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August house sales slump to near 2008 trough

Tuesday 14th September 2010

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(BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's residential property sales slumped by more than a quarter in August, with the volume near the depths of its trough two years ago.  

The number of sale tumbled to 4,287 from 4,411 in July, and was down 27% year-on-year, according to Real Estate Institute data. That's just 67 sales more than its trough in August 2008, though still ahead of the record-low 3,666 sales in January. The median sale price rose 0.3% to $350,000 in August, and was up 0.9% from the same month in 2009.

"These sales are almost identical to what REINZ reported during 2008 when the market was at its worst in the midst of the global financial crisis," said spokesman Bryan Thomson.

"Our current market appears slower than conditions indicate it should be."

The REINZ data follows State-owned valuer QV Valuations release last week showing property values were still on the decline last month, with sellers accepting they will have to have houses on the market for longer than an in the past.

Westpac senior economist Donna Purdue said she expects prices to continue to fall this year, with several factors weighing on residential property.

The government's changes to the tax on property "could be around for a couple of years, you've got falling net migration and rising mortgage rates over the next couple of years," Purdue said.

"There's not a lot of fundamental drivers (supporting prices) apart from income picking up with the economy, and it will take time for that to provide some support to housing."

The median number of days to sell a property rose to 43 days from 34 in August 2009, though it improved on July's 45 days.

The REINZ monthly housing price index, which was designed with the Reserve Bank to help iron out volatility in sales prices, rose 0.3% to 3201.7 in August, and fell 1.2% in a rolling three month period ended August 31. The index gained 0.9% from a year ago, though it's still 5.3% below its peak in November 2007.

The Auckland median price fell to $445,000 from $450,000 in July, and the number of sales sank to 1,487 from 1,505 month-on-month.

The Wellington median sale price gained to $397,500 from $385,000, with sales down to 501 from 521 in July.

The median sale price in Christchurch increased to $335,000 from $328,250 in July, with sales falling to 416 from 482.

The Dunedin median price dropped to $245,000 from $259,000 in July, and sales dropped to 145 from 151.

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