House sales lifted in almost every region in the country last month, with overall volume jumping 20 per cent from a year ago, according to latest figures.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) data showed there were 5,907 unconditional sales in July, a 19.9 per cent jump compared with July last year but a 3.7 per cent fall from June.
The national median house price took an $11,000 fall to $361,000, after a record high of $372,000 in June.
Almost all regions recorded increases in sales volume compared to July last year, led by Taranaki with an increase of 62.7 per cent.
Buyer interest in Auckland and Christchurch remained "the engine of the New Zealand residential real estate market", said REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan.
"In the Auckland real estate market it seems that winter has been cancelled with strong demand right across the city, although the inability of the median price to 'push on' indicates that buyers are still cautious about price.
Auckland maintained a record median price of $500,000 for the third month in a row, while Christchurch rose again to $354,500, O'Sullivan said.
"We are still seeing recovery rather than boom conditions when we compare the number of transactions in July 2012 with earlier years such as July 2003 when over 10,000 transactions were recorded."
She said the easing national median price this month and slower pace of transactions in July was evidence of buyer caution.
Other data out yesterday also showed New Zealand property values extended their gains in July as homes in Auckland and Christchurch continued to appreciate amid a shortage of supply.
Government valuer Quotable Value released figures showing national property values rose 2.2 per cent in the three months ended July 31 and have increased 4.6 per cent over the past year, to be 0.8 per cent off the market peak in 2007.
Compared to July last year, house sale volumes grew by 28.2 per cent in Auckland and 23.6 per cent in Manawatu/Wanganui, according to REINZ.
Southland was the only region to record a fall in sales volume, down -5.0 per cent.
ASB economist Jane Turner said housing turnover had steadily lifted over the past year as demand had recovered.
"Factors supporting housing demand include low interest rates, gradual improvement in household incomes and improved confidence in the housing market (particularly given expectations for rising prices)," she said.
Demand would be continue to grow because of the recent turn around in net migration.
The national median house price was up 4.6 per cent compared to July last year, with the highest 12-monthly jumps from Northland (8.5 per cent), Otago (7.7 per cent), and Auckland (7.5 per cent).
The REINZ Stratified House Price Index, which adjusts for some of the variations in mix that can impact on the median price, was 5.2 per cent higher than July 2011.
In term of days it took for houses to sell, the national median fell by one day in July compared to June, from 37 to 38 days.
Compared to July 2011, the 'days to sell' improved by four days. The median days to sell has averaged 41 days across New Zealand over the last five years.
Turner said the number of days to sell was an indicator of the balance of supply and demand in the market.
"This was currently sitting around average levels. However, this national average will be masking stark regional divergences. Recent listings data show that supply on the Auckland housing market remains very low."
ANZ economist Mark Smith said that relative to sales volumes, the days to sell are at reasonably low levels, illustrating the high degree of tension in the market.
"The low inventory of properties relative to sales and low days to sell are suggestive of a shortage of suitable properties on the market, which is supporting prices.
"Our seasonally adjusted estimates show house prices up just 0.1 per cent in July, with annual house price inflation easing to 5.2 per cent."
The trend in prices is clearly up overall though, with prices rising 2.2 per cent in the three months to July.
There were 922 homes sold nationally by auction in July, making up 15.6 per cent of all sales, up from 514 sales in July 2011.
Auckland's auction sales dominated the market, representing 73.9 per cent of the national total.
Across New Zealand the total value of residential sales, including sections was $2.62 billion in July, compared to $2.81 billion in June, and $2.08 billion in July 2011.
For the 12 months ended July 2012 the total value of residential sales was $30.64 billion.
The monthly REINZ residential sales are based on actual sales reported by real estate agents.
- HERALD ONLINE