Key Points:

The upper end of the residential property market has performed strongly over the past five years, with increased sales resulting in soaring prices.

In a market overview in Bayleys latest Select portfolio of top urban, coastal and lifestyle properties, regional price increases from the upper end of the residential property market (measured by Bayleys Research as the top 15 per cent of sales by value), have ranged between 58 per cent and 112 per cent over the five-year period December 2001 to December 2006.

The North Island's two largest centres, Auckland and Wellington, have some of the most highly valued property in the country, and the growth in sales activity, particularly evident in Auckland, has led to more houses selling at higher prices.

Sales volume in Auckland grew from 974 high-end sales in the December quarter of 2001 to 1190 in the same quarter of 2006, an increase of 22 per cent. Growth in Wellington was more subdued, recording 339 top 15 per cent sales in the December quarter of 2006, just 6 per cent up from December 2001.

In the Auckland region, the increase in sale prices has maintained the city's reputation as having the most expensive housing in the country, says Bayleys Research analyst Sarah Davidson. Median sale prices in Auckland for the top 15 per cent of properties peaked at $900,000 in the last quarter of 2006. This is an increase of 58 per cent from the December 2001 quarter recording of $569,000.

Wellington's percentage price growth was slightly more than Auckland's over the last five years but off a lower base. In December 2001, Wellington's median sale price for top 15 per cent properties was $333,750. This has grown to a median of $713,000 over the five years to December 2006, an increase of 64 per cent.

The South Island's largest city, Christchurch, has had an impressive five years, with a current median sale price of $625,000 for its top 15 per cent of properties, up 89 per cent since the December 2001 median reading of $330,000. Sales volume is up 24 per cent to 310 on the December 2001 total of 251.

Outside the major centres, provincial areas of New Zealand have also performed well, experiencing impressive growth both in the price of high-end property and in sales volume over the past five years.

In the North Island, Napier and Hastings outperformed the other provincial cities, displaying percentage growth of almost 100 per cent in median sales price. The December 2006 median for the top 15 per cent of property in the region is $530,000.

In Northland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, the Bayleys Research analysis shows top-end median price increases of around 70 per cent. Northland's high-end median property prices increased from $395,000 in December 2001 to $560,000 in December 2006, a change of 68 per cent. Median sale prices for high-end property in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions increased by 74 per cent, from $325,000 in December 2001 to $564,250 in December 2006.

The far south has experienced the highest growth in median sale prices during this period. In Otago and the Otago Lakes area, which includes Wanaka and Queenstown, median sale prices are more than double what they were in December 2001.

Despite a decline in sales activity in the Central Otago Lakes area, growth of the top 15 per cent median sale price was the most impressive for the whole of New Zealand, with a 112 per cent increase. Median property prices at the high end of the market are now $900,000, putting property prices on a par with Auckland as the most expensive in the country.

The Select portfolio features a wide selection of prestige properties, currently being marketed for sale by Bayleys from the Bay of Islands to Central Otago and the Otago Peninsula.

Properties range from traditional urban homesteads to lifestyle retreats, as well as coastal, lakefront and riverside offerings.

An E-book copy of the Select portfolio can be found on Bayleys' website.

- REINZ, Bayleys Research