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“Hectic” is the word LJ Hooker Oamaru principal Stephen Robertson uses when it comes to describing the property market.

Oamaru agents are finding themselves in uncharted territory, with a never-before-seen demand for properties.

“Sixteen years in real estate, I’ve never seen anything like this at all,” Mr Robertson said.

“It’s new to everyone. I would think we’re on new ground.”

Harcourts Oamaru sales manager Jack Townsend had the same story.

Now was a great time to be selling your house, as long as you had something else to buy, Mr Townsend said.

“I’ve worked in real estate for 30 years and I’ve never worked in a better sellers’ market ever.”

Demand for properties was huge and it was a difficult time to be looking to buy.

“The unfortunate thing is, buyers are making good offers and missing out on properties,” Mr Townsend said.

“In a market like this, we’re getting multiple offers on everything. And they’re selling quickly.

“There’s good demand, but not a lot of supply.”

Mr Robertson said housing stocks were “heavily contested”, and while the forecast was for interest rates to lower even further, property prices would continue to rise.

According to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, the January median house price was $398,000 for the Waitaki district, compared with $350,000 in January 2020.

LJ Hooker Oamaru had 90 listings, but could carry double that, Mr Robertson said.

Last month, the average time a house was on the market was down to 26 days.

“So it’s been fluctuating between 40 and 25 days on market, which for our market, again, is very, very active.

“And actually what you’re going to start seeing … I believe, is we’re moving into an auction market.”

Mr Robertson said his advice for people entering the race for a property was to be well prepared. The fewer conditions an offer contained, the more attractive to the vendor.

He advised prospective buyers to have finances sorted and if, in order to buy, they needed to sell a current property, then get it on the market first.

“It is a market where, unfortunately, if you are subject to sale you could miss out. So getting that sorted early is a good move in this market.

“So you’re basically in a good position to go forward when you do find your right property.”

For first-home buyers, getting KiwiSaver applications in and Welcome Home loans sorted before starting to look was the way to go.

The bottom end of the market, under $400,000, was being heavily fought over between investors and first-home buyers.

Mr Robertson said because of low interest rates it was cheaper to pay a mortgage than rent a property, and the first-home buyers seemed to be younger.

“KiwiSaver’s been wonderful and Welcome Home grants for first buyers .. young couples and singles that are taking the benefit of that.

“Their activity in the under $400,000 has significantly driven market activity up into those higher ranges, where people are selling their first home and buying their second.

“But what we’re seeing is that the investor market has moved into the 400 to 500 range now as well. So that’s our hot end of the market, but because of that, people who are trading up, above that, right up to $1 million, is a lot more active than we’ve ever seen, because of the activity under $500,000.”

Rural-residential farmlets were also popular, particularly with out-of-town buyers “looking for a better lifestyle”, he said.

“The perception is we’ve got an affordable market, so we’re seeing a lot of out-of-town inquiries into the higher-end lifestyle bracket.”