New Zealand house values rose slightly last month for the first time since last March, due to continued sales of good quality houses in larger centres, according to valuer QV.
Property values in February were down 1.7 percent on a year earlier, following a similar-sized decline in January, but were 0.13 percent higher than in January, QV.co.nz research director Jonno Ingerson said.
National values gradually declined throughout most of 2010 and then flattened for several months before their small increase. Values remain 5.6 percent below the market peak in late 2007.
"Although the volume is pretty low, the type of properties that are selling at the moment - which tend to be quality family-type properties in good areas - they are still selling strongly and for good prices," Ingerson said.
"Because of that you're seeing across the main centres prices holding or increasing slightly, and because of that it's pushing up the New Zealand number."
Buyers were going for safe bets, and provincial and rural areas in contrast were consistently sliding backwards.
"All of that speculative investment stuff's gone, people at the lower end of the market aren't buying anymore, so you're left more with middle New Zealand doing what they need to do, moving house because they're moving jobs or they need to upsize because of the family or whatever it is," he said.
The devastating earthquake in Christchurch on February 22 did not affect the data, which was based on the three months to the end of February, but its effects on the housing market would start showing up next month.
Canterbury values would slump as Christchurch sales stopped, but it was impossible to pick the impact at a national level.
The Christchurch market had begun to show some positive signs after a slow recovery from the original earthquake in September, and February values were 0.3 per cent above the same time last year.
There was anecdotal evidence that the level of enquiry in Auckland about property had dropped right back for a week or two after the quake, possibly because people were worried about the impact on the national economy, he said.
Values across the Auckland area increased last month, driven by central Auckland with the rest of Auckland remaining steady.
Values across wider Wellington were steady, increasing in Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt, declining in Porirua and holding flat in Wellington city.
In contrast, values in Hamilton and Tauranga continued to decline.
The average New Zealand sales price over the last three months rose to $411,712 from $409,067 last month.