House sales up, Christchurch recovers

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 14:06 13/03/2012

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Two sets of house sale figures out today show property prices have risen in the last year and sales activity increased last month.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand data showed house sales shot up 37 per cent last month nationwide, making it the best February for the residential property market since 2008.

There were 1666 more houses sold last month than at the same time a year earlier, but prices were flat for the third month in a row, the REINZ said.

Nationally the median house price was $355,000, unchanged since November but up 1.4 per cent, or $5000, from February last year.

Sales were up more than 50 per cent from January, which is typical as the first month of the year is always slow because of the holiday season.

The Canterbury region was suffering the immediate impacts of the earthquake in February last year, so figures for that area this year were up dramatically in comparison. Prices rose 14 per cent.

Nationally, the typical price rise last month from a year earlier was 2.7 per cent. In the Waikato/Bay of Plenty area prices lifted 1.9 per cent to $315,000 while Otago houses sold for 1.8 per cent more at $239,750.

In Wellington, prices fell 5 per cent from February 2011 to $388,000, but that was up 0.8 per cent from January. Auckland prices were up 0.6 per cent from a year earlier to $468,000.

REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the real estate market last month built on the strong sales volume results from December and January.

"While agents are seeing more activity and more positive sentiment from buyers in most places this is not translating into significant price increases," O'Sullivan said.

"Agents in a number of areas continue to report listing shortages. Despite the increased number of transactions, buyers are remaining cautious with the days to sell measure down by just one day, and still above the long term average."

QV FIGURES

Figures from property valuer QV also show a rise in property values over the last year, up 3 per cent but still down on the late 2007 market peak.

Nationwide property values increased 1.1 per cent in the past three months and 2.9 per cent over the past 12 months, QV.co.nz said.

They are now 2.9 per cent below the most recent market peak of November 2007.

QV.co.nz research director, Jonno Ingerson said the past year's increase needed to be put in perspective against previous periods of growth.

Between 1993 and 1997, values increased by 8 to 14 per cent a year. In the 2002 to 2007 boom, values rose by 10 to 15 per cent a year.

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''In comparison the current rate of value increase is very modest and in inflation adjusted terms is only just above level,'' Ingerson said.

There had been a noticeable increase in activity in the market over the past month, but the level of activity was still below the long term average.

''There is still a shortage of properties for sale in some areas, and in general buyers are acting cautiously and carefully.''

QV said Auckland remained the fastest growing of the main centres, with values up 1.7 per cent over the past three months and 4.8 per cent up over the year.

Values in the city are now above the previous market peak by 2.3 per cent. This increase across Auckland is being led by the old Auckland City which has increased in value by 6.5 per cent over the past year and is 5.1 per cent above the 2007 market peak.

Values in Hamilton remained relatively stable, rising 0.9 per cent over the past year, but are currently 11.1 per cent below the 2007 peak.

Values in the Wellington area are the same as they were a year ago, having dropped two per cent for the first six months, then steadily increasing for the last six months.

Apart from Auckland City, values in Christchurch have grown faster over the past year than any of the other main centres, rising 4 per cent and are now level with the 2007 market peak.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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