11 Apr 2014

House prices hit new high in March

8:02 pm on 11 April 2014

House prices hit a record in March as sales volumes declined.

The Real Estate Institute's national house price index, which smoothes out distortions caused by more or fewer more expensive houses selling in any month, rose 3.4 percent in March from February. It was also 9.2 percent higher than in March last year.

An image of houses among trees on a hill.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The number of houses sold in March fell 10 percent to 7315, compared with March 2013.

Houses also took eight fewer days to sell in March than in February, another sign of a tight market.

The national median price rose $44,000, or 10 percent, to a record $440,000. In Auckland, the median price rose 13 percent, to a new high of $637,000, while in earthquake-hit Canterbury, the median jumped 11 percent to a high of just over $400,000.

Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan says there aren't enough homes in Canterbury and Auckland to meet demand from potential buyers.

Ms O'Sullivan says there's been a noticeable shift in sales towards higher valued properties and the impact of lending restrictions on first-home buyers in quieter districts remains strong.

An Auckland real estate agent says he has missed out on sales because of the restrictions on low mortgage deposits. In October last year, the Reserve Bank imposed a limit on banks lending to people with low equity.

Institute figures show sales of properties under $400,000 have fallen by about 22 percent in March, compared with the same month last year.

Craig Smith, an agent with L J Hooker in Titirangi, says that is a direct result of the restrictions, and he's feeling the impact. He says he has missed out on about three or four sales.