Auckland's residential market is showing all the signs of having recovered from its downturn last year. Sales numbers for the first three-quarters of this year have been above the previous year's. Many analysts foresaw a recovery during the last part of 1998 given a favourable environment of improved consumer and business confidence and historically low mortgage rates. Despite the positive factors and the relatively bright outlook, the market is only just recovering to the levels it saw in 1997 and there are some potential negative factors looming. There was a recent rise in fixed mortgage rates fuelled by indications from the Reserve Bank that monetary conditions might need tightening. Business and consumer confidence both remain positive, but they are not quite as buoyant as several months ago, according to major benchmark surveys. The main market numbers back the view that the Auckland residential sector is on an upward trend. Sales volumes for the overall market and the top 15 per cent of residential properties were up by 47.6 per cent in the July quarter this year, rebounding from a 34.7 per cent fall in volume in the July 1998 quarter compared with the same quarter a year ear- lier. The median price for the overall market was NZ$234,000 (about HK$946,679), a rise of 2 per cent after a 2.3 per cent fall in the median price when comparing the July 1998 quarter to a year earlier. Looking at the top 15 per cent category, the median price fell by 2.9 per cent to $495,000 in the July 1999 quarter. The drop came after a big 13.3 per cent increase in the July 1998 quarter compared with the July 1997 quarter. The biggest sector in the residential market by far is homes selling for up to $385,000, with sales above $700,000 accounting for just 3 per cent of total sales in the July quarter. Top median prices by suburb during the quarter were Newmarket/Parnell with a top 15 per cent median price of $595,000, followed by Devonport Peninsula at $592,500 and Remuera at $570,000. Some analysts are forecasting the overall market will stabilise in the October quarter at close to 1997 levels, with an overall median price of about $240,000.