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Prices and sales slip in April

House prices retreated from March's record high in April and sales volumes also took a dip, though both remain above year-earlier levels.

According to the latest Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) report April saw sales fall by almost 23% compared to March and the national media house price eased by $5,000 from March's new record high of $370,000.

However, compared to April 2011 sales volumes were up 13.8% with 5,676 unconditional sales - an increase of 689 sales on the year earlier - and the national median average price was 1.4% higher.

"Activity levels in the real estate market have eased slightly after a strong March," said REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan.

"While the national median price has pulled back from the record set last month the trend is still moving up, although not at a great pace."

While the national median price slipped a new price record was achieved in Hawkes Bay, up 9% on April 2011 at $296,000.

"The new record median high for Hawkes Bay is indicative of some improvement in activity in the regions, although for the most part activity remains flat outside the markets of Auckland and Christchurch," said O'Sullivan.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, national sales volumes slipped 4.1%.

All regions apart from Wellington and Taranaki saw increases in sales compared to last year, with Hawkes Bay and Northland both up more than 30%. However, all regions apart from Central Otago Lakes saw double-digit falls in sales compared to March.

Auckland recorded its highest level of sales in an April since 2007 with 2,157 sales, though still well below the April 2007 number of 2,843.

During April the highest lift in prices was recorded in Central Otago Lakes, up 19%, followed by Hawkes Bay (5.3%) and Nelson/Marlborough (0.9%). Compared with April 2011 Hawkes Bay saw the biggest rise, up 9%, followed by Canterbury/Westland (3.5%) and Auckland (2.2%).

The national days to sell increased by two days in April compared to March to 37 days. Over the past five years the median days to sell has averaged 41 days across New Zealand.

The shortest days to sell was recorded in Canterbury/Westland at 30 days, followed by Auckland (33 days) and Otago (35 days).

Homes in Central Otago Lakes took longest to sell at 59 days, followed by Waikato/Bay of Plenty and Manawatu/Wanganui at 55 days.

REINZ also reported the total value of residential sales, including sections, stood at $2.57 billion in April, down from the March total of $3.35 billion but ahead of April 2011 at $2.21 billion.

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