For only the third time in seven years no region around the country booked an increase in house sales for August, but property prices across New Zealand increased 8.2% on a year ago to $530,000.

Prices compared with August last year in the Queenstown Lakes district rose 10.9% to $850,000, Central Otago rose 25.3% to $470,000, and Dunedin rose 6.3% to $345,000. Otago gained 10.9% to $380,000.

The number of properties sold across the country fell 20% during August, down by 1472 when compared with August last year —  the equivalent of 47 fewer properties being sold each day during August, Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief executive Bindi Norwell said.

The regions with the biggest reduction in volumes were Southland, down 37.3%, Northland by 29.4%, Taranaki 25.9%, Waikato 25% and Auckland 21.5%.

"Again, we have seen the number of properties sold across the country drop significantly. Bank lending criteria and LVRs [loan to value ratio restrictions] are still impacting first-home buyers and investors," she said.

Only four regions experienced a decrease in median prices during August. Auckland, Gisborne, Tasman and the West Coast all declined.

REINZ regional director in Queenstown Gail Hudson said the high Queenstown median sale price continued to prove challenging for first-home buyers, which meant the lower end of the local market had continued to struggle.

"However, interest in the remaining sectors of the Queenstown market remain robust," she said.

REINZ regional commentator in Dunedin Liz Nidd said while August sales numbers were down, that was not surprising given the continued shortage of listings.

She said many potential sellers were not listing their home for sale because of concerns they may not be able to find something to buy.

"There is still an abundance of buyers, including investors in the market and with multiple offers happening in almost every sale vendors are achieving pleasing results," Mrs Nidd said.

ASB economist Kim Mundy said the housing market's direction over coming months remained "murky",  given the uncertainty around the upcoming election.

"However, our longer-term view remains unchanged where strong demand and a sluggish construction response will support prices," Ms Mundy said.

The housing market remained markedly more subdued than 12 months ago as 2016’s loan-to-value ratio restrictions, higher mortgage rates and election uncertainty weighed on activity, she said.

Ms Norwell said the number of homes sold fell in every price bracket. Those which sold for more than $1million were down 18%, to 787  and those which sold for less than $500,000 down by 38%, to 2705.

"[However] agents across the country expect the market to pick up as we move into spring and even more so, once the election is over," Ms Norwell said.

In August, a fifth region exceeded the median house price of half-a-million-dollars for the first time, when Nelson's median price hit $518,000. It joined Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Tasman.

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