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Homeowners told 'don't panic' as Auckland house prices stall

Auckland led house prices up in the current boom - but experts are divided on whether it will lead them down again.

Until 2015, Auckland prices shot ahead while the rest of the country advanced more slowly.

But noBw Real Estate Institute figures show Auckland's median price is up just 2.5 per cent, year-on-year, while the rest of the country has advanced 11.4 per cent. Auckland prices dropped 0.8 per cent between May and June.

In July 2015, Auckland house prices were increasing at a rate of 27.1 per cent.

She said it was normal for the regions to lag behind Auckland on the "growth curve". Other areas took off later and may take longer to slow.

Sales volumes across the country have continued to decline – in Auckland they are down 33.2 per cent for the year to June and nationally they are down 24.7 per cent for the same period.

"We know that it's winter and the election is just two months away now which typically impacts the number of properties sold in the market. The number of properties sold across the country is the lowest we've seen in the month of June for three years now – particularly in the $500,000-and-under property price bracket," Norwell said.

"This slow-down in transactional activity, but stabilising price trend highlights the underlying dynamics between housing demand and housing supply, with population growth continuing to rise faster than building consents and dwelling supply."

She said loan-to-value restrictions, which limit the amount of lending banks can do to owner-occupiers with less than 20 per cent deposit, and investors under 40 per cent, had made a significant difference.

"The major trading banks are being more cautious with their approach to lending particularly their view of how highly leveraged Kiwis are when it comes to properties."

But she said talk of falling prices could be premature. Even in Auckland, they only looked steady, she said.

"The data also shows an emerging trend of section sales in Auckland occurring more quickly than dwelling sales, highlighting that demand for sections is still rising in Auckland while demand for dwellings is easing."

Infometrics chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan said whether other regions followed Auckland's slowdown would depend on several factors.

He said a significant drop-off in population growth combined with an economic downturn could slow the housing market across the country.

But Auckland was more susceptible to the impact of interest rate rises, because of the house prices there. If interest rates rose higher or sooner than expected, prices in the rest of the country could hold up better than Auckland's, he said.

But on the flipside, Auckland still had a significant undersupply of housing, which limits the extent to which house prices can fall. Other regions do not have this supporting factor.

Analyst Rodney Dickens said some parts of the country were still in catch-up mode and would be for some time.

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