If you bought a median-priced house in Auckland's inner-city suburb of St Marys Bay in 1990 and sold for the median in 2013, you pocketed $1.6 million. But if your house was in Totara Heights in South Auckland you made under $114,000 in real terms.
The stark gap has been revealed by research showing that making a bundle from a house is a geographical lottery.
Nowhere outside Auckland achieved median real gains over $700,000, and the only places yielding real gains over $500,000 were in the city, in Seatoun in Wellington and in Fendalton-Merivale in Christchurch.
Overall median prices rose by 207 per cent more than living costs in the old Auckland City over the period, and by 107 per cent in Wellington.
Auckland University property researcher Dr Michael Rehm said the figures showed that long-term homeowners in the "hot spots" of Auckland could cash up but people living elsewhere had fewer options.
"Rural areas and provincial cities have had one step up [in house values] in 2003 to 2007, and have been flat since then."
After allowing for living costs, median house prices fell after 2008 in real terms in Wellington, Palmerston North and Whanganui.
On the web: downsizing. goodhomes.co.nz