Whangarei retirees Dannie and Bethley O'Shea are bucking the top-end property market sales trend by buying a retirement home worth more than $1 million.

Their new house, on Norfolk St overlooking the Hatea River and part of the city, is just what they wanted- close to public transportation, medical facilities, and a wheelchair access.

New research by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows the number of properties sold around the country for more than $1 million during the first half of 2017 decreased 4 per cent when compared with the first six months of 2016.

Dannie and Bethley O'Shea's new house on Norfolk St in Whangarei overlooks the Hatea River and part of the city. Photo / John Stone
Dannie and Bethley O'Shea's new house on Norfolk St in Whangarei overlooks the Hatea River and part of the city. Photo / John Stone

Northland had just one fewer $1m plus house sold during that period, from 33 to 32.

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Auckland experienced an 8 per cent decline, with 4129 houses sold within that price range in the first six months of this year, compared with 4485 for the same time last year.

Due to ill-health, the O'Sheas sold their 8ha rural property in Maungatapere where they had a cattle stud which is being taken over by their daughter.

"We wanted a place with a view close to the doctors, wheelchair friendly - not that we need that at the moment - and things like taxis to and from places we want to go," Mrs O'Shea said.

They looked at apartments on Riverside Dr but there was a long wait.

A friend alerted them to a house being sold on Norfolk St by Bayleys and they decided to check it out. They paid $1.3m in April and gradually move in from this week.

"We had a long settlement which suited us because it enabled us to sell our stock before moving to the new house."

Bayleys Northland general manager Tony Grindle said buyers who could afford high-end properties were not just buying but building homes worth well over $1m worth in Northland.

He said the Reserve Bank's Loan-to-Value-Ratio (LVR) restrictions impacted on those who did not have a lot of capital to start with, especially people looking at buying houses in the $350,000 to $500,000 range.

Mr Grindle said $1m plus houses were being sold in places such as central Whangarei, Kamo, Kamo West, Maungatapere, Kensington, and Maunu.

Houses in that price range were not common in Northland five years ago but now they were "no big deal", he said.

"The dollar is no longer the barrier. We've got buyers who come up and they have the ability to buy houses for that much."

REINZ figures also show the biggest median-price change in Northland in the five years to June 30, 2017, was 108 per cent in Ruakaka, followed by Mangawhai Heads at 84.7 per cent, and One Tree Point 74.9 per cent.

At 26.6 per cent, Maunu recorded the lowest median price change in five years.

The highest e-valuer estimate of median price at July 31, 2017 was $691,450 at One Tree Point- up from $688,150 a month earlier. Second was $630,000 in Kerikeri and Whangarei Heads came third at $629,150.