The number of lifestyle block sales has almost doubled in Auckland in the past three years but real estate experts warn the dream of owning one does not always live up to expectations.
The average tenure of lifestyle-block living is estimated to be only about five years as owners, often seasoned city-dwellers, find the upkeep too hard.
Commentators say an improved economy and low interest rates have helped return confidence to the market. Real Estate Institute figures show 264 sales of lifestyle properties in the region in the three months to May 2011, compared with 448 in the three months to May this year - a rise of nearly 70 per cent.
That compares with 1311 and 1844 sales nationally - a 16.4 per cent rise.
Sales also rose in all other regions except Taranaki and Southland. Otago stayed the same.
The number of days to sell also improved in Auckland by 32 days, with a median of 91 in the three months to May 2011 to 59 days in the three months to the end of May.
The median price had increased from $733,750 to $802,500 in the past year, but eased slightly from the three-month period to April, which was $805,000.
Stephen Hart, author of Where to Live in Auckland, said technology meant it was often not necessary to live in the city for work.
"It seems like a dream to escape the rat race and be a bit self-sufficient and live the life ... [but] it's dangerous out there in the country and there's work to be done."
Hart said people often found their money went a lot further buying rural blocks. He recently helped negotiate the sale of a 9ha block in Warkworth, north of Auckland, which sold for about $600,000.
"You get a lot of land for your money when you get out of Auckland city."
Buyers might also be attracted to rural living after council proposals for more intensive housing, Hart said.
REINZ rural market spokesman Brian Peacocke said confidence in the lifestyle sector was lifting sales around Auckland, Christchurch and the Waikato, although smaller provincial centres were reporting a tightening of the market with "reasonable" activity up to $600,000 but reduced activity above that.
"Across the country cautious optimism is being expressed that buoyancy in the rural sector will push positive cash flows into the wider economy," he said.
Former New Plymouth farmer Richard Brown has created a phone app aimed at new lifestyle block owners, which he said was being downloaded daily.
"It has everything from how to hang a gate to how to put in a fence post and how to drench a sheep."
Ready for change in lifestyle
An Auckland plastic surgeon left 15 years of memories behind last week as he handed over the keys of his Whitford home to new owners.
Cary Mellow has bought a 1920s renovated bungalow on the North Shore to replace the sprawling lifestyle home he built for his family in 1997.
The Remuera surgeon's wife died 18 months ago and his children have grown up, so he decided to move.
"My daughter's at medical school in Sydney and my son's learning as well. I had this great big house out in the country with just me in it."
The five-bedroom stucco house, in the southeastern Auckland suburb, has a floor area of 260sq m and includes a study, four bathrooms, a powder room, tennis court, pool and a tree-lined driveway which is double-gated.
The Mellow family had dogs, horses and cows on the land.
The house was sold by Bayleys real estate agent Angela Rudling for $3.53 million to a family with teenagers.