So-called 'land-bankers' seeing future growth opportunities in the Auckland and Waikato regions have helped to fuel a big surge in lifestyle block buying, according to Real Estate Institute figures for the March quarter.
The national median price for lifestyle blocks topped the NZ$500,000 mark for the first time, hitting NZ$506,750. This is an increase of some 12.6% on the figure recorded 12 months ago.
It is worth noting that the increase in the national median price for lifestyle blocks in the 12 months to March outstrips the 8.1% increase in the national median house price during the same period as reported by REINZ last week.
The Auckland lifestyle block median price rose 12.4% in the past year to NZ$805,000, though this is still below the record for the region of NZ$842,500 established in June 2007.
REINZ rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said that in the March quarter Auckland and Waikato have seen the greatest lift in lifestyle block sales activity.
"...Purchase decisions appear to be based on a mix of quality of living, avoiding city congestion and land banking in anticipation of future growth opportunities," he said.
"Confidence is improving in both regions.”
The question of whether Auckland should spread 'up or out' has become a vexed one, with the Government and the Auckland Council taking strongly opposing views. If Auckland's existing metropolitan limit were to be "smashed" as Housing Minister Nick Smith has suggested there could be much to be gained in investment in outlying areas.
Most other regions had quieter to steady activity, other than Canterbury where there was an "emerging trend for purchasers to focus on quality properties with existing residences over the increasing costs and delays of building new homes within the region".
Across the country there were 1494 lifestyle block sales in the March quarter, an increase of 10.9% on the number of properties sold during the same period a year ago.
In the 12 months to March 2013 there were 5943 sales, which was 13.3% than for the 12 months to March 2012.
Eight regions recorded increases in sales compared to March 2012 while five recorded decreases in sales. Auckland recorded the largest increase (+115 sales), followed by Waikato (+49 sales) and Canterbury (+25 sales).
Compared with February 10 regions recorded increases in sales while three regions recorded decreases. Auckland recorded the largest increase in sales (+51 sales), followed by Waikato (+22 sales) and Hawkes Bay (+14 sales).
The number of days to sell for lifestyle properties eased by three days, from 68 days for the three months to the end of February to 71 days for the three months to the end of March. Compared with the three months ended March 2012 the number of days to sell improved by 8 days from 79 days to 71 days.
Taranaki recorded the shortest number of days to sell in March at 33 days, followed by Southland at 42 days and Canterbury at 56 days. Bay of Plenty recorded the longest number of days to sell at 109 days, followed by West Coast at 101 days and Hawkes Bay at 95 days.