There was a big lift in the volume of residential property sales and their median prices in March, with several regions including Auckland, Waikato/Bay of Plenty and Canterbury/Otago setting new median price records, according to the latest figures from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ).
There were 8504 residential properties sold in March, up 35% compared to February but still down 11% compared to March last year.
The National median sales price hit a new record of $546,000, up 10% compared to February and up 10.3% compared to March last year.
New median price records were also set in Northland, Auckland, Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Taranaki, Canterbury/Westland and Otago.
However much, of the upward movement in prices was likely due to a change in the composition of the properties being sold, with more higher priced properties selling and fewer lower value ones, which could move the median needle.
This month the REINZ has launched a new House Price Index (HPI) which has been designed in conjunction with the Reserve Bank and adjusts for monthly differences in the composition of the homes that are sold.
The HPI showed that nationally, prices in March were up 10% compared to March last year but unchanged from February.
In Auckland, the HPI was up 8.3% compared to March last year but down 0.3% compared to February.
The national figures with Auckland removed showed a gain of 13% compared to March last year, and a gain of 0.6% compared to February.
That suggests that prices in Auckland are flat or declining overall and starting to flatten out around the rest of the country.
The Index showed that prices are down in most parts of Auckland, with the biggest decline occurring Rodney, where the Index declined 1.7% in March compared to February, followed by the North Shore -0.4%, Central Auckland suburbs -0.4%, and Manukau -0.3%.
However the Index posted gains in Waitakere +0.4% (although it was down 0.4% in Waitakere compared to three months earlier), Papakura +1% and Franklin +3%.
The only other major centres where the Index declined in March compared to February were Rotorua -0.6% (-2.1% compared to three months earlier), Christchurch -1.6% and Queenstown -0.3% (-2.9% compared to three months earlier).
Nationally, the biggest gains in the HPI in March compared to February were in Franklin (Auckland's southernmost district) +3%, Napier +3%, Dunedin +2.5% and New Plymouth +2.2%.
"The REINZ HPI takes many aspects of market composition into account, and thus provides more accurate results," REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell said in the REINZ's March report (se below).
"When applied to the March data, the HPI indicates that the lift in the median price was largely driven by changes in the underlying mix of dwellings sold in March compared to February.
"While the median price went up $51,000 across New Zealand, the HPI was stable month-on-month at 0% change, indicating more sales in higher price brackets than lower ones."
House price inflation has 'cooled substantially'
In a First Impressions newsletter on the REINZ figures,Westpac Acting Chief Economist Michael Gordon said the new HPI gave a clearer picture of the direction of prices.
"The new index confirms our sense that house price inflation has cooled substantially in recent months," he said.
"In particular, prices in Auckland have been effectively flat since August.
"Previous hotspots such as Hamilton and Tauranga have also slowed.
However prices are still rising at a moderate pace in many of the smaller regions."
Click on the link below to read the REINZ's full regional report for March, with details of its new Housing Price Index: