An "expectedly slow" month for house sales in December has paved the way for an "exceptionally busy" start to 2018, according to local real estate agents.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand's monthly property report for December was released yesterday, showing the median house price had dipped from $409,000 in November to $385,000.

This was despite three sales of more than $1 million, in December.

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Ann Crossley, First National Rotorua principal and district forum leader for the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, said the drop in median price had come as a surprise.

"December was expectedly slow - it is very common to see a seasonal drop in sales around this time. But I am a little surprised by the drop in median price because as well as the three sales at more than $1m, we had a number of big sales at the top end of the market," Crossley said.

The median price saw a nearly $100,000 jump when comparing December 2017 with the same month in 2016.

Crossley said there was still a lot of activity during the Christmas period, which had flowed into January.

"We are still seeing multiple offers on properties, 2017 was a good year for sellers. But I think we've seen a bit of a shift in that buyers are starting to walk away if properties are priced too high."

Eighty-two houses sold in December, down from 93 in November and 110 in December 2016.

"Those figures are pretty on par with previous years, where we saw a drop between November and December of 139 to 116 in 2016 and 153 to 135 in 2015."

LJ Hooker principal Malcolm Forsyth said December was a "business as usual" month.


"When you compare it to December 2016, 2017 was a bit more realistic of where we're at in terms of sales.

"We're always going to see a little downturn at the end of the year, but we're seeing an exceptionally busy January to date with an unprecedented amount of inquiries and sales.

"This level of activity bodes well for the year - we're looking forward to 2018. I doubt we'll see prices go backwards, but I think we can expect to see sustained, staged increases in price."

Simon Anderson, chief executive of Realty Group which operates Eves and Bayleys, echoed Forsyth's comments.

"The number of transactions in the last couple of years have peaked and Rotorua is back to a more normal market," Anderson said.

"To see the nearly $100,000 rise in median price between December 2016 and 2017 is quite incredible."

Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove said properties that were not selling in December were getting a lot of attention in January.

"December wasn't a bad month but it wasn't particularly special either. Buyer activity seemed to have slowed down at the end of last year, but halfway through this month, it does seem busier.

"We are still seeing a shortage of stock, but the gut feeling of the office is that we are on the precipice of a whole lot of new listings.

"We suspect Rotorua will be in for a very good February and March on the property front."