The ban has affected the number of sales, at least in the short term, Ms. Norwell said, noting that December saw a 12.9 percent drop in sales volume, making it the least active December in seven years. January was more on par with the past, with sales of residential properties down just 2.5 percent year-over-year, according to data from the Real Estate Institute.
The summer months are typically slow in New Zealand, Ms. Norwell said, so it is too early to see any real effects of the law: “We really need another quarter’s data. But prices have continued to increase, particularly driven by the regional growth across New Zealand.”
The high housing prices and limited supply in Auckland have driven New Zealanders into more affordable areas, she said, and demand is now pushing up prices in those areas. In Auckland, home to about 1.6 million people, the median price fell 2.4 percent in January 2019, to $800,000, the lowest median price since February 2016. Elsewhere, prices increased by 10.1 percent, to a median price of $473,300.
The lack of inventory remains one of the biggest issues facing the New Zealand housing market. In 2018, about 33,000 permits for new homes or apartments were approved, up from the typical number of about 20,000, Mr. Eaqub said. The country would have to keep up that level of building for some time to catch up to its growing population, he added, but that isn’t likely, mostly because of increased construction costs and lower profit margins — unless the government steps in with some creative solutions.
“They spent a lot of time and effort on banning foreign buyers, but it was never really well established how big a problem they were, and whether by bringing in the policy there would be a substantial effect on reducing house prices and making it more affordable for New Zealanders,” Mr. Eaqub said. “From what we have seen to date, there hasn’t been much of an impact.”