The number of homes sold in New Zealand has plummeted to a 10-year low for July, with the housing market 'stuck in neutral' at best.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand's Housing Price Index fell 1.2 per cent in July when compared with the month prior, but rose 1.8 per cent from July last year.

Nationwide sales slipped from 4575 transactions in June to 4411 last month, the lowest July total in 10 years.

Goldman Sachs JB Were economist Philip Borkin said the property market was "stuck in netural at best".

"We expect this theme to continue for the foreseeable future, which also portends a sluggish residential investment and consumer spending backdrop," he said.

Auckland was the only major centre to record an increase in prices from June, up $5000 to $450,000.

Prices were down from $405,000 to $385,000 in Wellington and in Christchurch city the median residential property price fell from $340,000 to $328,250 during the same period.

Prices also fell in the Central Otago Lakes region, Canterbury/Westland, Waikato Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Nelson/Marlborough, but were up in Otago, Taranaki, Manawatu/Wanganui and Southland.

However property prices in the main centres were holding up well when compared to a year ago, REINZ says.

Christchurch recorded a 7.4 per cent rise in property prices, while prices in Auckland were up 1.7 per cent and in Wellington prices rose 1.1 per cent.

REINZ spokesperson Peter Thompson said he expects to see a lift in sales in the coming months as home owners prepare their properties for the spring market.

"We are seeing a similar pattern to last month with sales volumes down, but prices remaining stable in contradiction of predictions of a falling market."

"Good sales are still being made and properties priced right are attracting a lot of attention and are selling."

The national median number of days to sell stayed at 45 for July which is longer than the 37 days of July last year, but an improvement on the median of 58 days two years ago.

ANZ economist Mark Smith said the low number of sales and rising days to sell suggested there was not a lot of optimism in the housing market.

"The June and July hikes by the Reserve Bank would be one factor encouraging increasing caution by buyers."

"Offsetting this, however, have been recent cuts to fixed mortgage rates, which may start to entice more buyers into the market," he said.

The total value of residential sales, including sections, in July declined to $1.83 billion, a further decrease on the June total of $1.96 billion.

- NZ HERALD ONLINE