Agents welcome market upturn

Dunedin real estate agents say an early year increase in buyer and seller activity are the first signs the property market is "warming up nicely".

LJ Hooker Dunedin recorded total sales of $30 million in March this year, across 45 properties, increasing about 40% from $21.6m in March last year.

Managing director Jason Hynes said last month’s sales were indicative of increased buyer and seller activity across the city.

Listings, sales and buyer inquiries had all picked up.

"Confidence has returned to the market," he said.

"Twelve months ago, buyers were uncertain about interest rates and inflation. While there hasn’t been a lot of change to interest rates, people have confidence that they have reached their peak and are trending in the right direction."

Mr Hynes said March was generally a busy month, from the last week of January until the end of autumn being a busy period.

Their branch had noticed a little more enthusiasm in the market since the final quarter of 2023, and were "super proud" of last month’s performance.

Most of the sales in the area had been in the $400,000 to $700,000 bracket, an entry point for first-home buyers, Mr Hynes said.

However, there had been sales in the $900,000 to $1m end as well.

An increase in sales of what was generally considered more affordable housing could fuel the rest of the market as homes exchanged hands, assuming everyone stayed in Dunedin.

This time last year, Mr Hynes said a lot of people were still apprehensive about what the future held in terms of inflation and interest rates rises — which had propagated a lack of confidence and instability.

"That hasn’t completely dissipated, but I think people have probably got more confidence about the next 12 months than they did this time last year."

While it did not compare to 2020 and 2021, when homes were "flying out the door in two or three weeks", a bit more activity and sales volume were nice, he said.

Bayley’s Dunedin managing director Chris Maclean said while the year had started off a little bit sluggishly, their branch had definitely noticed increases in open home showings.

Both the final quarter of 2023 and this year’s first quarter had so far tracked better than the calendar year before, and while their March statistics were yet to be released, Mr Maclean said he imagined they would carry along that trajectory.

"The positive signs seem to be creeping along nicely," Mr Maclean said.

"It definitely seems like buyers now have decided that it’s probably not too bad a time to buy, as we’re seeing more activity, which then drives the price just a little bit."

While buyer and seller activity was not as intense as it had been post-pandemic, it was still a sign of good things to come, Mr Maclean said.

"I wouldn’t say running hot, I’d say warming up nicely.

"It definitely does appear to be trending positively."