Auckland house prices stay flat in August

Latest Auckland house price stats show a largely flat property market over the past five months and one economist says we may have seen the first sign of regional price pressure easing.

Barfoot & Thompson, the region's biggest real estate firm, said today that the average sales price in August was $647,647, more than $6700 lower than July and $2200 lower than June.

"For the past five months the average sales price for Auckland houses has remained constant," said company managing director Peter Thompson.

"After a rapid increase in the first quarter of the year, prices have settled down, and there has been no upward pressure on prices for the past two months.

"This is confirmed by August's median house price, which at $561,500 is down 4 per cent on the median price for July, and down 4.8 per cent on June's median price.

He said the latest median price was in line with November last year, suggesting prices had stayed stable for the past nine months.

"We have possibly seen the first sign that the pressure on the Auckland housing market is easing," said Westpac Bank chief economist Dominick Stephens.

"For quite some time the market has been defined by a paucity of properties available for sale, resulting in a moderate number of house sales and very strong price increases," he said. "However, in August there was a sharp increase in new listings hitting the market - the highest number of new listings in any August on record."

The number of house sales shot 5.7 per cent higher, said Stephens. Despite the increase in sales, available listings were up and the stock of houses available on the market rose from 2.7 to 2.8 months' worth of sales.

"This is a "step in the right direction" for those who are concerned that house prices are rising too quickly. But it is only a small step," said Stephens. "The Auckland market had become exceedingly tight, with the stock available for sale hitting decade lows. We would have to see many more months of elevated listings before we could say that the market had normalised."

Barfoot and Thompson's Peter Thompson said there was more choice for buyers in August, with a 4.5 per cent jump in new listings, up to 1710 homes.

"August's new listings were the second highest in a month so far this year, and were 20.7 per cent higher than at the same time last year.

Barfoots has also reported strong sales for August, with 1200 houses changing hands - a 5.9 per cent jump from July and 18.1 per cent from the same month last year.

Fewer $1 million plus homes sold in August, with 118 changing hands with Barfoot and Thompson, down from 152 in May and 144 in June.

"There was a far greater focus on the under $500,000 market, with 523, or 43.6 per cent of all sales, being in this segment," he said.

ASB Bank economist Daniel Smith said despite the lift in listings, the Auckland market remained very 'supply-constrained' - with total listings still 21 per cent below year ago levels.

"Despite the small lift in available housing over the last couple of months, the Auckland market is unlikely to turn around rapidly," said Smith. "The fact that sales also rose in August supports our belief that the recent levelling-off in sales was due to supply constraints rather than any drop-off in the level of demand. Any increase in supply is therefore likely to be met with stronger sales activity, which will keep overall supply levels low - and maintain upward pressure on prices."

Smith said the lift in total listings over the last couple of months had "partially reduced some of the extreme supply constraints in the Auckland housing market."

However, sales volumes also rose in August, supporting his belief that recent sales had been restricted by supply. Housing demand appears to remain firm.

"It remains to be seen just how much of an impact the Reserve Bank's new "speed limits" on high-LVR lending will have on mortgage approvals and housing demand. We do not expect the impact to be substantial, given the extreme supply constraints that remain."

-nzherald.co.nz

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