The number of property sales across New Zealand rose in January for the first time in seven months but people are taking more time to purchase, according to the Real Estate Institute.

A total of 4366 properties were sold across the country in January, up 2.7 per cent from a year earlier.

In Auckland, the number of properties sold increased 0.9 per cent year-on-year to 1157.

Eleven out of 16 regions experienced increases when compared to the same time last year and regions with the biggest increases were Nelson, where 78 properties were sold versus 61 in January last year and Canterbury, where 607 were sold compared to 514.

“January can often be a quiet month for the industry as people spend much of their time at the beach or the bach,” REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell said.

“However, clearly the warmer weather has helped sales, as it’s the first time we’ve seen a positive year-on-year sales increase in seven months.”

The median number of days it took to sell a property – a gauge of underlying demand – increased to 46 from 41 days in January 2017, the highest median number of days it’s taken to sell a property since February 2012.

Auctions were used in 6 per cent of all sales across the country in January, the same percentage as January 2017, with 246 properties selling under the hammer.

New Zealand’s overheated housing market has slowed on Reserve Bank restrictions and tighter credit criteria being demanded by banks.

Housing market sentiment had also been weighed by new government policies to restrict the sale of homes and property to foreign investors.

The median house sale price lifted 7.1 per cent to $520,000 in January compared to a year earlier when it was $485,000.

Auckland’s median price decreased by 1.2 per cent to $820,000 down from $830,000 at the same time last year.

The number of homes sold between $500,000 and $750,000 in January represented 27.8 per cent of all sales compared to 25.2 per cent a year earlier.

The $750,000-to-$999,000 bracket lifted to 13.5 per cent from 12.9 per cent while the $1 million-to-$2 million category rose to 10.1 per cent of the market from 9 per cent.

By Rebecca Howard