Key's $20m mansion sale great timing for him, not so much for English

In politics, timing can be everything.
Sir John Key and Max Key in one of the many Max Key mansion-selfies posted to his Instagram account

The Key family mansion, featured in so many bling-bling Instagram posts by Max Key, has reportedly been sold for $20 million.

It went to a buyer from China.

The Parnell home (763 sq m house,1650 sq m land) had a 2014 CV of $13 million.

Since that date, Parnell valuations have risen 34.1%, the NZ Herald. That would give the house a more current valuation of around $17.5 million, not including improvements.

Since tracking of foreign buyers was introduced, it's been revealed that they are not making a material impact on the Auckland housing market (or, at least, that they are adept at workarounds). And the Keys have previously said they would downsize as empty nesters.

Still, the timing of this sale, the huge gain and the nature of the buyer all amount to another headache for Bill English at a time he least needs one. In the jargon of Campaign 2017, the optics are terrible.

Conversely, the optics are great for Labour, which has been hinting at a land tax or CGT (although ironically, the Key mansion family home would not have attracted any tax under an Ardern regime, given one of the few solid promises the new Labour leader has made is that her tax working group will not touch gains on a family home, or the land it sits on. Still, details, details).

The date of the sale is not clear

To be charitable to Sir John, it was almost certainly initiated back when Labour was paddling around 23% in the polls. But even at that stage, National faced the near-certainty of post-election negotiations with the xenophobic NZ First, and would want to go into them from as commanding a position of strength as possible. Should Winston Peters, who has been largely AWOL this week, make a sudden reappearance today, he will no doubt make hay. So will Labour's housing spokesman, Phil "Chinese-sounding names" Twyford.

And while Mr English might have much preferred Mr Key close his mansion sale until after September 23, the former PM might have had one eye on a Labour government's potential impact on Auckland house pricing — and then decided to get a wriggle on.

Related video: Simon Dallow's indepth interview with Bill English (Sept 8)

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