New Zealand March House Sales Rise to 16-Month High

April 15, 2009

New Zealand home sales rose to a 16- month high in March, adding to signs that falling interest rates and prices are helping the property market recover. A total of 6,694 homes were sold last month, the most since November 2007, the Auckland-based Real Estate Institute of New Zealand announced. Variable home-loan interest rates are at a seven-year low because Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard has cut borrowing costs by 5.25 percentage points since July to kick-start the economy. Cheaper debt and falling house prices have made property more affordable for consumers, and realtors are receiving more enquiries, the institute said. “Potential house buyers look to be slowly heading back in, after standing on the sidelines waiting for the lows in mortgage rates and house prices to be reached,” said Nick Tuffley, chief economist at ASB Bank Ltd. in Auckland. “Housing turnover is likely to have now bottomed out and a small recovery is likely to be underway over 2009.” “The indications are that there is renewed interest in the real-estate market stimulated by the drop in interest rates and the affordability of properties,” said Mike Elford, president of the institute. “March was the best month for some time, with properties available for sale and genuine buyers and sellers ready to meet market prices.” The median house price rose to NZ$335,000 ($193,600) from NZ$330,000 in February. Prices fell 4 percent from a year earlier, the institute said.