Auckland house sales jump 80% in March following soft February, Barfoot says

ASB economist Daniel Smith

Auckland residential property sales rebounded in March after a soft February, according to Barfoot & Thompson, the city's largest realtor.

Sales rose 80 percent to 1,392 from February, although remained below the 1,430 sold in March last year, the firm said in a statement. The average sale price rose to $725,708 from $678,533 the previous month, while the median price rose to $652,000 from $620,000 in February.

The Reserve Bank introduced loan-to-value mortgage lending restrictions in October last year on concern rapidly accelerating house prices in Auckland and Christchurch may lead to an asset bubble and cause financial instability. Some 19 percent of homes sold in March were under $500,000, while 35 percent were $1 million or higher, Barfoot said.

"The lift in activity seems to have been concentrated at the lower end of the market, where the RBNZ's LVR restrictions have been felt most acutely," ASB Bank economist Daniel Smith said in a note. "Despite the partial rebound in activity, the restrictions are clearly still being felt."

New listings rose 15 percent to 1,705 from the year earlier month, and were the highest level for March in six years, Barfoot said. Total listings declined 4 percent to 3,570 from the year earlier.

"If that is sustained, supply pressures may ease a little over 2014," ASB's Smith said. "But even in relation to the lower level of sales, total inventory remains very low. A continuing supply shortage in Auckland will maintain upwards pressure on prices."

The central bank hiked the benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to 2.75 percent last month and ASB expects further increases this month, July and December, Smith said.

March recorded the biggest number of higher valued properties sold in a month since 2008, with 487 properties worth $1 million or more, Barfoot said.

(BusinessDesk)

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