Auckland's largest real estate firm reported that its sales were down 23.6% compared with a year ago in an Easter-disrupted April, while the median house price dropped nearly 5% during the month to $619,550.
Barfoot & Thompson said today that for April it sold 811 properties, compared with 1062 properties for the same month in 2013.
Comparisons with the same month a year ago are difficult. Last year Easter fell between the end of March and beginning of April. This year Easter fell entirely in April, while Anzac Day fell on a Friday - probably also having an impact on potential sales.
ASB has estimated that on a seasonally-adjusted basis (taking account of the timing of Easter), the latest B&T figures might be down around 14% on the comparable figures a year ago.
B&T's median sales figure is continuing to be very volatile. In the past month it gave up the $32,000 gain it had made in March when it climbed to a record $652,000. The median in April was still 9.5% higher than for the same month a year ago.
The average price also dropped back from the record levels of the previous month, down to $708,603 from $725,728. But in March the average figure had jumped up from just $678,533 the month before.
The Reserve Bank's 'speed limits' on high loan-to-value lending appear to be continuing to have an impact on the market - not least through much fewer numbers of lower-priced houses being sold, which is skewing the average and median numbers.
The latest B&T figures show that in April 2014 the firm sold 376 properties for under $600,000, which is down some 33% on the 562 properties sold for under $600,000 in April 2013.
In contrast, the 435 houses sold for in excess of $600,000 was down just 13% on the comparative figure (which was 500) for the same month a year ago.
In the April 2014 figures, properties sold for under $600,000 made up 46.4% of the total compared with 52.9% in April 2013.
ASB economist Christina Leung said, however, that unlike recent months where the change in sales activity was concentrated at the lower end of the market, reflecting the effects of the LVR restrictions, the April decline in house sales was "across the market".
"We estimate sales of houses below $500,000 fell 13.2% on a seasonally-adjusted basis, while sales of houses above $1 million fell 12.4%. The broad-based nature of the declines in Auckland house sales in April suggests higher interest rates are starting to be the dominant influence on housing demand. Nonetheless, the LVR restrictions should continue to weigh on housing demand at the lower end of the market."
During the month B&T picked up 1630 new listings, which is its most for an April since 2003. The firm had 3623 listings at month-end, which is its most for an April since 2011. This figure represented 19.1 weeks of inventory.
The latest Realestate.co.nz figures showed that total listings in Auckland were, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, down 6% in April. The unadjusted figure for total new listings in Auckland was 3329.
This would suggest B&T has been picking up a disproportionate amount of the new business. Generally B&T is reckoned to have about 40% of the real estate market in Auckland. The latest figures suggest that in the past month the firm picked up 49% of the total new listings coming on to the Auckland market.
B&T's inventory level, at 19.1 weeks is considerably higher than the total given Auckland figure of just 15.
ASB's Leung said housing market pressures had clearly eased in the six months since the RBNZ’s LVR restrictions came into effect, "and the broad-based nature of the house sales declines in April suggests higher interest rates are starting to become the more dominant influence on housing demand".
"Despite some improvement in the housing supply/demand imbalance the Auckland housing market remains very tight, as reflected in the very low number of houses on the market," she said.
"Price growth in Auckland seems to have peaked in Q3 2013. We expect house price inflation to continue to slow over the next year or two as higher interest rates take hold and, eventually, greater construction activity adds to supply."