Auckland housing gains defy warnings

By Anne Gibson

Auckland house owners got much richer last year, despite a levelling-off in the super-heated property market.

Figures from the city's largest agency, Barfoot & Thompson, and the Real Estate Institute showed Aucklanders got spectacular returns on housing, ignoring warnings from Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard against tipping money into property.

Average or median price increases beat most bank interest rates.

Barfoot's figures showed a 12 per cent average gain last year. Real Estate Institute figures backed this up, showing big gains for most Auckland areas.

But property sceptics say the gains should not tempt buyers back into the market, which they believe may weaken further next year.

Barfoot's figures, out yesterday, showed an average sale price of $480,738 in 2006 climbed to $538,478 last year.

The 2005 average sale price was $458,784.

Peter Thompson, the firm's director, said that although fewer properties were selling, prices were holding up well.

"It's interesting to note that property prices do not seem to have been affected by reduction in sales volumes," he said.

Last month's 495 sales were down more than a third on December 2006.

But the average sale price for December was still 2.4 per cent up on November, Mr Thompson said.

He predicted the number of house sales in Auckland would stay low this year, but prices would still be firm and might even improve.

The Real Estate Institute's annual figures for Auckland - from November 2006 to November last year - also showed big gains in many areas.

The North Shore's median price rose 7.14 per cent, from $504,000 to $540,000. Waitakere City's price went up 8.78 per cent, from $353,000 to $384,000.

Manukau City reached $438,000 last November, an 8.15 per cent increase on the $405,000 of 2006.

Papakura District's median price was up 10 per cent, from $309,100 to $340,000.

Metropolitan Auckland's median price increased 6.59 per cent, from $425,000 to $453,000.

Rodney District was the star performer in the Auckland region. Its median price increased 10.12 per cent, from $449,500 to $495,000.

The median price for a house in the Franklin District rose 8.48 per cent, from $359,500 to $390,000.

Bank of New Zealand chief economist Tony Alexander said the figures did not mean more Aucklanders should pour money into housing.

Price figures were volatile and fewer houses were selling, which showed the true state of the market.

The average sale price numbers seemed to show the market was strong, but turnover was low and the number of listings was up.

He expects weak housing figures for the first half of this year.

TELLING FIGURES

Average sale price
2006 - $480,738
2007 - $538,478

Average sales a month
2006 - 938
2007 - 915

Average monthly listings
2006 - 1476
2007 - 1639

Source: Barfoot & Thompson

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