The housing market of the Northern Territory, particularly of Darwin, managed to outperform its first-quarter performance last year, reporting growth in sales activity and median price, the latest report from the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory (REINT) shows.

Over the first quarter of the year, sales activity in the Northern Territory was more robust than last year, up by 12%. The state's median price also grew on an annual basis by 2.2% to $470,000.

However, on a quarterly basis, there was a significant drop in sales volume across Greater Darwin, particularly of detached dwellings. Overall, sales in the quarter fell by 27%. The quarter covers the onset of the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Life in this current COVID-19 crisis has tested the 'norm' as we know it, but it is pleasing though to see how well the real estate community in the Northern Territory has adapted to the current environment and, in the main, are pushing on with business as best they can," said Quentin Kilian, CEO of REINT.

In terms of rental markets, vacancy rates declined in most suburbs. In Greater Darwin, vacancy rate went down to 5.4%. While this rate is still high, Kilian said it has been the lowest in recent quarters.

"This indicates an active rental market over the last quarter coupled with lower numbers of reported properties under management due to a number of properties being withdrawn from the market or sold," he said.

Residential rents, however, reversed the growth witnessed during the last quarter of 2019. The average rent for a three-bedroom house went down by 2.7%. Still, this was higher than in the same period last year.

Despite the quarterly decline in rents, rental yields in Darwin remained the strongest amongst capital cities at 5.1% on houses and 5.7% on units.

"We are seeing increased buyer enquiries and activity coming from interstate, and a recent survey of REINT members indicated that the property letting side of the industry was still quite busy," Kilian said. "And with the chief minister lifting the restrictions on open houses and auctions from this weekend, it's a great time to get back to normal and start your property search."