National median house price rises
House prices bounced back last month, although the number of homes sold fell, Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures show.
The national median price of homes sold last month was $415,000, up from $402,000 in January but below December's record median price of $427,000.
The national median price has increased 8.6 per cent in the past 12 months.
The number of sales was down, with contracts on 6125 homes becoming unconditional last month, a drop of 7.6 per cent compared with February last year.
Record prices were set in Waikato-Bay of Plenty ($350,000), Hawke's Bay ($305,000) and Canterbury-Westland ($399,000).
Auckland's median price of $592,000 was up from $569,000 in January, but below the record $620,000 in November last year.
In Wellington, the February median of $418,625 compared with $375,000 in January and November's high of $420,000.
Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said that although sales volumes were easing, there were tentative signs that first-home buyers were returning to the market.
"The results for February show further evidence that the national sales volume trend is easing, with only two of 12 regions [Northland and Central Otago-Lakes] showing an increase in sales volumes compared to February 2013," she said.
"Market feedback suggests that first-home buyers may be tentatively returning, with some assistance, in certain markets. This is by no means a consistent message, with views decidedly mixed across the country."
There was evidence that most sales were at the higher-priced end of the market, which would push up the median price, O'Sullivan said.
"Despite the total number of sales being down 7.6 per cent compared to February last year, the number of sales in the $600,000 to $1 million price bracket is up 9.2 per cent," she said.
"This may indicate that while first-home buyers are sitting on the sidelines, the focus of the market has moved to higher price ranges, with a subsequent upward influence on the median price."
That trend was particularly noticeable in Auckland, she said.
Latest median selling prices around the country compared with a year ago:(Feb 2014, Feb 2013)
Northland $344,500, $335,000
Auckland $592,000, $535,000
Waikato-BOP $350,000, $324,500
Hawke's Bay $305,000, $284,250
Manawatu-Wanganui $222,500, $220,000
Taranaki $302,500, $281,000
Wellington $418,625, $405,000
Nelson-Marlborough $354,000, $334,500
Canterbury-Westland $399,000, $355,000
Central Otago-Lakes $437,000, $450,000
Otago $250,500, $243,000
Southland $195,000, $180,000