Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Auckland house prices, sales slump in April

Average prices for Auckland homes fell from $725,708 in March to $708,603 last month, says Barfoot and Thompson. Photo / Chris Gorman
Average prices for Auckland homes fell from $725,708 in March to $708,603 last month, says Barfoot and Thompson. Photo / Chris Gorman

The average Auckland house sale price and volumes achieved by the city's biggest real estate agency dropped from $725,708 in March to $708,603 last month.

Barfoot and Thompson has just released its new monthly data.

Holidays, Easter and Anzac Day last month are thought to have been partly responsible for the change, with many people taking a 10-day break by combining Easter with Anzac Day statutory holidays.

Some real estate agents complained about the combination of holidays, saying people were not in house-buying mode but taking time out, which has affected the numbers.

Peter Thompson, Barfoot managing director, ascribed the drop to the holiday period but also said the loan-to-value regime and interest rates were also keeping prices in check.

Barfoot & Thompson sold 811 properties last month. This is a 42 per cent fall from the 1392 sales made the previous month.

"This average is higher than those achieved last year but more aligned to 2012 numbers. It shows ongoing support in the Auckland property market, but more listings creates more choice, and that ultimately softens prices. Sellers need to stay pragmatic about their property prices and not overprice them if they want them sold," he said.

The April median price was $619,550.

ASB Bank economist Christina Leung said the April sales data from Barfoot and Thompson showed a fall in sales activity.

"Note that while our seasonal adjustment takes into account the timing of Easter, there is still the potential for additional volatility in the March and April results. Unlike recent months where the change in sales activity was concentrated at the lower end of the market reflecting the effects of the LVR restrictions, the April decline in house sales was across the market," said Leung.

"We estimate sales of houses below $500,000 fell 13.2 per cent on a seasonally-adjusted basis, while sales of houses above $1 million fell 12.4 per cent. The broad-based nature of the declines in Auckland house sales in April suggests higher interest rates are starting to be the dominant influence on housing demand. "

Nonetheless, said Leung, the Reserve Bank's LVR restrictions "should continue to weigh on housing demand at the lower end of the market. "

On the supply side, Leung said she estimated new Auckland house listings increased 13.2 per cent in April on a seasonally-adjusted basis. This combination of softer demand and increased supply saw an improvement in the housing supply/demand imbalance in the Auckland market.

"Nonetheless, the Auckland housing market remains very tight, which should underpin further house price increases in the region over the coming year. "

Leung said price growth in Auckland seems to have peaked in the third quarter of 2013. "We expect house price inflation to continue to slow over the next year or two as higher interest rates take hold and, eventually, greater construction activity adds to supply. "

"Nonetheless, we expect housing market pressures will remain one of the reasons the RBNZ will continue to tighten monetary policy over 2014 and 2015. We continue to expect another lift in the OCR in June."

Dominick Stephens, Westpac chief economist, said house sales data had been hard to interpret lately.

"The composition of house sales has been affected by the Reserve Bank's restrictions on high-LVR mortgage lending. The B&T data is no exception," he said.

But it continued the weak trend of the past six months.

"House sales fell 10 per cent after an 8 per cent rise last month. Looking through month-to-month volatility, the trend in sales is clearly downwards - sales are now 20 per cent lower than their August 2013 peak, in seasonally adjusted terms. The increasing slack in the market was further emphasised by another rise in the number of listings available on the market - now up to 3.7 months' supply, from a trough of 2.8," he said.

- NZ Herald

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