The Auckland housing market had a strong finish to 2011 with the average selling price up $5,500 on November to $573,071 - the second highest average for the year.
Figures from Barfoot & Thompson also show Auckland bucked the nationwide sales trends with 714 sales in December, the highest December for five years and more than a third higher than December 2010.
"December was extremely active, and it has given early momentum to January's market," said Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson.
He said that the strong finish to the year was assisted by having three full weeks of trading up to Christmas. However, despite an excellent sales month, "overall the Auckland market remains restrained."
"House prices are increasingly only modestly, with the difference between the average price achieved for all of 2011 at $543,124 being 2.5% higher than for the 2010 year," he said.
Thompson said that buyer interest remained high but that the amount of new listings remained low.
"December's new listings at 846 followed the normal seasonal pattern of being low compared to previous months, but the average number of new listings each month for the 12 months was 1220 - the lowest average number for more than a decade and 7.7% lower than for 2010."
He said that the company finished the year with just 4583 houses on its books, "the lowest number at a month's end for four-and-a-half years, and 1282 fewer than at the same time last year."
Thompson said he expects the Auckland market to follow a similar pattern to last year over the first quarter, with prices increasing modestly and choice remaining limited, though he was more optimistic for later in the year.
"The population of Auckland is growing and new house starts remain low, leading to the city facing a major shortage of accommodation.
"As the national economy improves, and people become more confident in their personal financial situation, they will act on their housing plans, and this will lead to the market becoming more active."