House prices still retreating, properties taking longer to sell - Real Estate Institute

The housing market is showing no signs of a spring pick-up with prices still retreating, fewer sales, houses taking longer to sell and caution dominating sentiment.

Real Estate Institute's (REINZ) residential market report shows the house price index, which measures the changing value of properties, fell 0.7 percent from August, with the annual decline steepening to 8.1 percent from 5.8 percent.

One small bright spot was a 1.4 percent rise in the seasonally-adjusted national median price in September to $811,000, which was 2 percent higher than the same month a year ago.

"The usual spring lift appears subdued in September, though agents report more first home buyers on the market, and increased attendance at open homes and auctions in some regions," REINZ chief executive Jen Baird said.

Easing prices and reduced competition were lifting interest but for many would-be buyers houses were still unaffordable, she said.

"Increasing interest rates, tighter lending criteria, and concerns around the cost of living continue to challenge the pace of the market."

Prices fell in 10 of the 16 regions monitored, with the steepest falls in Nelson and Manawatu/Whanganui, but with solid falls also in Auckland and Marlborough, while prices rose in five regions, and one was steady.

Baird said price expectations of most sellers had moderated but there were still some who were out of touch with the current state of the market.

House prices still retreating, properties taking longer to sell - Real Estate Institute
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"Investors remain largely absent - new tax legislation and rising interest rates have created concern amongst this buyer pool, seeing them step back.

"In light of last week's OCR increase of 50 basis points, bringing it to 3.5 percent, with further increases expected, we expect sentiment to remain cautious - despite a strong labour market," Baird said.

The number of houses sold was down 10.9 percent from a year ago, with 4943 sales, although the number sold in Auckland was up nearly 16 percent. The number put up for sale rose 12 percent but the time taken to sell was 47 days, 10 days more than a year ago.