There was a sense of deja vu about the article in the NZ Herald over the weekend.
“Booming Auckland house sales jump $709 each day”
Whilst the specific statistics quoted in the article were accurate (median price increase), I would judge that the inference that property is appreciating by $709 per day is not valid.
The headline used as its source the REINZ monthly median price data for the Auckland region which showed that between February and March the median price had risen by $22,000 from the February figure of $453,500 to the March figure of $475,500.
These median figures are accurate. Taking the total data set of 2,187 properties sold in March 2010 – the midpoint of that range ranked by price will be a single house sold for $475,500. Equally taking the total data set of 1,578 properties sold in February 2010 – the midpoint of that range ranked by price will be a single house sold for $453,500. However it is not accurate to state that by inference that all properties in Auckland have risen in the month, nor that in fact property prices on average have risen by $709 each day.
The issue with these statistics is that median price is a volatile measure and is susceptible to changes in the composition of property being sold. If there are more properties being sold at the higher price end of the market, then median prices will be reported as higher. That is likely to be the case at this time. The chart below sourced from the regional property sales by price band provided as a subscription service from REINZ – Residential Housing Facts displays the make up of all sales in each of the two months set out by price range along the horizontal axis. The red line represents the percentage of sales in February by price range, with March in blue.
The very clear picture shown by the chart is that for property sales below the median in March represented less than for February, whilst sales above the median in March represented more of the sales. This supports the view that the composition of sales changed significantly and therefore impacted the median price.
Let’s look for a moment at the broader picture for the whole of NZ. For the whole of NZ the composition of sales by price segment is very telling. In the month of March total sales increased by 22% from the February figure of 5,029 to 6,161. In the lower price segment of properties sold at prices below $400,000 sales volumes increased by just 17%; properties sold at prices between $400k and $600k, sales increased by 25% – slightly ahead of the total. However for properties sold at prices between $600k and $1m sales increased 38% and the sales of properties over $1m increased by 55%. This clearly shows a skew towards higher priced properties selling in March.
The Real Estate Institute (REINZ) does produces a more accurate measure of property prices published in its monthly report. In collaboration with the Reserve Bank REINZ publishes the monthly Stratified House price index specifically to minimise the impact that changes in the composition of sales has on price.
The Stratified price of Auckland property sold in March was $479,438 – this was down very slightly on the February figure of $479,975. The chart below tracks the stratified sales price in Auckland over the past 5 years.
As the chart shows the fact is that property prices are not booming. Auckland property prices peaked in July 2007 at $510,197, it then fell to a low point some 16 months later of $435,700, a total fall of just under 15%; subsequently prices have crept back up towards the peak but currently are still some 6% below that peak.
The chart of stratified prices for the whole of NZ as detailed below equally show that despite the peak of property prices being reached some 28 months ago, nationally prices as measured by the stratified price are still some 3.3% below that peak.