Kiwi housing market rebounds for sellers

Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014

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A seller's market has returned to the housing sector, after just a couple of months where buyers had the upper hand, according to a survey of real estate agents.

The latest BNZ-REINZ survey of agents shows a widespread improvement in all the measures of the strength of the housing market during February, compared with the last survey in December.

The survey results follow REINZ figures out late last week, which showing the national median house price in January was up 8.6 per cent to $402,000 on the previous year, although it slipped 5.8 per cent from a record price in December. There was also a drop in sales volumes and the monthly figures were seen as a sign that the market was starting to ease back.

The survey of agents out yesterday also shows a big chunk of the first home buyers have been tipped out of the market by the Reserve Bank's speed limits on low deposit home loans brought in last year. Agents estimated just 16 per cent of sales now went to first home buyers, compared with 24 per cent in March last year.

In contrast, sales to investors were almost unchanged at more than 19 per cent.

The positive signs for the housing market in the survey included more people going through open homes, agents said, after a big dive in numbers last year. That was seen as a sign that the shock effect of Reserve Bank lending controls last year was starting to fade.

More house sales were going unconditional, and more people were asking for housing appraisals, the survey shows.

With more buyers back in the market, a net 35 per cent of agents think house prices are rising, compared with just a net 13 per cent in December.

And the survey suggests buyers are now more motivated to get a sale completed than sellers, though just a net 5 per cent of agents think it is now a seller's market. In December a net 16 per cent said it was a buyer's market.

But there was a clear regional divide. It was a still seen as a buyer's market in Wellington, Northland, Manawatu/Whanganui and Canterbury. But it was a seller's market in Auckland.

It was a "reasonable assumption" that home ownership rates in New Zealand would continue to decline.

The latest Census showed an ownership rate of 64.8 per cent, compared with almost 67 per cent in 2006.

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- BusinessDay

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