By Bernard Hickey
Listings on Realestate.co.nz fell in January to their lowest levels in four years in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, but asking prices also fell despite falling inventories suggesting the housing market favours sellers rather than buyers.
The monthly report from Realestate.co.nz on its Unconditional blog shows new listings fell 2% to 8,542 in January from December and were up only 3% from a year ago, despite property sales rising at an annualised rate of around 20%.
Realestate.co.nz CEO Alistair Helm said supply was not keeping up with the pace of buyer demand. He pointed to record low levels of inventory.
“The last three months has seen just over 30,000 new listings come on the market, which is equal to the same time period last year, yet sales are up 22%," Helm said.
"With the three major cities leading the trend, the market has tightened even further in most regions across the country,” he said.
Auckland’s inventory fell to 23.6 weeks of sales, while Wellington’s fell to 21.6 and Christchurch's fell to 21.7. National inventory levels dropped to 36.4 weeks, which is down 25% on the same month last year, and below the long-term average of 41 weeks.
Realestate.co.nz reported the average asking price for homes fell 1% in seasonally adjusted terms to NZ$417,740.
"Sellers are not stretching price expectations of buyers as yet. As has been the trend for months now, sellers continue to have the upper hand in the market, but the market is still setting the price," Helm said.
ASB Economist Christina Leung said the number of new listings fell 2.4% in January from December on a seasonally adjusted basis and followed a 7.4% fall the previous month.
Leung said the housing market remained very tight.
"There continue to be a decline in new listings in the key regions Canterbury and Auckland, pointing to continued tightness in these housing markets," she said.
"We expect the tightness in the housing market will underpin a continued modest recovery in house prices over the coming year."
(Updated with ASB comment)