Last year ended on a slow note, with the lowest number of house sales nationally recorded for a December in seven years.

Real Estate Institute data showed a 13 per cent annual fall in national house sale numbers, from 6,117 in December 2017 to 5,330 last month.

Bindi Norwell, REINZ chief executive, said: "December is usually a quiet month as people focus on Christmas holidays. December 2018 was extremely quiet with the lowest number of properties sold for the month of December for seven years. Additionally, 12 out of 16 regions saw an annual decrease in the number of properties sold."

Data out this week from Quotable Value showed price declines in the three months to December in many of Auckland's most upmarket suburbs. And Barfoot & Thompson, which says it sells one in three Auckland residential properties, said that the city was now in negative price territory for the first time in a decade.

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REINZ showed how Auckland was particularly hard-hit by low sales last month, with a 24 per cent decline between December 2017 when 1765 places were sold, and last month when just 1336 places were sold.

December-to-December sales volumes fell in Taranaki 23 per cent, Wellington 16 per cent, Otago 14 per cent and Southland 13 per cent, REINZ said.

New Zealand's national median house sale price rose 1.5 per cent from December to December to reach $560,000, REINZ said. Auckland's median rose 0.2 per cent to $862,000.