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Mortgage approvals hit three-year high

Mortgage approvals have hit a three-year high as the property market continues to rise.

Figures released by the Reserve Bank showed 8299 mortgages were approved in the week to December 21, up more than 23 per cent on the previous year and the first time weekly approvals topped 8000 since April 2009.

The value of approved mortgages that week was $1.347 billion.

The figures include the refinancing of other banks' customers and any loan where the security or the liability holder changes, but not the refinancing of a fixed rate loan or the original value of a loan which has since been topped up.

Figures from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand said the median house price in December 2012 went up to a new record high of $389,000, up 9.6 per cent on December 2011.

Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the new record median reflected strength in Auckland and Canterbury, and a huge rise in auction sales.