If ever there is a gauge of the state of the Auckland residential property market, it has to be Barfoot & Thompson's central Auckland auction rooms, where dozens of properties are sold each week.
The mid-week auctions in Shortland St often begin with a full house and standing-room only as potential bidders vie for the relatively few homes listed for sale.
At two Wednesday auction sessions last month, virtually all the properties sold, either under the hammer or beforehand. Of the 32 properties listed, nine sold before auction day.
Other agencies in Auckland have achieved similar high auction clearance rates in recent weeks. Eight out of 10 properties at one Bayleys auction sold either under the auctioneer's hammer, or by negotiation immediately after the auction.
At the Barfoot & Thompson auction, 16 of the 32 properties sold under the hammer, two auctions were postponed, and one property was withdrawn from sale before auction day.
Only two properties that reached the auction floor failed to attract bids, and in both cases land title or building consent complications were involved.
Two properties were passed in because they didn't reach the reserve price, but the highest bidders had first right to negotiate an acceptable price, and agents were confident the properties would sell.
Buyer interest was strong at most of the open homes leading up to auction day, and that strong interest translated into robust bidding on the day.
Interest in an upgraded three-bedroom bungalow at 141 Peary Rd in Mt Eden was so strong the auction was brought forward by weeks. The vendors had an acceptable offer before the auction, and the property sold for $100,000 above the reserve.
It had polished floors, was close to schools, public transport and shops and cafes, and was marketed by Derek Helliwell and Cathy Giles from Barfoot's Mt Eden branch.
Bidding opened at the reserve $1.35 million, and increased quickly in just 15 bids to the sale price of $1.45 million. The property sold to a telephone bidder.
The property last sold in July 2008, for $557,000.
Although there have been larger auctions during the past 18 months, the high clearance rate this day demonstrates the strong momentum the Auckland market has built up since last year.
A full range of properties across much of Auckland were up for auction, from several smaller brick-and-tile units to expensive homes in the leafier and more central suburbs such as Remuera and Epsom.
Auctioneers say one- and two-bedroom brick-and-tile units are always popular, especially when they are near services such as shops, public transport and, in some cases, beaches.
An example was a "rock solid" one-bedroom end unit at 1/2 Thatcher St in Mission Bay. The unit, built in the 1960s, was marketed by Alan Vessey from Barfoot's Mission Bay office.
The unit, with one car park, sold for $515,000, almost twice as much as it sold for when it was last on the market - $259,875 in March 2000. A neighbouring unit had sold for $355,000 in August 2008.
Another one-bedroom property, a studio apartment at 1B/94 Dominion Rd in Mt Eden, marketed by Anah Jordan from Barfoot's City office, was one of the few properties where auctioneer Murray Smith could attach the term "affordable" to during the day.
Described as a "light and attractive" studio apartment in a convenient location with a car park, and close to local amenities, the property attracted robust bidding from the opening bid of $200,000, until it sold for $346,000.
The sale price was also double the $170,000 the apartment sold for last, in December 2006.
A three-bedroom brick-and-tile townhouse at 110J Grey St, Onehunga, was marketed by Margaret Johnston and Phyllis Brooks from Barfoot's Panmure office.
With easy motorway access, proximity to shops and cafes, the property sold for $590,000, $280,000 more than it last sold for, in June 2004.
But only four other properties among the 32 listed sold for less than $1 million.
One was a single-level two-bedroom unit at 3/22 Taylor St, in Blockhouse Bay. Once again, bidders were attracted to a property handy to schools, shops and public transport.
Marketed by Gail Beaton from Barfoot's Blockhouse Bay, the unit had decking, a fully fenced back garden, car port and extra parking.
Auctioneer Marian Tolich once again highlighted how popular brick-and-tile units were with buyers. This one was back from the road and in a block of two. Bidding started at $350,000, and quickly reached the reserve price of $490,000. It finally sold at $519,000 to a bidder on the auction room floor.
The sale price compares with $320,000 the property last sold for, in June 1988.
The third property to sell under $1 million was a "charming" two-storey two-bedroom unit at 7/5 Aratonga Ave, Greenlane. The property was close to shops and all amenities, and marketed by Jonathan White, from Barfoot and Thompson's Grey Lynn office.
Bidding began at $550,000 and briskly increased to the reserve of $710,000. The property sold for $780,000.
This compares with the $180,000 the property last sold for, in July 1998.
The fourth property to sell for less than $1 million was a single-level brick-and-tile two-bedroom home at 47 Riro St, in Pt Chevalier. Tolich described the property as "solid and dependable", with a north-facing garden, decking, a sunroom and a garage. It was marketed by Chris Batchelor and Louise Stringer from Barfoot's Ponsonby office, and quickly sold at $852,000, $297,000 more than it sold for in May 2010.
A "charming" three-bedroom bungalow with polished floors, open-plan living, decks and a fully fenced section at 8 Vause St, Ellerslie, sold for $805,000. It had been marketed by Alex Shin from Barfoot's Parnell office. Auctioneer Murray Smith talked up the home's location near Ellerslie village and its proximity to local amenities such as St Michael's Reserve, and he accepted an opening bid of $600,000.
The successful bidder was competing against at least three others.
But by standing in a strategic position in the rear corner of the auction room, the winner was able to see who was bidding against him. He also bid resolutely and quickly, obviously trying to knock the confidence of less-assured bidders. The strategy paid off, although he paid $95,000 more for the property than it fetched when it last came on the market, in March last year. All other properties sold on the day were well above the $1 million mark.
Among them was a three-bedroom, single-level family home on 708sq m with decking, at 49 Grand Drive, Remuera. In one of the day's longest auctions, the property attracted 69 bids, starting at $800,000, and reaching the sale price of $1.178 million. The property, marketed by Michael and Tatyana Ataman from Barfoot's Meadowbank offices, last sold for $505,000, in March 2006.
Earlier in the day another property that also backed on to the Waiatarua Reserve in Remuera, at 7 Monteith Cres, sold for more than $1 million. The 1970s weatherboard four-bedroom home on a 746sq m section, had a modern kitchen, decking with a single carport and plenty of off-street parking.
It was marketed by Verena Lobb from Barfoot's Remuera branch, as being handy to shops and having easy motorway access.
The home sold for $1.232 million, almost double the $637,000 it sold for when last on the market, in May 2009.