The national median house price has attained its highest ever level, passing the $352,000 reached in November 2007.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) figures published today put the national median house price in October at $355,000, nearly 6 per cent higher than a year earlier and $5000 higher than September.

That takes the national median to its highest ever level, $3000 above the mark reached in November 2007, REINZ data shows.

Overall, house prices continued to rise last month but the number of sales was lower than in September, latest figures show.

The time taken to sell also improved in October, with the national median at 31 days last month, compared to 33 in September and 47 a year earlier.

The 6091 properties sold last month was down from 6464 in September, but well up from the 4469 sold in October 2008.

REINZ president Peter McDonald said the steady return of property values confirmed property as the "very best investment".

Around the country, median values had risen in seven out of 12 districts compared with October 2008 prices.

The largest gains were Wellington, which was up by 12.46 per cent to $415,000, followed by Canterbury/Westland up 6.16 per cent to $310,000 and Auckland up 5.08 per cent to $455,000.

The two largest drops in property values were at either end of the country - Northland, down 7.73 per cent to $310,000 and Southland down 8.94 per cent to $180,750.

"The rises aren't, in most cases, dramatic, but slow and steady over the past few months as confidence returns to the market," Mr McDonald said.

"For the first time we are over the peak of prices in 2007 which is a very reassuring milestone."

Property was selling particularly briskly in Wellington at 27 days, with Canterbury/Westland and Otago at 28 days.

In contrast, Central Otago Lakes was the slowest at 59, while houses in Northland and Waikato/BOP took 44 and 45 days to sell respectively.

- NZPA