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National and Auckland house prices are at an all-time record due partly to the pandemic as sales rally post-lockdowns and people upgrade their homes where they're spending more time.

Last month's new national record median of $675,000 is up from $580,000 a year ago and July's $659,000, according to new Real Estate Institute data.

Auckland's median jumped 16 per cent to $950,000 - a new record high - up from $819,000 at the same time last year and up from $918,097 in July.

Bindi Norwell, REINZ chief executive, said many factors were working together to drive up prices but she cited the pandemic for two reasons.

"The combination of low interest rates, the removal of loan-to-value restrictions, the lack of listings, people's aspiration to have more space or a bigger backyard, catch up post lockdown and first-time buyers' desire to get onto the market have all contributed to the uplift."

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Every region in the country recorded an annual increase in median house prices last month.

Economists were this year predicting house price falls of 6 to 9 per cent either by the end of this year or by March next year.

The opposite has happened and Norwell predicted this could continue.

"Unless we see more listings come to the market before Christmas, we may start to see additional pressure on house prices and affordability," she said.

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The weather now has a big effect on the market.

"It will be interesting to see what happens now that we're heading into spring, as traditionally sales volumes start to lift as the weather warms up," Norwell said.



"As we've already seen, 2020 seems to be defying all predictions and going against all norms at this point in time. However, the full impact of Covid-19 may not have been realised yet, particularly in relation to unemployment and the economy."

Northland recorded a 16.6 per cent annual price rise to a median $590,000, up from $506,000.

Whangarei district hit a median price of $610,000 and Bay of Plenty prices rose 11 per cent annually to a new median $665,000.

Waikato prices jumped 16.7 per cent to $628,000, up from $538,000 at the same time last year, and the fourth record median price in a row.

Three Waikato region districts had record medians: Matamata-Piako District ($587,000), Otorohanga District ($418,500) and Waipa District ($715,000).

Manawatu/Wanganui showed a 15.1 per cent price increase to $450,000 up from $391,000 at the same time last year.

Three Manawatu/Wanganui district regions had record median prices: Tararua ($320,000), Manawatu ($535,000) and Whanganui ($375,000).

Taranaki prices were up 15.3 per cent from $391,000 to $451,000.

Canterbury prices rose 13 per cent from $440,000 to $497,000 and two districts within that region set new records - Ashburton at $391,500 and Waimakariri at $515,000.

Otago had a 17.2 per cent increase from $495,000 to $580,000 and Southland prices rose 20.3 per cent from $310,000 to $373,000.

Auctions were used in 16.1 per cent of sales throughout New Zealand in August, when 1232 properties sold, up from 10.6 per cent at the same time last year, when 650 properties were sold via auction.

This was the highest percentage of auctions for August in four years.

ASB economist Mike Jones said today: "Beneath the frothy headlines were a few straws in the wind to suggest the market might be easing up a little. August was an unusual month though, given the abrupt shift up in Alert Levels on the 12th. So we'd prefer to see another month or two worth of data before getting too carried away."

First, housing activity throttled back, he noticed. National house sales fell 4.6 per cent in the month. Oddly, given the higher alert level in Auckland, the falls were concentrated outside of Auckland generally and in Canterbury particularly (-7.9 per cent month on month), Jones said.

Auckland sales actually lifted 2.2 per cent month on month, the strongest month for seasonally-adjusted since mid-2015.

"Second, days to sell a house – a reliable short-term indicator for prices – ticked up," Jones noted.

National median days to sell lifted to 34.1 from 33.6 and, again, the lift was concentrated outside of Auckland with Wellington up to 31 from 28 days and Canterbury up from 33 to 36 days.

"There are a raft of crosswinds affecting the New Zealand housing market. The overall outlook is dependent on when and in what combination they hit," he said.

Wage subsidies, interest rates and the mortgage holiday schemes were all factors.

"In time, we continue to expect a housing market slowdown. Our previous forecast for a 6 per cent fall in house prices was recently upgraded to just a 3 per cent fall by March 2021," Jones said.