Auckland real estate sales figures for April point to a jump in properties selling at the lower-end of the market, including apartments.
Property data released by real estate agency Barfoot and Thompson showed slim pickings for Auckland property buyers in April, with listings around 75 percent down on usual numbers. With open homes off the table, virtual-only viewings (and contactless appointments from April 28) meant fewer sales, which were skewed towards first homes, including apartments.
Managing director Peter Thompson, said that although April sales were half those of March (552 sales), the results don't yet reflect the impact of COVID-19 lockdown. Average and median sales values dropped due to more buyer activity on lower-priced homes, with more $1m plus homes staying on the market.
“In April we listed 239 properties for sale, less than a quarter of the number we would anticipate listing at this time of the year," Thompson said.
“Forty percent of all sales were for properties in the under $500,000 price category, while property that sold for $1 million and above accounted for a quarter of sales (normally a third)."
He said that while listings were down to under a quarter and sales were half their pre-lockdown level, properties that did sell had sold at prices not far below March, and were still well above last year's prices.
“The average price at $962,136 was down 3.2 percent on that for March, but still well in excess of the average prices for February and January, and 3.6 percent higher than the average price in April last year.
“The median price at $900,000 was down 2.7 percent on that for March, but again well in excess of the median prices for February and January, and 8.4 percent higher than in April last year," Thompson said.
As lockdown rules meant that house settlements were delayed, sales that had been agreed in March were completed in April and the tail-end of properties going through the sales process is now a lot fewer.
“It won't be till May’s trading results are available in early June that a true indication of where benchmark prices are at post Covid-19 [will be available]," Thompson said.
Before COVID-19, the property market had grown year-on-year and it's not yet clear whether that trend will continue.
"That upturn has been stopped in its tracks with a drastic fall in sales and a modest reduction in prices," Thompson added.
At alert level 2, for which guidelines are expected on Thursday and an announcement will be made on Monday, May 11, Thompson expects housing market activity to increase. The industry had drafted guidelines around auctions and viewing of open homes, working around COVID-19 health and safety regulations.
"We're hoping that a more traditional [approach] be combined with virtual viewings and virtual (online) auctions," Thompson said.
"Now with the relaxing of the loan-to-value (LVR) restrictions, [it's a] good opportunity for first-home buyers and investors."
According to current Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) data, the national median house price for March was $665,000 - $950,000 for Auckland.
Data from a CoreLogic investor survey in May, showed that among 272 Auckland Property Investment Association (APIA) members and other investors, the greatest portion said that COVID-19 hadn't changed their plans, with 42 percent intending to hold onto their investment properties.
Just 2 percent planned to sell, countered by 7 percent who had planned to sell their investment property, but would now hold off. Around 55 percent of investors surveyed had a 'buy and hold' strategy, 28 percent were dependent on the economic situation and 17 percent had bought for capital gain.
Further guidance on how property viewings and sales can operate under alert level 2 will be available following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's announcement on Thursday.