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Listings across the country were down 13.3% to 6187 properties, with Otago's percentage fall of 24.5% the largest decline, with 194 listings, while Southland was similarly down, 20.9% to 155 houses, according to realestate.co.nz spokeswoman Vanessa Taylor.
The national 1.9% price increase was the lowest, year-on-year, for any December since 2012.
"While this may well be a correction rather than a trend, this past year has seen the market stabilise compared to the extremes of previous years," Ms Taylor said.
In the Central Otago/Queenstown Lakes district listings were down only 0.9%, with 210, while the average asking price was down 1.8%, to $841,195.
Since national prices gained 16.8% in December 2016, to hit $618,612, the annual gains had eased each December by 6.8%, then this year's 1.9%, with the average asking price now at $673,043.
"The modest 1.9% December 2018 increase compared to December 2017 reflects a smoothing out, compared to the upward trajectory of recent years," she said in a statement.
The relatively modest increase in average asking prices in a tight market did offer several scenarios, allowing people to sell and buy in the same market, or to sell and move to another region within commuting distance, Ms Taylor said.
Two main regions, Wellington and Otago, recorded all-time-high average asking prices and had an influence on the national asking price, she said.
Wellington was up 1.1% to $647,490.
She said Otago's all-time high average asking price was from a similarly modest percentage gain; of 2.2% compared with November.
Like Wellington, new listings in Otago were also well down on December 2017, falling by 24.5%, with 194 new listings.
Nationally, new listings were down 13.3% compared with December 2017, with 6187 properties coming on to the market.
"This is not surprising, given that we had an early start to the spring/summer market this year with higher-than-normal levels of new listings in the prior three months."
While Wellington and Otago led the drop in new listings, they were closely followed by four other regions with falls greater than 20%, she said.