Alert level 4 is weighing on activity across New Zealand's $1.5 trillion housing market, with around 1600 weekly sales usually occurring at this time of the year worth about $1.6b.
Exactly how much that has reduced won't be known until official data emerges in the next fortnight.
One Christchurch agent expects activity to about halve but economist Tony Alexander warns to also prepare for a post-lockdown surge of frustrated buyers, with the alert level causing a further property listing drought.
Real Estate Institute data shows more than 1600 residences would usually have been sold in a week around this time of the year.
Ray White agents marketing the four Block NZ homes delivered said a live auction set for September 5 would be delayed due to Covid.
Thousands of agents and buyers cannot visit properties in person, agency offices must stay shut and auctions are either online or postponed.
Christchurch agent Vanessa Golightly, a co-owner of Ray White Papanui, forecast national sales to about halve during a week in the lockdown. If her predictions are true, that could result in just 800 sales of around $800m in the late-August week's lockdown.
Golightly said her branch had advanced just one sale since lockdown last Tuesday night.
"That was already being negotiated on Tuesday and it was signed off on Wednesday when negotiations were completed and the contract was dated and signed and sent to the lawyer."
Asked about the lockdown's effect on the national market, she said: "It will probably be half, I would imagine. I'm just making a guesstimate. We've got auctions that have been postponed but we might run them virtually."
A staff of 11 work at her branch and she said the biggest problem now was getting new listings because agents could not inspect properties, have photographs taken or meet vendors in person.
Ray White Papanui usually sells three to five properties a week, Golightly said.
Real Estate Institute data shows that based on activity around this time of the year last month and last year, agents transact around 1600 sales worth about $1.6b per week.
REINZ chief executive Jen Baird said that in the last week of July, New Zealand had 993 residential property sales worth about $790m, excluding the super-powered Auckland market. From July 28 to July 30, $569m of transactions, amounting to 714 sales were recorded nationally.
Last year, in the first week of August, in New Zealand excluding Auckland, agents sold 1182 properties worth around $730m.
In the last week of July, Auckland agents made 623 sales worth $870m. In the first week of August last year, Auckland agents made 612 sales for $630m, Baird said.
Satish Ranchod, a Westpac senior economist, said the market was in a wait-and-see mode.
"How the housing market evolves will be dependent on how many further cases are discovered and if their spread can be stymied. The level 4 lockdown will have a material impact on sales. Last year we saw sale numbers drop from around 6500 to 7000 per month prior to the lockdown to around 1500 in April when alert level restrictions were at their most stringent. I expect that, if the lockdown continues for several weeks, we will again see sales dropping back sharply due to social distancing requirements," Ranchod said.
But supportive fiscal policy and interest rates staying at historically low levels could mean sales could recover quickly when restrictions were eased.
"Assuming the lockdown is successful, the impact on prices is likely to be less stark. Low interest rates are providing a significant boost to demand. In fact, during last year's lockdown prices only fell by around 1 per cent before they rose rapidly in the following months. We're forecasting that prices will remain strong over the coming year," Ranchod said.
Barfoot & Thompson says all its Auckland and Coromandel areas will be closed for seven days. Northland branches will be closed for at least three days.
"Auctions are going online or being postponed. All open homes and viewings are cancelled. In-person inspections will not go ahead.
"All Barfoot & Thompson staff are working remotely and actively working with customers," it said.
Some Auckland vendors have stopped actively advertising multimillion-dollar homes, saying with no open homes or agents and prospective buyers visiting, now isn't the right time to be spending so much to market the place. As spring progresses, further marketing pushes were planned and those vendors were optimistic about sales due to the number of people returning to New Zealand.
Economist Tony Alexander noted the Reserve Bank not increasing the OCR last week.
"Confirmation of a spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Auckland means we could be looking at an extended period of lockdown for at least one-third of our population and economy.
"In the short term this will clearly have a negative impact on the economy and to a certain extent it will do some of the Reserve Bank's job for it. We can expect that labour demand will ease off again so some of those cost pressures on business will ease. We can expect to see some caution by consumers which will constrain some willingness to spend. We can expect some businesses which were planning to raise their prices place such increases on hold," Alexander said.
But he doesn't see big scope for house sales to be hugely damaged.
"Residential real estate activity during lockdown will remain strong. This is happening in New South Wales and Sydney property prices continue to rise strongly. There is a huge queue of frustrated property buyers who will be hoping that vendors will decide to get on with their lives and sell. So, searching on listings websites is likely to rise. Once lockdown ends, we can expect a fresh surge in real estate turnover, in orders being placed for new dwellings, and in house prices," Alexander forecast.
REINZ's Baird said the lockdowns were "no doubt going to have some slow-down impact on the sale and purchase of homes across the country. However, real estate businesses developed new ways of working in the first lockdown in early 2020 so there are well-tested practices in place that enable them to continue to deliver remote appraisals or listings, electronic sales and purchase agreements, and online or phone auctions which will help keep things moving."
Most tenants were able to delay their move-out or move-in dates, she said.
"Property managers are aware of the stress and uncertainty this can create for people and encourage all landlords and tenants to be flexible at this time to keep everyone safe," she said.