The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia’s preliminary property results for the first three months of the year show a slowing in sales while the rental vacancy rate lifted. REIWA President David Airey said Perth’s median house price was up marginally from $546,000 in the December quarter to around $550,000 in March. “There was little change in overall sales turnover for the quarter, down by only two per cent, however, it’s noteworthy that the March quarter was down by about six per cent on the same period last year,” Mr Airey said. Mr Airey said it had been a ‘choppy’ quarter for sales but there had been a steady decline in recent weeks as the number of properties for sale lifted. The biggest slide in sales occurred in the City of Vincent, southeast parts of the City of Stirling and the cities of Gosnells and Melville. “Even so, sales were patchy across Perth with some areas such as Fremantle, Rockingham and northern Joondalup experiencing a lift in sales. “Overall listings however continue to rise and are now at their highest level since December 2012,” Mr Airey said. Last week REIWA reported listings for houses, units and land had all risen with some 10,067 properties on the market. That’s a rise of 861 properties from a month ago and almost 1,600 from a year ago. “For several quarters the number of listings hovered around 8,500 properties but now seem to be trending back to a more usual 12,000. “The biggest jump in listings was experienced through parts of the cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo which saw 28 per cent more stock up for sale,” Mr Airey said. First home buyer activity also continued to soften and has been a trend since August last year. “The first home buyer slow down helps explain the rise in listings because, unlike trade-up buyers who exchange one home for another, first home buyers remove stock from the market,” Mr Airey said. The REIWA data also show the rental system easing with the vacancy rate for the three months to February lifting to 4.1 per cent, the highest level in four years when it reached 4.3 per cent in the winter of 2010. “It’s now a tenants’ market with much more stock available and median rent coming down a little. It has dropped $15 per week in the last nine months and I anticipate a further fall in the median weekly rent to show up in the data over the next few weeks,” Mr Airey said. Perth currently has around 5,000 rental properties on the market, up by 56 per cent on the same time last year. “The March quarter normally experiences a tightening in the vacancy rate, but not so this year,” Mr Airey said. As with sales listings, the biggest jump in rental listings was in Joondalup and Wanneroo in Perth’s northwest, lifting 26 per cent on December.