New Zealand home sales climbed by more than a quarter in January from the same month last year as the market gradually recovers momentum after an extended lull.

The number of sales rose 25 percent to 4,073 last month from January 2011, when it recorded its worst month ever, and was down 7.4 percent from December, according to Real Estate Institute data.

The national median sale price was unchanged at $355,000, and up 4.4 percent from the same month last year.

"The supply of housing remains low, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, which has resulted in tight market conditions which will underpin further increases in house prices over the coming year," said Jane Turner, economist at ASB.


"Agency listing data show the housing market is particularly tight in Auckland as supply of new houses remains low, and has created upward pressure on house prices."

Westpac Bank chief economist Dominick Stephens said the upward trend in house sales "seems to be intact and is becoming more consistent across regions."

"Prices, which tend to lag behind sales, are still accelerating, although at far from a pace that would leave the Reserve Bank concerned about a renewed housing boom. We expect a 3.5 per cent rise in house prices over this year, helped by improving household incomes, low mortgage rates, and constrained supply in Auckland and Canterbury."

The figures come after government valuer Quotable Value said property values rose 2.7 percent last month compared to a year earlier, as Auckland's strength underpins the nationwide gain.

The REINZ stratified house price index, which strips out monthly variance in proportion to high or low-value properties, fell 1.4 percent in the month to 3253.8, and is 3.8 percent below the peak in 2007. It's up 4.3 percent on an annual basis.

Helen Sullivan, REINZ chief executive, said the shortage of listings is apparent in many areas, and causing "increasing levels of buyer frustration."

"Prices remain relatively stable despite the supply pressure, which probably reflects the reluctance of buyers to over-extend themselves while economic uncertainty continues," Sullivan said.

The national median number of days to sell rose to 47 in January from 35 a month earlier, and was down from 51 days in 2011.


In Auckland, the median house price rose 4.7 percent to $471,000 from a year earlier, with the number sold up 27 percent to 1,421 in January.

Wellington house prices gained 4.1 percent to $385,000 from January 2011, while the number of houses sold climbed 15 percent to 435.

Christchurch sale prices rose 2.3 percent to $337,444 and the number of houses sold increased 4.1 percent to 282.

Dunedin house prices gained 11 percent to an average $245,000, while the number sold gained 35 percent to 143 in January.