NZ property: Auckland and Wellington now buyer's markets as house prices cool, stock increases

It's now a buyer's market in New Zealand's main cities with new data showing the tables have turned for the housing market.

The data from shows in March, Wellington tipped into a buyers' market, and during April Auckland followed the trendsetting capital.

Average asking prices in the main centres have also largely been on a downward trajectory since February 2022.  

Spokesperson for Vanessa Williams told AM on Monday while there is still plenty of demand, the market is less frantic. 

"It's been a real mixed bag out there. Typically we see that the New Zealand property market is led by our big centres and this month we have seen both Auckland and Wellington tip into a buyer's market.

"But look when I say that regions across New Zealand like the Coromandel and Central Otago Lakes District - they have seen fantastic increases in prices so we've got a real mixed bag out there at the moment. 

"So Wellington tipped over the $1 million mark this year but we've seen it this month just under that at about $971,000 and Auckland hit just under $1.3 million earlier in the year but we are starting to see that pull back and that's actually driving the national average asking price. So looking right across New Zealand, earlier this year we saw it hit $1 million but that is starting to pull back as well just with the cooling of our major markets." 

Williams said the new measures introduced to cool the market are working, including the introduction of stricter lending criteria and increasing interest rates.

But she said Kiwis are still keen to own property so demand hasn't dropped off just yet.

"New Zealanders just absolutely love property; it is through our DNA and we haven't seen that demand pull back yet." 

The latest user data showed that more than 1.2 million users browsed for properties on during April - a dip from March's record 1.37 million, largely due to April's long weekends when some Kiwis take a break from property-seeking.  

Stock increases offer breathing room to buyers 

Last month buyers had plenty of choices, with stock up by 70.8 percent nationally compared to April 2021. There were 27,050 homes available for sale with national stock hitting levels not seen since April 2019.  

Compared to last year, the biggest increase was in Manawatu/Whanganui where stock was up 174.8 percent year-on-year. Following close behind were Wellington (up 157.3 percent year-on-year) and Hawke's Bay (up 144.2 percent year-on-year). 

Stock also more than doubled year-on-year in Central North Island (up 135.9 percent), Wairarapa (up 133.1 percent), Bay of Plenty (up 116.6 percent), Nelson & Bays (up 115.5 percent), Waikato (up 109.8 percent) and Otago (up 103.0 percent).

Williams said while this doesn't mean the end of our housing shortage woes, it gives buyers some breathing room. 

"In a highly competitive market, for example when stock is low, buyers need to move quickly to secure property. These stock increases likely mean there is less of a rush for buyers to make decisions."  

Having shifted into a buyers' market, Auckland also saw stock levels lift by 42.4 percent year-on-year, with 9990 homes available for sale in the region during April.  

All-time asking price highs in regional New Zealand 

Eight of the country's 19 regions hit all-time asking price highs last month. Tipping over $1 million for the first time was Waikato, where the average asking price was up 41.2 percent compared to the same time last year.  

Fifteen-year record average asking prices were also seen in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Otago, Southland, Coromandel, Central Otago/Lakes District and Wairarapa.  

Compared to March 2022, however, average asking prices dropped in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson & Bays, West Coast and Marlborough. Nationally and in Canterbury and Manawatu/Whanganui, prices remained steady. 

Williams said the decreases could signal the beginning of market changes. 

"We can already see a cooling market trend in Auckland and Wellington, so we will have to wait and see what happens in our regions."  

She said that declining prices meant the Bay of Plenty also left the $1 million club in April. After several months of average asking prices sitting north of $1 million, prices dropped to $908,974. 

New listings a mixed bag but down nationally and in 12 of 19 regions year-on-year 

Compared to April 2021, new listings were down nationally and in 12 of 19 regions last month. The most significant year-on-year decreases were in Gisborne (down -21.2 percent with 52 new listings) and Southland (down -19.9 percent with 165 new listings).  

But Williams said vendors are motivated in many parts of the country despite most regions seeing new listings decline.  

"Compared to April 2021, listings were up by between 12.2 percent and 28.1 percent in Northland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Nelson & Bays, Coromandel, Central North Island and Manawatu/Whanganui."  

"Stock and new listings have been consistently low over the last few years, so these significant lifts likely signal changes in the market," she said.