A Whangarei first-home buyer wants banks to lend up to $450,000 to first-home buyers in the region so Northlanders have a better chance of getting on to the property ladder.

Chris Pattenden, a storeman of Kamo, has been looking to buy his first home for a year but said investors from Auckland and further down south were prepared to shell out far more than Northlanders could afford.

His comments followed an announcement this week by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) that median house prices in Northland in the year to May rose 28.6 per cent to a record $450,000. The median house price in May last year was $350,000.

Although prices are rising, the number of houses sold in May last year and the same month this year in Northland decreased 37 per cent - from 354 to 224. Most of the houses were sold for less than $500,000.

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In May last year, 348 houses were sold in that price range, 61 for between $500,000 and $750,000, and the rest were over that price.

In May this year, just 179 properties were each sold for under $500,000 while 76 were each worth between $500,000 and $750,000. Others were over $750,000.

REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell said a drop in the number of Northlanders willing to sell their homes because they did not want to move out of the region contributed to a decrease in sales volume.

The effect of that meant a rise in prices, she said.

But Mr Pattenden said sellers needed to give Northlanders, particularly first-home buyers, a chance to buy because they would live in the property and invest in the region.

"There were 1400 houses on the market a year ago in our price range of $400,000 but that number is down to 790 now.

"I went to an open home recently for a house going for $390,000 and there were three Auckland investors and one from further down south and they were prepared to pay $30,000 to $40,000 more [than locals] which took us totally out of the picture."

Even with his wife working as a school teacher, the couple and their two teenage sons are struggling to find a three or four-bedroom property under $400,000.

He is using his Kiwisaver, $5000 government grant, and a small saving towards deposit but could borrow only up to $400,000 from banks - the maximum he said was allowed for first-home buyers in the region.

"If the banks raise the maximum amount they could lend up to $450,000 for Northlanders, then it would be affordable. Otherwise we'd be waiting while the house prices keep going up," he said.

REINZ figures show compared with May 2016, house sales in May this year fell 60 per cent in Kaipara, 30 per cent in the Far North and 24 per cent in Whangarei.

In Whangarei, 191 houses were sold in May last year but only 146 for the same month this year while the number in the Far North decreased from 101 to 71 and in Kaipara from 62 to 25 over the same period.

The national median house price in May 2017 was $540,000

Why the median is right for house price trends.

There are technical reasons why the median provides a more accurate picture of what is happening to the prices of houses rather than the "average".

For example, assume 11 houses sold in a month with a price range of $200,000 to $300,000 and an average price of $250,000. Replace one of those houses with a house that sold for $1 million and the average is now $318,182, even though 10 of the 11 houses for the month sold for less than that. The median would be the price of the middle house sold in the range (in this case the sixth house), which more accurately reflects what the majority of the houses sold for.

REINZ uses medians to provide a more accurate measure of the "mid-point" of house prices that reflects what most people are going to be buying and selling houses for.

What homes sold for in Northland in May 2017 and May 2016:
Over $1 million:
Whangarei, 1 - 2.
Far North, 2 - 2.
Kaipara, 0 - 2.

$750,000 to $999,999 million:
Whangarei, 14 - 11.
Far North, 3 - 8.
Kaipara, 4 - 0.

$500,000 to $749,999:
Whangarei, 44 - 36.
Far North, 21 - 17.
Kaipara, 11 - 8.

Under $500,000:
Whangarei, 90 - 170.
Far North, 63 - 100.
Kaipara, 26 - 76.