4 Jan 2013

Slim pickings for house hunters in December

5:05 pm on 4 January 2013

Hopeful homeowners had slim pickings in December, with new property listings at a record low.

The Property Report, compiled by the website realestate.co.nz, found the number of new homes up for grabs dropped by more a third when compared with November.

The report says 8482 homes were put up for sale in December - a 37% drop compared to the previous month and a 3% drop on December 2011.

Sixteen of the 19 regions in New Zealand all had fewer properties for sale, with new listings in Auckland dropping by a fifth, while Wellington and Christchurch buyers were also given less choice.

ASB Bank senior economist Jane Turner says the figures should be read with caution, as the property market always suffers a slump over the Christmas/New Year period.

However, she says if it continues over the next few months, it will be safe to assume that the Reserve Bank will hold the Official Cash Rate until the end of 2013.

Ms Turner says the central bank is facing a difficult balancing act.

"A sustained pick-up in house prices and credit growth does present risks to monetary and financial stability objectives.

"However, at the same time, New Zealand's economic recovery has been quite subdued and the unemployment rate remains quite elevated."

Ms Turner says the Reserve Bank will want to ensure that monetary conditions support a recovery.

Despite the shortage of houses on the market, there is an upside for buyers. Asking prices fell by 5%, to just under $422,636, which is still up 1% on December 2011 figures.