Housing crisis: Prices going up fastest 'since records began'

New Zealand house prices have increased faster in the past 12 months than since records began, according to analysis described as the industry's "gold standard".

The Real Estate Institute of NZ's (REINZ) House Price Index (HPI) shot up 29.8 percent in the year to May 2021, while the nationwide median eased slightly to $820,000 - but was still up 32.3 percent in just a year. 

"This is the highest annual percentage increase in the HPI that we've seen since records began and is the 12th consecutive month that we've seen a new high, showing the continued strength of the market," said REINZ acting chief executive Wendy Alexander.

The HPI, used by the Reserve Bank and the major commercial banks, tracks property prices based on "a range of attributes such as land area, floor area, number of bedrooms etc to create a single, more accurate measure of housing market activity and trends over time". 

This means if there are fewer sales of higher-priced large properties in a particular month for example, but more sales of smaller, cheaper properties, the HPI can still go up, even if the overall median goes down. 

So while the median sale price dropped from April's $825,000 to $820,000 in May, the HPI continued rising - from 3804 to a record-high 3857. 

The biggest growth was seen in Manawatu/Whanganui, the HPI up 52.1 percent in a year - the biggest increase any region has ever posted since records began. The median price there went up 38.6 percent to $575,000. 

In Auckland, the median is now a record $1.148 million - up 26.9 percent, the HPI up 26.3 percent. 

"There are now only two districts in the Auckland region where the median house price is less than $1 million - Franklin District ($822,000) and Papakura District ($900,000), said Alexander.

How median prices are tracking. Photo credit: REINZ

Central Auckland remains the most expensive part of the super city at $1.351 million, followed by the North Shore on $1.33 million.

"Even Waitakere City has now exceeded the $1 million mark with a new record of $1,050,000 in May," said Alexander.

Shortages are helping drive the record prices, with stock levels at their second-lowest on record, despite threats from landlords earlier this year to sell up. There were just 14,833 properties for sale in May, 6000 fewer than a year ago when we were still under heavy COVID restrictions. 

Just 15 percent of homes for sale are now listed at under $500,000, compared to 33 percent a year ago. Properties worth more than $1 million now make up more than a third of the market - 34 percent - compared to just 15.3 percent a year ago. 

"Median prices haven't significantly eased yet as many had hoped would be the case, and things are certainly not getting any more affordable for first time buyers," said Alexander.