As pressure builds on the Government to act on unaffordable Auckland housing, latest data from the city's biggest real estate agency show sales numbers have plunged.
Barfoot and Thompson has just reported its lowest April sales figures in four years.
The agency sold only 944 properties last month, down 29.6 percent on March and down 11.8 percent on those for April last year.
The drop comes as the Herald has published a two-week series on home affordability, Home Truths. Quotable Value has released its monthly valuations today, which show a 2.1 per cent rise across New Zealand and up 12 per cent nationwide.
Peter Thompson, Barfoot managing director, said the latest decline was sharp.
"In April we sold the lowest number of homes we have sold in an April in 4 years, and the likely cause of this was caution around current pricing and the low number of properties on the market, restricting choice," he said.
"April's prices show that Auckland house prices have pulled back from breaking into new territory. The average price for April at $873,599 was up only 0.8 per cent on that for March, and 8.6 per cent ahead of where it was in March last year. For the past year we have been looking at monthly year-on-year increases of around 12 percent," Thompson said.
"New listings in April at 1496 were down 20.2 percent on those for March and down 5.3 percent on those for April last year. April's new listings were the lowest in an April in three years.
"For the third consecutive month the number of properties on our books at month end declined, and at 2846 fell 8 percent below where they were at the end of March. The number of homes on our books at the end of April was the lowest they have been in an April for more than 15 years.
"While choice across all price segments was low, interest in top-end homes remained high and 355 properties, or 37.6 percent of all homes sold, attracted a price in excess of $1 million," he said.
Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said interpreting the Barfoot data was difficult.
"The most we can say is that nothing in today's report refutes the idea that Auckland house prices are currently rising quite rapidly. We will hold off on drawing any further conclusions until we see the REINZ data, due over the coming week or two," he wrote.
Quotable Value numbers show Hamilton/ Tauranga rise faster than Auckland
Hamilton and Tauranga residential values are rising faster than Auckland.
Auckland residential values rose 16.5 per cent annually, but Quotable Value data showed Hamilton values up 25.3 per cent year on year to hit an average $471,072 and Tauranga City values up 21.5 per cent to hit $577,494.
Stephen Hare, QV homevalue Hamilton valuer, said: "The most sought-after properties in Hamilton remain at the entry level end of the market in the $400,000 to $500,000 price bracket. Competition and demand is underpinned by Auckland investors, Hamilton investors, first home buyers and other locals, all vying for the same properties, which continues to drive values up."
David Hume, QV homevalue Tauranga valuer, said: "Auckland buyers, including movers and investors, continue to be a strong driving force in the market. One recent sale of an investment property selling in Parkvale involved a 10-way multi offer scenario, with nine out of the 10 buyers from Auckland."
Auckland North Shore's and Auckland City average values both now stand at $1.1 million.
Christchurch values only rose 3.4 per cent annually, South Taranaki 1.5 per cent, Tararua 1.1 per cent and Masterton 2.3 per cent.
Nationally, values rose 12 per cent in the year to April to reach an average value of $568,058 for New Zealand.
Andrea Rush, QV national spokesperson, said all the main centres and many regional centres saw home values increase last month, partly due to continued record low interest rates which were providing confidence.
James Wilson, QV homevalue registered valuer, said various factors drove the rise in Auckland values.
"Throughout April we have been observing renewed optimism in the housing market as interest rates remain at historic lows and capital gains are still being realised at record levels. Increasingly we are witnessing unconditional offers being made in order to secure a property without completing adequate due diligence. This behaviour is driven by a growing fear of missing out which appears to be rife across the market currently," he said.
"Properties which offer potential for intensification under the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan are increasingly popular. However purchasers need to ensure that they fully understand the requirements of the PAUP and not just focus solely on density regulations.
Market participants are making healthy capital gains through the on-selling of 'off plan' purchases as they near completion. Small land sites are popular within modern developments which are then improved with attached townhouse or apartment units given their relative affordability," Wilson said.
"Investors need to engage in more comprehensive sensitivity analysis to ensure long terms returns are sustainable if variables such as interest rates were to change. We are still seeing investors basing purchase decisions solely on the chance of capitals gains," Wilson said.
"We are still concerned about the lack of awareness by homeowners regarding the insurance of their properties and the 'sum insured' replacement amount they agree with their insurer. We strongly recommend seeking the advice of a registered valuer or quantity surveyor on this matter, Wilson said.
• QV data showed Auckland City Central (Point Chevalier, Grey Lynn, Epsom, Remuera, Parnell, CBD, Arch Hill, Ponsonby, Herne Bay, Newmarket,Mt Eden) average current values now stand at $957,705, up 13.9 per cent in the last 12 months.
• Auckland City East (St Johns, Meadowbank, Glen Innes, Pt England, Orakei, Kohimarama, Mission Bay, Ellerslie, St Heliers, Greenlane) average values are $1,377,649, up 14.4 per cent in the last year.
• Auckland City South (Blockhouse Bay, One Tree Hill, Sandringham, Mt Albert, Wesley, Three Kings, Mt Roskill, Otahuhu, Onehunga, Mt Wellington, Avondale) average values are $996,679, up 12.8 per cent annually.
• North Shore Coastal (Westlake, Crown Hill, Milford, Takapuna, Forrest Hill, Torbay, Browns Bay, Rothesay Bay, Campbells Bay, Mairangi Bay, Murrays Bay, Devonport, Cheltenham, Belmont, Narrow Neck) values are $1,253,449, up 15.8 per cent annually.
• North Shore Onewa (Glenfield, Marlborough, Hillcrest, Northcote, Chatswood, Birkdale, Birkenhead Central, Beachhaven) values are $883,152, up 14.4 per cent annually.