Tauranga house prices jumped nearly $55,000 in the past year, new figures reveal - with Waikato/Bay of Plenty hitting a new high.

Latest Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) figures show the median house price in Tauranga rose more than 15 per cent in the year to December to $403,000. December house sales also increased from 102 to 114 year-on-year.

Realty Services chief executive Ross Stanway said a "good, steady" level of local confidence was helping high-end properties sell, raising the median price.

And a "busy" December saw people wanting to fast-track their transactions ahead of an impending holiday season.


"We certainly saw an urgency in some cases. Plus there had been some real buildup of demand in the previous month that really came through in December."

The local property market was often confused by information coming from the Auckland and Christchurch markets, which sometimes caused sellers to hold out for an unrealistic "best price", Mr Stanway said.

"That was occurring in the leadup to December, and then in December we saw a lot of local reality come into the market ... and buyers and sellers met."

However, the introduction of Reserve Bank home loan restrictions in October had "without a doubt" limited sales at the lower end of the market, he said.

"To an extent some of those buyers may well have been out of the market in December 2013 and that tends to push the median up."

Tauranga Harcourts managing director Nigel Martin said prices were not going up, as such.

"Middle to top-end properties were selling more."

There were also fewer first-time home buyers in the market as they were renting for longer, he said. "In all reality there is more activity in the middle to high end of the market, more confidence in the market."

LJ Hooker Tauranga franchise owner Neville Falconer said the rise was due to the rise in house prices in the mid to lower bracket.

"Properties in the $300,000-$400,000 range, that's where the most sales are."

LJ Hooker Mt Maunganui and Papamoa owner John O'Donnell said he had noticed the rise.

"In reality there is a shortage of houses for sale, a big shortage.

"You go and try looking for a house in your price range, it's not there."

Tauranga Harcourts franchise owner Max Martin said there were three reasons behind the median price rise.

"In the last few months there has been a drop-off in the cheaper range, we are down in first-home buyers.

"House prices took a drop in 2007 and we are starting to climb up again and there is more confidence buying.

"People are buying $600,000-$1.2 million properties, there are significant sales in that price range. This all pulls the medium house price up," he said.

The national median house price hit an all-time high in December of $427,000 - a $2000 increase on the previous month.

REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said prices in some regions might have risen because of fewer sales in the lower price bracket.

"The effect is not seen across the board, however, with Auckland reporting a $20,000 fall in the median price from November 2013."