Auckland realtor Barfoot & Thompson had its quietest month in more than 10 years in February, with sales down 28 per cent from a year earlier.
Barfoot sold 474 houses last month, down from 665 in February 2018, the lowest monthly turnover since December 2008, a time when New Zealand's mezzanine finance sector was in the process of collapsing and the global financial crisis was in full swing.
Despite the lack of activity, prices held up, with the median sale price down 2.3 per cent at $801,000. Barfoot managing director Peter Thompson said vendors preferred to pull listings rather than accept lower offers.
"The market is progressively hardening into a buyers' market with a number of vendors preferring to take their property off the market when they cannot achieve their asking price," he said in a statement.
Barfoot attracted 1,563 new listings in February, down from 1,747 a year earlier. By the end of the month, it had 4,660 properties on its books, compared to 4,648 in February 2018.
Auckland is ground zero for the property market because it has a shortage of stock could to meet the needs of an expanding population, prompting policymakers to embark on a number of initiatives to address the imbalance.
That included the Reserve Bank imposing specific leverage restrictions on Auckland property investors, who have been blamed for much of the rapid price appreciation.
About 2.7 per cent of Barfoot's sales were north of $2 million, and another 27.8 per cent were $1-2 million. About 12.7 per cent were below $500,000.
Thompson said the top end of the market tends to have a quieter start to the year, with new listings expected to show up in late February and early March.