14 Nov 2009

Surveys say NZ housing market picking up

8:37 pm on 14 November 2009

The housing market in New Zealand is picking up, according to new bank surveys.

ASB says a survey it conducted found housing confidence remained strong in the three months to October and there has been a marked shift in house price expectations.

The bank's chief economist, Nick Tuffley, says a net 40% of respondents expect house prices to rise over the next 12 months.

He says the turnaround from survey figures for the three months to April, in which a net 45% of people expected prices to fall, is the largest recorded to date.

Mr Tuffley says in keeping with the bullish sentiment towards housing, the market has firmly swung back to being a sellers' market.

A report from Westpac says house prices have been rising steeply and will continue to do so until March or April 2010, when they could reach increases of at least 10% compared with a year earlier.

Westpac says prices have risen 4% in the past three months and 8% since January, driven by demand in major urban centres.

Research economist Dominick Stephens says prices still remain 4% below the peak of the housing boom two years ago.

However, he says a shortage of new houses has coincided with strong population growth to fuel demand, and more potential buyers are trying to head off rising interest rates.

Mr Stephens says migration is likely to fall, interest rates are likely to rise and a downturn is possible late next year.

Buyers fighting as house stocks low

A lack of houses for sale is pushing up prices, according to the Real Estate Institute.

The institute says the national median price in October was about $355,000 - a 6% or $20,000 rise on the same month last year.

From September to October this year, the number of houses sold fell by nearly 400 to 6091.

Real Estate Institute national president Peter McDonald says buyers are fighting over a shortage of good listings.

The number of days property took to sell also fell to 31 days, more than two weeks less than during October 2008.

Median values rose in seven out of 12 districts. The largest gains were in Wellington, followed by Canterbury.

Northland and Southland recorded the biggest falls of 7% and 9%, respectively.