A four-month battle through Auckland's real estate auction rooms stretched Gareth Berry's budget from $400,000 to $880,000 before he finally landed his first family home.
Mr Berry, a 35-year-old technology entrepreneur, was spurred by the birth of his second child to visit more than 200 open homes and bid on dozens of houses, wading through a crazy housing market that has surged to record highs.
"It's nuts out there, and it's not going to change anytime soon," Mr Berry said. "I lost my rag a little bit. Didn't 'lose it' lose it - but at two of the auctions I missed out on, I stormed out in frustration."
He first began looking to move out of his two-bedroom Newmarket apartment last year - but the rentals he was interested in were $700 to $900 a week.
He thought it was only because of the World Cup, but then the tournament ended and he realised he would be better off buying.
Mr Berry started looking around the $400,000 mark but could find nothing in central suburbs such as Mt Albert or Onehunga.
"I thought, Eh? Have I missed something here?"
He wanted to be close to his parents, who lived centrally, and prioritised school zones and being close to kindergartens.
So he went to his parents for a $200,000 loan and had no problem getting finance with banks offering 5.1 per cent fixed interest for three years.
Armed with that cash he had a new top limit of $900,000 - but the search did not get any easier.
One of the first houses Mr Berry attempted to buy was in Onehunga with a CV of $520,000. It had been renovated and a builder gave him some advice: "Keep like a school boy and keep your hand up. It's the best house I've seen."
It was his first auction and he bid up to $680,000 - already $160,000 above the valuation - before he finally gave up.
"But a month later it would have sold for more than $700,000 ... If we knew back then what we know now ..."
He battled for four months, looking around the central suburbs and even the North Shore. A hundred people could turn up on some auction nights.
A house that did not even have a kitchen went for $785,000 while a Mt Albert home with a CV of $760,000 went for $1.34 million, he said.
"The auction was packed with so many people thinking they had a chance in the $900,000s."
Mr Berry visited nine open homes every Saturday and Sunday with his 3-year-old daughter, spending more than $200 a weekend on petrol in the process. Of the almost 20 possibilities a week, he picked about five for a shortlist and bid on two.
One week, when, incidentally, he had had his gall bladder removed and was "high on codeine", he bid against a 90-year-old man up to $880,000.
He lost, but an agent saw him at the auction and learned his budget. The agent later contacted him about a Mt Albert house about to come on to the market with a valuation of $630,000.
Mr Berry put in a conditional offer before the first open home. After a builder's report, he put in an unconditional offer, one of five offers on the first day of open homes. "They came back to me and said, if you can pay this much, you can have it."
And finally after paying $880,000 he had his weekends back.
"Forget the valuations. Just find the property you want and know how much money you have to spend and just spend it," Mr Berry said.
Some of Mr Berry's losing auctions:
* Onehunga 4 bedrooms
Winning bid: $681,000
* Onehunga 4 bedrooms
Winning bid: $735,000
* Mt Albert 4 bedrooms
Winning bid: $1,340,000
His winning bid:
* Mt Albert 3 bedrooms