Slim pickings in summer NZ real estate

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 11:33 04/01/2013

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Residential Property

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The New Zealand property market is drying up this summer with a record low number of houses available, according to industry website Realestate.co.nz.

Inventory, or the number of weeks it would take to sell all housing stock on the market, sunk to a seasonally-adjusted 27 weeks in December, compared to a long-term average of 39 weeks.

Sixteen of the 19 regions across the country saw falls in property availability, with Auckland undergoing its biggest drought in the five years since records began.

The country's largest property market registered a new low of 14 weeks of housing stock, down 11 per cent from the previous month, and 43 per cent on the same time last year.

Record lows were also seen in Otago (20 weeks) and Waikato (32 weeks), despite a surge of new listings towards the tail-end of last year.

Realestate.co.nz marketing manager Paul McKenzie said new listings were usually down in December, but had plummeted 37 per cent from the previous month and 3 per cent on an annual basis.

"For this to happen at a time when demand is so high is significant," he said.

"Compared to the peak of the market in 2007, new listings are down 26 per cent."

McKenzie said the tight inventory would continue to tilt the market firmly in favour of sellers.

However, a slight easing in asking prices to a seasonally-adjusted average of $422,636 would provide some relief for house-hunters.

"Following the record high asking prices recorded over the previous two months, questions of housing affordability were naturally coming into the frame," said McKenzie.

"However, buyer demand is still clearly strong, so seller confidence is likely to remain high for some time to come."

Due to the limitations of the small sample size and seasonally adjusted data, ASB senior economist Jane Turner interpreted the figures with greater caution than usual.

"Nonetheless, the results suggest the housing market has potentially tightened further in December with supply failing to respond to the increase in demand over 2012," she said.

Turner said the Reserve Bank would not be able to tolerate the momentum in house prices and credit growth for much longer.

There was a "growing possibility" that it would step in with macro-prudential tools - such as limits on lending - to ease pressure in the housing market.

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- The Dominion Post

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