Barfoot & Thompson, Auckland's biggest real estate firm, says it sold more houses during March than in any month for five years, with the average price up 6.5% from February but down 1.7% from March 2011.
The firm's managing director Peter Thompson said the strong sales were again placing pressure on choice, with Barfoot & Thompson having 4,771 homes on its books at the end of March, despite listing 1,537 new properties during the month.
“Our number of listings at the end of March is down 17.8% on those for last March, and is the lowest we have had at this time of the year for four years," said Thompson.
He said the 1,246 homes sold by Barfoot & Thompson during March was the most it had sold in any month since 1,444 in March 2007. Sales were up 63.1% from February and up 16.4% from March last year.
The average sales price for the month was NZ$571,076, up 6.5% on February but down 1.7% on March last year.
“March was a month where the views of buyers and sellers reached common agreement as to where values were at, and we experienced the highest level of sales since March 2007,” said Thompson
“Prices at this level, accompanied by high turnover, is an indication of the confidence buyers have in the long-term value of Auckland property. The growing population, confidence the economy is improving and affordability at current historically low mortgage interest rates are all factors that are pushing market activity.”
Barfoot & Thompson's comments on low inventory follow those yesterday from Realestate.co.nz CEO Alistair Helm. Helm said at the end of March the national stock of unsold houses on the market dropped to its lowest point since January 2008, with 46,411 unsold houses, apartments and lifestyle properties on the block. He said nationwide inventory - measured as the number of weeks of sales in seasonally adjusted terms - dropping to 32.4 weeks supply from 46.7 weeks a year ago, and below the long-term average of 41 weeks of equivalent sales, making for a sellers' market.
Helm also said the seasonally adjusted national asking price rose again to a new high of NZ$429,865 for March, up 1% for the month and up 3% as compared with a year earlier. And he warned that if the number of houses being listed for sale doesn't increase, the inevitable house price rises that follow will risk the market stalling with buying moving out of reach for many people.
'Prices not spiralling'
Meanwhile, Thompson said the fact March’s average price was NZ$10,000 below the average for March last year and NZ$2,000 below December’s indicates prices aren't "spiralling."
“For the past two years, the March average price has been the highest for the year, and a contributor to the positive prices achieved in March is the effect the seasons have on house sales and values. While prices may move from month to month, the overall trend remains one of a modest increase year-on-year," said Thompson.
He said sales in the NZ$1 million plus category remained strong, with 99 sales.
“It was the highest number of NZ$1 million homes we have sold in a month since March 2007, and brings the number for the past three months to 180, which is 29.5% higher than for the first quarter last year."
Meanwhile, there were 628 sales by Barfoot & Thompson in the under NZ$500,000 category in March.
The Barfoot & Thompson figures are closely watched because they are the first to show sales and prices for any month and Barfoot & Thompson is the biggest agency chain in the biggest market.