The Hawke's Bay property market is a buyers' marketplace with home affordability up and sellers either accepting offers or not selling at all, according to industry insiders.
"The Hawke's Bay residential market started 2012 with an air of optimism and increased volume of sales," Hawke's Bay registered valuer Kirsty Miller said.
There were 185 houses sold in the area in September, down from 209 in August.
Ms Miller said some sellers had been trying to price their properties too high, resulting in a lack of sales.
The local market favoured buyers, with sellers now either accepting lower offers or holding on to their properties.
Reinz chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said both first-home buyers and investors were active in the market and well-priced properties were selling quickly "as the mood of the market improves".
The median price for a house sold in the Hawke's Bay region in September was $263,000, up slightly from $255,000 in August but down on the $270,750 from last year.
The QV index for September, released yesterday, shows residential property values have continued to edge higher nationally - with a shortage of listings and strong buyer demand.
House values are up 1.8 per cent over the past three months and up 5.3 per cent during the last year.
QV research director Jonno Ingerson said nationwide values had slowly increased, but the rise had to be viewed in context.
"The current value increase is also being driven largely by Auckland and Canterbury.
"If those two areas are excluded then values across the rest of the country have only increased by around 1.5 per cent over the past year."
While values were just above their 2007 peak, when adjusted for inflation they had dipped 12 per cent, Mr Ingerson said.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) showed a record number of dwellings were sold by auction last month.
Nationally 1128 auction sales occurred in September - 20 per cent of all sales.
The Reinz Residential Market Report for September also showed a shortage of new listings had caused buyers to make rapid decisions, lifting house prices around the country.
"The traditional rush of spring listings has not eventuated this year and the market is tightening as buyers face a limited choice of offerings," Ms O'Sullivan said.
"This has been reflected by increases in the median price across much of the country."
Reinz Hawke's Bay spokesperson Murray Keane said there were many first-home buyers active in the market, especially in Hastings and Havelock North.
"But it's not so much as the areas which are active but the price brackets and there is a lot of first home buyers working in that $200,000 to $300,000 area in Hastings and in Havelock North the $400,000 to $500,000 bracket is also busy.
"There was a fair bit of pressure on prices but more housing stock has come on to the market as those prices have eased."
Mr Keane said the annual lift in activity during the spring season was more noticeable in Hawke's Bay than in previous years.
"I think if the listings keep coming from now on until Christmas, you should see consistent sales, with more buyers out there.
"We should be looking at reasonable sales post Christmas into February and March."
Massey University's Home Affordability Report - also released this week - showed buying a home had become more affordable in every part of the country except Auckland.
There were eight regions that showed quarterly improvements in affordability, including Hawke's Bay at 8.4 per cent.
The university's Affordability Index is calculated by comparing house prices, mortgage rates and average incomes.
The report showed home affordability improved nationally by 4.9 per cent in the past year, but deteriorated 0.4 per cent in the country's largest city.
Median house prices rose nationally by $1000 in the last month to $371,000 - up 6 per cent year-on-year and nearing the record level set in June.
There were 5653 unconditional sales nationally in September, an increase of 418 year-on-year, but a 6.3 per cent fall from August.
Home truths $263,000 - Median Hawke's Bay house price for September
185 - Number of houses sold last month
46 - Days to sell (Source: REINZ)
$203,961 - Average sale price over the last three months in Central Hawke's Bay
6 per cent - Property value growth over the past 12 months based on the QV index
$319,246 - Average sale price over the last three months in Napier
-0.8 per cent - Property value decline over the past 12 months based on the QV index
$297,134 - Average sale price over the last three months in Hastings
2.8 per cent - Property value growth over the past 12 months based on the QV index (Source: QV)