Fewer houses on property market

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012

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Real estate agents say fewer people put their houses on the market this spring, despite firmer prices.

Figures out for October from Quotable Value show national house prices edged up 1.9 per cent on a three-month rolling average, to $420,048. That's 5.7 per cent higher than a year ago and 1.1 per cent higher than its peak.

QV said the usual upsurge in buyer interest had arrived late this spring but a lack of listings was holding things back.

First National general manager Colleen Milne agreed.

"We did a survey of our members and they said . . . people weren't selling their properties because they couldn't find anything to buy. But right across the country I'm getting reports of much more activity . . . now."

With more choice on the market, she thought prices might "level out a bit more".

QV said that although housing-short Auckland and Canterbury were still leading the market, there were signs that other main centres and provincial cities were also improving.

Prices in the wider Auckland region have risen 3.3 per cent over the last three months, and 9.2 per cent in the past year.

QV's Auckland operations manager, Kerry Stewart, said auctions were proving especially successful and there were signs that investors were returning to the market.

"Most [are] looking to on-sell relatively quickly as they try to capitalise on the quick growth," he said.

Values in the capital also improved marginally, up 0.6 per cent for the quarter, and 2.4 per cent for the year, as properties that had sat on the market over winter started to find buyers.

QV valuer Kerry Buckeridge said there was good interest in the city's southern and eastern suburbs and more listings of top-end properties, but few expensive sales.

"Generally the increased interest is not translating to increased values."

Quake-hit Christchurch continued to rise strongly, by 1.8 per cent in the last three months and 5.9 per cent for the year.

QV's data also showed many house prices had surpassed their previous peak in 2007 nationally, although fortunes varied widely around the country.

Auckland is 9.1 per cent above its peak price and Christchurch is 3.8 per cent higher.

House values in Selwyn and Timaru - areas which swelled after Christchurch's quake exodus - are up nearly 14 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

But the data is clear some areas have done vastly better than others.

In the central North Island town of Kawerau, for instance, property values are down 40 per cent from their peak, reflecting recent changes at the local mill.

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Napier properties were down 7.2 per cent from 2007, while central Hawke's Bay plummeted 20 per cent and Waikato values tumbled 19 per cent.

Values in the wider Wellington area fell 5.1 per cent but outlying country areas fared worse.

Masterton and south Wairarapa prices sagged 17 per cent, and Horowhenua fell 18 per cent but nearby Kapiti Coasters did better, down 6.8 per cent.

Popular Nelson values were up 0.4 per cent but vineyard-heavy Marlborough lost 14.1 per cent.

First National's Milne felt the price falls were due directly to employment, but she believed confidence was generally beginning to filter down from the stronger Auckland market. "A lot of the sales are also vendors becoming more realistic about their prices."

QV noted that it changed its methodology this month so prices related to its index rather than average sales prices. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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