The Auckland housing market continues to move in favour of buyers, with prices easing but sales numbers jumping to their highest January level in three years, said the city's biggest realtor.

The median house price was $875,000, down 5.4 per cent on the month and 0.3 per cent on the year, according to Barfoot & Thompson, which accounts for about a third of all residential property sales in the city. Sales numbers, however, were 653, up 29.6 per cent versus December and 10.1 per cent higher than they were a year earlier.

"It points to vendors accepting that the market has moved in favour of buyers, and they are trimming their expectations as to the price they will accept. However, there is certainly no indication that there is a major decline in prices," said managing director Peter Thompson.

Ongoing population growth, low mortgage interest rates and the recent easing of loan-to-valuation restrictions are expected to keep a floor under demand in the Auckland housing market.

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ASB Bank senior economist Jane Turner said some of the increase in sales volumes was catch-up from December when the level of transactions had been weak, due in part to "a holiday timing distortion" as there was quite a short run up to Christmas in terms of working days.

"According to our estimates, that has bounced right back in January," she said.

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Turner noted that inventory remains broadly steady: "I am seeing a housing market in Auckland that is broadly balanced between supply and demand. Prices remain flat, so there is no significant pressure up or down, so that is our expectation for the year."

Barfoot also said it listed 981 properties in January, and at month end had 4,334 properties on its books, 3.4 per cent higher than in December but largely unchanged on the year.

"Market indications are that a significant number of new listings will hit the market in February further increasing the already strong level of buyer choice," said Thompson.

Barfoot said sales are strong across all price bands, with 28.8 per cent of sales being for in excess of $1 million and 41.5 per cent of sales being for under $750,000.

- BusinessDesk

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