House sales down but valuations rise

A 10% plunge in banks' home loan approvals has been reflected in declining house sales volumes in recent months, but residential home values nationwide are up 8.8% on a year ago.

The national average is up 8.8% and Auckland is up 14.3%. Central Otago and Queenstown have kept pace at 7.5% and 6.4% but Dunedin and environs is around 2%, according to government valuing agency Quotable Value.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) reported February sales figures down 7.6%, with home numbers in the under-$400,000 level down 17.7%, but the median national house price was up 8.6%.

QV's national average value for March was $466,665, while REINZ's median price for February was $415,000.

QV spokeswoman Andrea Rush said the Reserve Bank's loan-to-value ratio (LVR) ''speed limits'' on bank lending and its stated intent to hike the interest-driving official cash rate were helping to level Auckland property values and lower values in some other areas.

''Home loan approvals nationwide are also down about 10% on the same time last year.

''Overall, sales volumes are similarly down and the amount of activity from first-home buyers around the country is also well down on what it was prior to the LVR speed limits being applied in October,'' Ms Rush said.

Last week a Reserve Bank report said banks' lending to borrowers with less than a 20% deposit was down from representing almost 30% of some portfolios to, on average, 6.7%. The maximum exposure limit imposed on the banks is 10%.

Dunedin QV valuer Duncan Jack said the city's property values were ''fairly stable''.

''There are still people wanting to buy their first homes [but] the LVR changes has meant these buyers are having to wait until they have a larger deposit,'' he said in a statement.

Property values in Dunedin, at 1.9% on a year ago, remained ''steady''. Otago Peninsula and coastal properties showed the biggest increase in value at 2.1% during the past three months.

Dunedin city was down 0.2% for the past three months, and Dunedin South and Dunedin Central and North were both down 0.7% for the period. Ms Rush said the rate of growth in property values across the Auckland region ''had slowed considerably''.

Values had increased 0.9% in the past three months and 0.3% since February.

She said values across Christchurch had ''cooled'' during the past three months, showing a decrease of 1.5% overall.

However, city values compared with a year ago were up 8.3%, and 18% since the previous property peak of 2007.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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