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House prices up but sales levels concerning


New Zealand house prices edged up in December as the property market continued to recover from its trough last year, though activity was at a "concerning" low level.

By Paul McBeth

The national median house price was $360,000 in December, up 1.4% from November, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ).

The volume of sales rose 15% from the same month of 2008 to 4,957, though sales slumped from the 6,056 houses sold in November.

"It is concerning there was less than 5,000 residential properties sold in December," REINZ president Peter McDonald said in a statement.

"The sale time of 33 days is one of the shortest for the year, which goes to show those properties sold were well sought after."

The REINZ Monthly Housing Index, a series devised in conjunction with the Reserve Bank to iron out volatility in the organisation's data, fell 0.9% to 3253.4 last month, though prices are still 3.8% below their peak in 2007. The national median number of days to sell in December was 33, 12 fewer days than the same month a year earlier, though unchanged from November.

Property values rose 2.8% last year, according to State-owned valuer QV Valuations, and investors expect the central bank will hike the official cash rate by as much as 75 basis points by the end of June as Governor Alan Bollard reverts to more normal monetary policy settings this year.

In the regions, there were 113 houses sold in Northland, down from 146 in November, and the median house price fell to $301,000 to $341,000. The median house price in Auckland was unchanged at $470,000, with sales down to 1,646 from 2,192 a month earlier. The median price in Waikato/Bay of Plenty/Gisborne held at $320,000 with sales of 715 houses, down from 828.

In Hawke's Bay, sales fell to 182 from 225 and the median price gained to $290,000 from $275,000 in November. Manawatu/Wanganui's median price held at $230,000, while sales fell to 204 from 281. Taranaki's median price rose to $280,000 from $277,000 with sales declining to 141 from 149.

In Wellington, the median price rose to $400,000 from $391,500, with 548 sales, down from 665. Nelson/Marlborough sales slipped to195 from 199 a month earlier, with the median price rising to $343,500 from $326,000.

In Canterbury/Westland, the median price rose to $320,000 from $310,000 a month earlier, with the volume of sales falling to 754 from 832.

Central Otago Lakes had 95 sales, down from 95, with the median price falling to $432,500 from $441,000. In Otago, there were 231 houses sold, down from 275 in November, while the median price decreased to $230,000 from $240,000. Southland sales dropped to 133 from 165. The median price rose to $184,000 from $182,000.

Source: Landlords.co.nz