By Andrea Rush

The Auckland housing market is seeing less activity this winter than a year ago and the latest QV House Price index shows quarterly growth in the Auckland region is unchanged.

The market increased 5.3 per cent year on year, the slowest annual rate of growth seen since May 2012.

Values over the past three months continued to rise in some parts of the city but dropped in others.

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Waiheke Island saw the strongest increase with values up 4.1 per cent over the past quarter; Auckland City suburbs were up 0.9 per cent and on the North Shore they rose 0.6 per cent.

Values dropped 2.6 per cent in Papakura, 1.6 per cent in Franklin, 0.7 per cent in Rodney, 0.9 per cent in Waitakere and 0.5 per cent in Manukau over the same period.

Though the underlying drivers remain in the market, such as high net migration (Statistics NZ data shows the population grew by 100,400 in the year to June and by 390,000 in the past five years) and a lack of supply, sales volumes are down more than 30 per cent on the same time last year.

This drop in sales will partly be due to high prices and general unaffordability, as well as the impact of the latest LVRs requiring a 40 per cent deposit for investment purchases which has hit highly leveraged investors.

It's also because a growing number of first home buyers and movers are finding it increasingly difficult to get finance.

It will be interesting to see whether things pick up come spring but it remains a good time to buy if you can afford it.

Meanwhile, for those who are selling, it's worth making an effort to present your home well. Apart from doing any outstanding maintenance, consider these five tips for improving value and saleability of your property:

• Not having insulation can create the perception of an unhealthy home. Check the EECA Energywise programme which is subsidising the cost of insulation with grants of 50 per cent for low-income home owners and landlords with low-income tenants
• Good heating will improve the buying appeal of your home. Modern, efficient European style central heating systems are worth checking out as an alternative to heat pumps or wood burners.
• A dated kitchen can turn buyers off. The state of your current kitchen, budget and end goal will determine the best option. Consider a new bench top, replacing or painting cabinets, drawer fronts, skirting; handles or adding a modern splashback in glass or tiles.
• A bathroom that has water damage or is dated can detract from the value of the entire property. Updating your bathroom need not be expensive or difficult; simply repainting and replacing fixtures such as vanities, taps, mirrors and lighting; updating lino or tiles and replacing stained grout can modernise the entire room.
• First impressions last; create curb appeal by painting the fence, making sure the garden or lawn areas are tidy; and by painting the entranceway and the front door to make it welcoming and freshen things up.

The one thing to consider when you plan any renovations is to be careful not to overcapitalise, as value growth has plateaued in many areas in the current market.