National and Auckland house prices and volumes dropped in the last two months, but don't read too much into that.
National median prices were down 2 per cent from December, falling from $745,000 to $730,000.
Auckland median house price dropped $25,000 in a month, from December's $1,025,000 to $1m last month and the number of sales fell too.
The latest Real Estate Institute data just out also showed Auckland sales volumes down 46 per cent between December and January, from 3507 properties sold to 1870.
But REINZ warned against seeing any longer-term trends in the lumpy month-on-month data, which jumps about according to how many bottom and top-end sales were made, the weather, holidays, length of time people were away from their homes and many other seasonal factors.
"The Auckland market saw a slight cooling off in prices when compared to the record high we saw in December 2020, which is what we would expect at this time of the year," said REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell.
"Interestingly, when we look at the data from a seasonally adjusted perspective, house prices were actually higher than we would normally expect at this time of the year" Norwell said, referring to price rises on the North Shore and Rodney.
"There is still strong competition for good properties in the region," she said.
On a national scale, much the same sentiments applied.
"In January the residential property market slows down, and prices ease off a bit as people head to the beach for their summer holidays," Norwell said.
Looking at the latest figures on a longer-term basis, national median house prices rose 19.3 per cent annually from $612,000 last January to $730,300 last month.
National median house prices excluding Auckland rose 14.7 per cent from $525,000 in January last year to $602,000 last month.
Norwell said 27 districts reached new record high median prices, with 13 of those districts exceeding last month's record.
"Additionally, the fear of future price rises and the fear of missing out lingers deep in buyers' minds and is impacting people's buying behaviour as January saw a continuation of properties selling at a rapid pace. Last month, residential properties sold at their fastest pace for a January month in 17 years, carrying on the pattern we've seen over the past few months and therefore continuing to impact pricing," Norwell said.
A week ago, the Reserve Bank warned that the overheated housing market was at growing risk of a correction and said it would re-introduce loan-to-value ratio (LVR) rules at the tougher end of expectations.
Most investors will need a 30 per cent deposit from March but that will rise to 40 per cent from May. Most owner-occupier buyers will need a minimum 20 per cent deposit.
LVR restrictions were removed last April to ensure they didn't interfere with Covid-19 policy responses aimed at promoting cash flow and confidence.
Owen Vaughan, editor of NZME-owned listing website OneRoof.co.nz, said: "The big question in Auckland is, 'Will the latest lockdown have an impact on prices?' The last time Auckland's housing market was beset by Alert Level Three restrictions the city's housing market took off, with agencies recording big sales in their online auctions. Stock issues and increased buyer demand remain factors in the market so it's unlikely Auckland prices will change their trajectory - even if the lockdown is extended for a period.
"The REINZ data supports OneRoof's own recent market figures, which show New Zealand house prices outstripping pre-Covid prices by $130,000. Gisborne, Hastings and Lower Hutt remain the areas to watch, with property values in each of the TAs surging in the months since the country's Covid lockdown ended," Vaughan said.
Last month, REINZ reported national house prices set records for the fourth month in a row in December. Sales in the Christmas month set a new median house price of $749,000, up on the December 2019 national median which was only $628,000.
But the number of houses on the market continued to plummet then, putting further pressure on the stretched sector.