All good on home front

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Queenstown agents believe the local property market is out of the doldrums after a dramatic increase in residential sales. 

Wakatipu sales jumped from 42 in January to 69 last month. 

That 69 – comprising 60 dwellings and nine sections – is the largest monthly figure since 72 in April last year, and the first time it’s been over 50 since August. 

Last April’s spike partly arose from a clearance of Jack’s Point sections. 

However agents believe February’s figures are the start of a trend rather than a one-off blip. 

“Buyer confidence has crept back into the market,” local Harcourts director Kelvin Collins says. 

“It does feel that we’re slowly in a growth pattern and the worst is behind us. 

“We’ve had good buyer enquiry now for about six months, they’re just starting to convert now.” 

Collins – who’s also spokesman for the local Real Estate Institute of New Zealand branch – says the North Island market has been strong for a while, and that confidence is filtering south. 

“In the past we’ve led recoveries, this time we’re a little slower. 

“To me, that was because our market was undermined by some inflated sale prices during the 2000s, particularly apartments. 

“I think that took away from the buyers’ confidence, because when people buy into a market like this there’s an expectation of capital growth.” 

People are also confident interest rates will stay low, which helps first-home buyers, Collins says. 

Significantly, almost 40 per cent of sales last month were under $400,000. 

This was reflected in the number of dwelling sales being up 42 per cent last month but dollar value of all the sales only rising 21 per cent. 

On the other hand, nine $1 million-plus houses also sold. 

Local Ray White Real Estate agent Bas Smith says his office has just had its best three months in the last two and a half to three years. 

“We’re getting good enquiry in the top end and banks are lending again up to 95 per cent on the $650,000 and below stuff. 

“There just seems to be a flurry of confidence around. 

“We’re not seeing any lifts in value at all and it’s certainly not a sellers’ market.” 

Hoamz Queenstown agent Graeme Jackson says his office has also been busy. 

“It’s got signs of the good old days where you have a day where there’s not enough time and it’s full-on. 

“The buyers are more aggressive, the market’s more active, it’s actually good quality listings that we’re lacking.” 

At the same time, Jackson says he’s not getting too excited. 

“We had two or three of those [high-volume sales months] last year, it just felt like things were coming away but then something happened.” 

Local Locations Realty director Greg Ross says everyone was expecting the hike in sales figures – “possibly spurred on by [quake-affected] Christchurch residents or investors”. 

Ross doesn’t think February’s figures are a blip. 

“This is something that’s reality and it’s going to happen, but it’s only going back to normality.”