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Auckland housing market slows in March

New Zealand house sales fell 9.9 percent and properties took a day longer to sell in March as against a year earlier, as a cooling Auckland property market continued to weigh on the national outlook.

The number of houses sold fell to 7,768 in March from 8.622 a year earlier, which was the biggest sales month in 2017, with Auckland sale numbers down 12 percent to 2,386, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand says. The median number of days to sell increased to 34 days from 33 days a year earlier, and in Auckland it was even longer - 36 days.

"While at face value this looks like a low number, March 2017 was an extremely strong month in terms of the number of properties sold," Real Estate Institute chief executive Bindi Norwell said. "Whilst the seasonally adjusted figure was also down by 7.8 percent year-on-year, this is just one month's worth of data following two solid months of sales, so we're not overly concerned about this month's volume."

New Zealand's property market has been slowing over the past year as efforts by policymakers to cool rapid gains with restrictions on highly-leveraged lending started to bite. At the same time, tougher credit criteria imposed by lenders, and construction to address the mismatch between supply and demand have been making small inroads in the gap.

While activity has been slowing, prices remain strong, with the house price index rising 4.2 percent to 2,710, a new record high. Excluding Auckland, the index climbed 7.2 percent, outpacing a 1 percent increase in the country's biggest city.

The national median sale price rose 1.8 percent to $560,000 in March from a year earlier with record levels in Gisborne, up 18 percent to $330,000, Hawke's Bay, up 12 percent to $445,0000, and Wellington up 10 percent to $583,000. Auckland's median sale price fell 2.2 percent to $880,000.

The national inventory (the number of properties available for sale over the month) increased 1 percent to 26,742, with a 14 percent increase in Nelson, a 9 percent expansion in Waikato and a 6 percent rise in Auckland.

The bottom end of the market accounted for a smaller proportion of sales in the month, the Reinz figures show. Houses sold for less than $500,000 made up 41.9 percent of all sales, down from 44.2 percent a year earlier, while the top end of the market shrank a little, with $1 million-plus property sales accounting for 15.4 percent, compared to 15.9 percent a year earlier. House sales between $500,000 and $749,999 accounted for 29 percent of all sales, up from 25.9 percent a year earlier, while the $750,000-to-$999,999 band was 13.7 percent, down from 14 percent.

Reinz said the smaller proportion of sales at the bottom end of the market reflected the overall increase in median price.

(BusinessDesk)

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