Housing market activity increases
Real estate agents have reported a strong start to the year, with bigger crowds at open homes and more first-home buyers.
The monthly survey of agents by the BNZ and Real Estate Institute backed this week's REINZ sales data, which showed sales in January were up 21 per cent on the previous year.
The survey showed numbers at open homes were up across the country, according to a net 48 per cent of agents.
This was particularly true in Wellington, where a net 64 per cent agents noted the change.
BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander said there was an "element of seasonality" about the increase, with a rise at the same time last year.
"Nonetheless the result is still very firm, and suggestive of many buyers actively looking at properties," he said.
Prices were also widely seen to be rising by a net 56 per cent of agents, suggesting the market had turned in the seller's favour.
The record was a net 64 per cent in May last year.
More first home buyers were believed to be entering the market, according to a near-record 48 per cent of agents.
A net 35 per cent of agents also felt more investors were returning to the market, compared to 19 per cent in December and 15 per cent a year ago.
Alexander said this led him to believe that "while demand from first home buyers remains strong, it may be the case that more proportionately new investors are now entering the market, than new first home buyers".
Another strong sign of buyer demand was auction clearance rates. A record net 32 per cent of agents reported more properties were clearing at auction, up from 12 per cent in December.
For the first time, the survey asked agents if they felt there had been a rise in foreign buying compared to the previous month, and their perception was that it had not.
Buyers from the United Kingdom were the most prominent buyers according to a net 27 per cent of agents, followed by China (24 per cent), and Australia (22 per cent).
In Auckland, however, 45 per cent of agents felt the Chinese were the most prominent buyers.