Barfoot and Thompson, Auckland's biggest real estate agency group, has reported sales and prices in May were strong because of firm buyer demand and a shortage of listings, extending a buoyant autumn in the housing market. Barfoot and Thompson is the first of the real estate firms to report figures for May and handles about 40% of the sales in New Zealand's biggest real estate market. Average sales prices rose 6.2% to a 12 month high of NZ$533,909 in May, while the volume of sales rose 1% in May to 814 from 809 in April. This volume was 58% up on May a year ago, Barfoot and Thompson said. However, rents eased in May as landlords discounted to fill properties. "There was real depth and strength to the market in May, with sales volume at 814 being one percent higher than in April and 58.1 percent higher than May last year, said Peter Thompson, Managing Director of Barfoot & Thompson. "This was our best month's trading for more than two years in terms of achieving both high volume and high prices," Thompson said.
"It was also the third consecutive month when we sold more than 800 homes, a target we never achieved once last year," he said. "There was a noticeable increase in demand for homes in the more established suburbs and we sold 57 homes in the NZ$1 million plus category, the highest number in one month for 18 months. It all adds up to a housing market that is active, confident and stable." Thompson said the low number of homes available for sale was a challenge. Barfoot & Thompson listed 1186 new properties in May, similar to the number in April and 14.9 percent lower than in May last year. "Restricted availability is a factor contributing to the price gains being achieved. With buyer demand strong, now represents an excellent time for property owners with realistic price expectations to test the market. Properties at the right asking price will sell," Thompson said. Meanwhile rents cooled. Weekly rentals averaged $379, down $20 a week and the lowest average weekly rent for 19 months. "Demand for rental property is easing. Landlords are prepared to trim their rental expectations to find tenants." Thompson said he expected market activity to ease slightly during winter.