National house sales have fallen 13 per cent in the past year, but the median selling price is up 8.1 per cent.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) figures out today show that nationwide house sales increased 2.3 per cent last month from June but were down 13 per cent from a year ago.
The national median price of $416,000 was down 2.6 per cent, or $11,250, on June but up 8.1 per cent on July last year.
The Reinz stratified housing price index, which adjusts for some of the variations in the mix that can impact on the median price, is 5.9 per cent higher than in July last year, at 3885.5.
The Auckland index has risen 12.2 per cent, the Christchurch index was up 13.9 per cent and the Wellington index was down 2.3 per cent.
Reinz chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the market was in winter mode, with listings low and activity muted.
The small sales increase from June to July was in line with seasonal patterns, she said.
Rising interest rates and the upcoming general election were probably also influencing buyer behaviour, she said.
TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific research Annette Beacher said July was mid-winter, "so the litmus test for the housing market will be the 'spring' September report".
Home sales peaked well over a year ago, and house price increases peaked at 9.9 per cent a year last October, she said.
The subsequent cooling in the housing market was what the Reserve Bank intended when it introduced the high loan-to-value ration (LVR) restrictions last October.
She expected the Reserve Bank to drop the LVR restrictions by the end of the year, rather than the bank backing away from rising interest rates.
TD Securities expects interest rates to increase another 25 basis points in December, taking the official cash rate to 3.75 per cent.
Some economists believe the Reserve Bank could hold out until next March before lifting rates again.
The Reinz figures show that Auckland accounted for 83 per cent of the increase in the national median price over the past year and Canterbury-Westland 19 per cent.
Eight regions recorded an increase in sales compared with June, with Hawke's Bay recording the largest increase of 22.1 per cent, followed by Otago with 12.4 per cent and Manawatu-Wanganui with 12 per cent.
Over the past 12 months, Otago recorded the largest fall in sales, down 20.8 per cent, followed by Hawke's Bay, down 19.8 per cent, and Auckland at 18.7 per cent.
While national sales fell 13 per cent compared with July 2013, the number of sales below $400,000 fell by 21.8 per cent, which may be indicative of fewer sales in the lower price brackets since LVR restrictions came into effect.
Dwellings took two days less to sell in July compared with June at 37 days.