t think we are going to go back down again, I think there is too much invested. I think there is also a lot of economic growth that the council has been working on and that KEA has been working on so there is a lot of work planned, there is an inland container port, and we have seen inquiries for industrial properties increase too.”

Mr Friis certainly hopes so. He’s just sold the most expensive house in town – 190 square metres on a 1800 square-metre section. Price: $449,000.

As the sign says in his window, new listings are urgently required.

Source: Newshub