Aucklanders seeking refuge from high house prices should aid Northland's recovering property market this year, a local real estate agent says.
Graham Lester of Maggie Dixon Real Estate expected more people to head north this year due to high living costs in New Zealand's largest city.
''Auckland is moving closer as the roads improve, and prices up here are very attractive when compared to the current Auckland market.''
Mr Lester, who is also the regional representative for the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, said Northland's housing market had picked up in the past six months.
''The outlook for 2013 is that it will continue to improve.''
Quarterly data from Terralink showed mortgagee sales had also declined between the June and September quarters, down from 69 in the three months to June to 58 in the following three-month period.
''Mortgagee sales are a sad fact of life, and none more so than over the last four years. ''[But] business confidence is up as owners who have adapted and changed to meet the tough conditions begin to grow their bottom line again.''
Growth in employment this year should also flow on to the housing market, he said.
''Also, the potential for Northport growth is becoming a reality bit by bit, and will also lead to good growth for the north.
''That should flow on to housing over the next 5-10 years.'' Nationally, forced sales decreased significantly between the June and September quarters.
In the three months to September, 516 mortgagee sales were recorded, compared to 605 in the three months to June.
Year-on-year data also revealed the number of mortgagee sales had declined-down from 651 in the September 2011 quarter.
New Zealand Institute of Economic Research principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub said the numbers were encouraging.
Forced sales made up about three per cent of total house sales in the September quarter, he said. ''When the economy was very weak, we were looking at around five per cent of house sales.''
Lower numbers reflected a recovering economy, Mr Eaqub said.
"Things are gradually getting better but it's still relatively weak to what the housing market was in 2007 at the peak of the economic cycle."
Forced sales constituted less than one per cent of total houses being traded on the market during that time, Mr Eaqub said.
Terralink data showed average annual mortgagee sales were 477 for 2006 and 2007, but the number of annual forced sales climbed to 1303 and 3024 in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
As the economy improved, the housing market should pick up - particularly as mortgage interest rates were low, Mr Eaqub said.
However, New Zealand's high unemployment rate would continue to be problematic.
According to Statistics NZ, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 0.5 percentage points during the September quarter, to 7.3 per cent.
Provincial New Zealand may find the next 12 months particularly challenging, Mr Eaqub said.
Regional areas tend to rely heavily on industries like manufacturing which have not been growing strongly, he said.
Steady improvements in the agricultural and farming sectors throughout the past year may mean less growth in the next 12 months, Mr Eaqub said.
But, it was not all doom and gloom, he added.
"Commodity prices are holding up at a pretty good level and agriculture production is pretty strong both across things like dairy and meat, so it's doesn't look terrible."
In total, 1645 mortgagee sales took place in the nine months to September - slightly down on the previous year's nine-month sales total of 1658.
Regional figures show Manawatu and East Cape had the largest increase in mortgagee sales between quarters. The East Cape region jumped 137 per cent - from eight sales in the June quarter to 19 in the September quarter. In the Manawatu region, forced sales increased by 28 per cent, from 32 to 41 between the June and September quarters.