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Auckland houses prices fall in February as volume, listings pick up

Auckland house prices fell in February, as listings rose and the number of properties sold reached its second-highest level in seven years for that month, according to the city's largest realtor.

The average sale price slipped to $747,521, from $757,319 in January and was up from the February 2014 average of $678,533, Barfoot & Thompson said in a statement. February's median price declined 1.9 percent from January to $686,500, but was up 11 percent on the same month a year earlier.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler told a parliamentary committee last month that Auckland has a shortfall of properties needed to meet growing demand in New Zealand's fastest growing city. The central bank is considering introducing other macro-prudential tools, rather than lift the official cash rate any further, to cool an overheated property market could cause a house price bubble and lead to financial instability.

New Zealand residential property values rose at the fastest pace in five months in February, according to the state owned valuer Quotable Value. National property values rose 6.4 percent over the past year, led by growth in Auckland, QV said. While more homes have come onto the market during February, helping ease a listing shortage, and sales and mortgage approvals are also ahead of January.

"Recent housing market figures appear to be affected by seasonality, due to unseasonably strong activity in December," said Chris Tennent-Brown, economist at ASB. Still, "the broad trend continues to indicate a lift in housing demand and turnover, while supply remains very tight. Auckland house price inflation has recently reaccelerated. We expect this trend to continue, particularly given recent declines in mortgage lending rates will fuel already-strong demand."

Barfoot & Thompson said February sales slipped 1.9 percent to 843 from the previous month, but were up 9.3 percent from the same month a year earlier. New listings jumped 48 percent to 1771 in the month and were up 6.4 percent on the year earlier.

The agency had 3,258 houses on its books at the end of last month, up 11 percent from January, but down 11 percent from February 2014.