Median house price eases

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 13:37 14/02/2014

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Tight levels of housing stock are pointing to continued rising house prices, the country's largest bank says.

But the ANZ said slowing turnover, a slight rise in the number of "days to sell" in Auckland, and looming interest rate rises should eventually moderate prices.

"Our estimates suggest that the moderation in house-price inflation is coming from the regions rather than Auckland and Canterbury," ANZ economist Mark Smith said today following the release of January sales figures by the Real Estate Institute (REINZ).

The national median house price in January was $402,000, 8.6 per cent higher than a year earlier but 5.8 per cent off December's record high.

REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said that while that might be of some comfort to those looking for evidence that the caps on low-deposit loans was working, the reality was that the signs were mixed.

Sales were also down 4.3 per cent on the same time last year but January was a volatile time of the year.

Smith said climbing housing construction and pending increases to mortgage interest rates would eventually help ease price pressures, but the Reserve Bank would probably remain hawkish about Auckland's high house prices

Climbing housing construction and pending increases to mortgage interest rates would eventually help ease price pressures, but the Reserve Bank would probably remain hawkish about Auckland's high house prices.

Ten regions saw a rise in house prices although Auckland, Waikato and Christchurch made up more than 90 per cent of the increase.

Auckland's median price was 11.7 per cent higher than a year ago, but softened 5.2 per cent from December to $509,250.

The Waikato region steamed ahead with house prices up nearly 10 per cent year on year, to $342,500.

Another strong performer was Nelson/Marlborough, which reached a new high median price of $380,000 up 11.8 per cent for the year.

Prices were also strong in the southern South Island.

In the steady Otago market, house prices were up 10.9 per cent on a year ago, although REINZ said that market was now easing. In Southland prices were up 7.5 per cent for the year with strong interest in Gore.

House prices took a downward turn in Wellington where the median was $375,000, down 6.3 per cent on December and down 2 per cent for the year. However sales were moving faster, with the number of days to sell shrinking by eight.

Prices in Canterbury-Westland were a mixed bag. The median was $370,000, down just over 6 per cent on the previous month but still 7.6 per cent higher than a year earlier.

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REINZ said Christchurch was also seeing a small but steady rise in properties being sold "as is, where is" - meaning damaged and unrepaired, O'Sullivan said.

The prices these houses achieved ranged from full value for lightly damaged properties, to land value less demolition costs for severely damaged dwellings.

"We will be taking a close interest in this trend as it develops," she said.

Sale volumes increased in four regions, with Central Otago Lakes posting a 39 per cent rise in turnover compared to a year ago.

It was followed by Northland with 11.9 per cent and Hawkes Bay with 8.6 per cent.

- Fairfax Media

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