Property sales in Northland were up last month thanks to increasingly popular lifestyle blocks, a Whangarei real estate boss says.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) figures show property sales in Northland rose to 207 in March, up 11 per cent from a year ago, while the median price rose $9000 to $309,000 year-on-year. Sales in Whangarei dipped to 77 from 88 last March, but house prices rose from $270,000 to $302,000.

LJ Hooker Whangarei chief executive Paul Beazley said increased sales in Northland could be attributed to a spike in the popularity of lifestyle blocks - especially on the outskirts of Whangarei.

The blocks were between 2000sq m and a hectare, and usually sold for $400,000 to $700,000.


These sales, and a growing number of other high-end sales had also helped boost house prices.

The median sale price in Whangarei had gone up to $302,000 - the highest since October 2010, Mr Beazley said.

"There's a lot more being sold. There's more money about."

Fewer sales in the "traditional" $250,000-$350,000 bracket were dragging the median price down.

"Anyone who's been trying to buy with less than a 20 per cent deposit has had a bit of a struggle so there are fewer of those buyers in the market."

Nationally, REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said there were "clear signs" the national number of sales had eased since November, following the introduction of Reserve Bank home loan lending restrictions in October which restricted lending for those with a deposit less than 20 per cent.

National median prices soared 10 per cent in March to a record high of $440,000 while the number of houses sold fell to 7315 from 8128.

The REINZ figures follow the release of a report by state valuer Quotable Value showing home loan approvals and sale numbers were down nationwide.

A further report released on Friday by Harcourts showed the average March sales price for Auckland and Northland properties jumped to a record high of $697,454 - potentially squeezing first home buyers out of the market.

Ms O'Sullivan said first home buyers in many of the quieter regions were feeling the impact of the October lending restrictions.

Since then, the Reserve Bank has lifted official interest rates from 2.5 per cent to 2.75 per cent, the first of an expected series of rate rises.

Across the 12 regions, only Southland and Central Otago Lakes showed an increase in sales compared to March 2013.

Despite fewer sales the nationwide median price continued to climb, which could be due to the dominance of Auckland and Canterbury and a noticeable shift in sales towards high value properties, she said.