North Shore City has overtaken Wellington and the Hutt Valley as the region with the most investor buying activity, according to the latest BNZ-REINZ Residential Market Survey.
The survey of the country's 10,000-plus licensed real estate agents found a net 42.9% reported investors buying in the North Shore region against 19.2% for Wellington and the Hutt Valley - down from 37.9% in November.
The survey also found a marked slowdown in investor interest in Christchurch, "something likely to result in rental accommodation shortages down the track due to probable reduced construction by investors."
Only five regions, North Shore City, Wellington/Hutt Valley, Waitakere City, Other Auckland and Canterbury/Westland/Other West Coast saw estate agents report significant investor buying, and nationwide the survey reported weak investor interest.
"There is still no sign of new market activity from investors with a net 1% of agents reporting that they are noticing fewer investors in the market," the report said.
One trend picked up by the survey is the net 29% of agents reporting increased numbers of first time buyers entering the market.
"This is probably the strongest feature coming through in our surveys over the past few months," the report said.
On the issue of house price movements, a net 10% of agents said they feel prices are rising, a result in line with the previous six months and supported by monthly REINZ data.
"What we take from this result is that no acceleration in house price inflation is being noticed - just a gradual movement upward."
The survey also found a net 17% of agents believe sellers are more motivated than buyers and a net 30% reporting their clearance rate on initial sales has increased.
Concerns over the European debt crisis - and the knock-on effect for bank funding - appear to have filtered through to buyers, with 18.9% of agents reporting buyers' citing concerns over finance against 16% the month earlier.
The survey found the biggest concern holding buyers' back was the feeling house prices will fall further, cited by 25.4% of agents.