New Zealand home sales climbed 20 per cent in the best December result since 2007, though sales are still at relatively subdued levels.

The number of houses sold in December rose to 5316 from 4397 a year earlier, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

The number of houses sold was down 12 per cent from November. The median sale price achieved fell 3.4 per cent to $355,000 from a month earlier, and was up 0.9 per cent in December 2010.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand said the Auckland market was strongest with its best sales in December since 2006 and the house price index for Auckland rising back to all-time highs.


"While the number of transactions is rising, prices have eased back from last month's record highs," chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said in a statement. "December has been a strong month for real estate sales in New Zealand."

The REINZ Housing Price Index, which is compiled using methodology supplied by the Reserve Bank and strips out the 'skew' associated with more houses selling in certain price brackets, showed prices falling 0.1 per cent in December from November nationwide.

The nationwide index has risen 3.1 per cent since December 2010, but remains 2.4 per cent below its November 2007 peak.

The figures come after Quotable Value data showed New Zealand property values continued to improve in December and are almost back to where they were at the market's peak in late 2007.

The property market spent much of last year in decline as households used record low interest rates to focus on repaying debt rather than take out a new mortgage, keeping a dampener on the number of properties sold and discouraging sellers.

The national median days to sell was unchanged at 35 days in December from a month earlier, and four days faster than in 2010.

In Auckland, the median house price rose 6.5 percent to $484,375 from a year earlier, with the number sold up 28 per cent to 1,826 in December.

Wellington house prices fell 3.3 per cent to $387,000 from December 2010, while the number of houses sold fell 1.5 per cent to 577.


Christchurch sale prices rose 4.7 per cent to $346,000 and the number of houses sold increased 14 per cent to 487.

Dunedin house prices gained 4.3 per cent to an average $255,000, while the number sold gained 5.2 per cent to 184 in December.

- BusinessDesk with