The number of Auckland residential properties for sale has risen, prices dropped last month and places took longer to sell, according to the latest Real Estate Institute data out this morning.

"After months of record low numbers of houses available for sale across Auckland, the number of properties for sale in the region jumped by 1135 (17 per cent) compared to January 2016," REINZ said.

Auckland's median sale price dropped 4.2 per cent from December to January and Auckland places took a median 41 days to sell in last month, two days more than last January.

All three factors could be further evidence of a softening market, though REINZ did not mention that.


Nationally, sales inventory fell sharply.

"This contrasts with declining numbers of properties for sale nationwide, with 3743 fewer houses for sale in January compared to 12 months ago. Excluding Auckland, the number of properties for sale has fallen by 4878 (-22 per cent) over the past 12 months," REINZ said.

Michael Gordon, Westpac acting chief economist said: "The latest REINZ report shows a marked slowdown in the housing market over January. While January is typically the quietest part of the year anyway, seasonally adjusted figures point to a renewed downturn after some signs of stabilisation at the end of 2016.

"House sales fell 6.7 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms, with the biggest declines coming in some of last year's hot spots: Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown. Altogether, sales are down more than 20 per cent from their peak in April last year.

"The REINZ stratified price index fell by 0.9 per cent in January - although the breakdown suggests a steep drop in prices in Auckland but modest gains in the rest of the country. We're a little wary of this result, as the index can still be affected by changes in the composition of sales over the holiday period. We'll be keeping an eye on a broad range of housing indicators, to see if the weakness in the Auckland market persists," Gordon said.

"Our research has long pointed to interest rates as the dominant driver of house prices. Mortgage rates have been heading higher since November, ending a steady downward trend over the previous couple of years. Our view remains that higher borrowing costs will have a more sustained impact on house prices than any kind of lending restrictions," Gordon noted.

REINZ said that compared to January 2016, the number of new listings fell 9 per cent in Canterbury, 29 per cent in Wellington and 16 per cent in Waikato/Bay of Plenty," Gordon noted.

Nationally, prices rose 0.2 per cent between December and January. On a year-on-year basis, the national median rose $42,000 or 9 per cent," Gordon said.


Two of 12 regions hit new record high median sale prices in January: Nelson/Marlborough up 25 per cent to $470,000 and Hawke's Bay up 16 per cent to $366,000.

The national number of days to sell rose by 10 days to reach 41 days last month.

Bindi Norwell, REINZ chief executive, said Aucklanders now had more choice of properties to buy.

"Anecdotal evidence from agents around the country suggests that the market has been picking up speed again towards the end of January. The number of properties for sale in Auckland is certainly rising, with more than four months of supply now available and a rise of more than a month of supply over the past year. This lead indicator means greater choice for Auckland home buyers, and prompts us to ask whether the Auckland market is showing some early new signs of activity," she said.

Other data also showed a change in Auckland's market.

On December 13, the Herald reported how the Real Estate Institute said Auckland house prices had fallen 4 per cent in November and sales volumes were down 5 per cent year on year. Barfoot & Thompson said the Auckland market had "turned" and there were signs of price rises slowing. The QV House Price Index showed Auckland's 3.7 per cent quarterly value rise the slowest since January last year.