The median sale price in both Tauranga and Western Bay rose significantly year on year last month, according to the latest figures from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.
Tauranga's median price went from $615,000 in December 2016 to $655,000 in December 2017 – an increase of 6.5 per cent.
There were also 20 more houses sold in Tauranga last month than in December 2016.
The median sale price in Western Bay of Plenty rose from $525,000 to $650,000 year on year (up 23.8 per cent), but seven less houses were sold in December 2017.
Simon Anderson, chief executive of Realty Group which operates Eves and Bayleys, said with only a small number of sales in Western Bay – just 46 last month – a few larger sales could influence the overall median price.
He said the sale of a good number of high-valued lifestyle properties would have lifted the median.
In Tauranga – with 255 properties sold last month – an increase in both median sale price and sales volume year on year showed late spring buying, Anderson said.
He would usually expect the December numbers in a normal year to be a bit lower but this year, because of wet weather and uncertainty around the election, the spring buying period was delayed by about four to six weeks.
There were also a lot of high-valued properties selling in Tauranga, he said.
"Especially at the Mount, the Mount has been a really busy market in November and December."
The Loan to Value Ratio (LVR) restrictions meant there were fewer investors and first-home buyers, so fewer than normal low-value sales.
"But what we're seeing is cash in the market where a lot of top-end homes are selling well."
Anderson expected that to change, however, with the LVR restrictions being eased.
"We're witnessing a lot of first-home buyers looking at the moment. I think we'll see these buyers transacting and a lot more will be in towns like Te Puke, which people are finding very, very attractive and good value."
He said the house prices in Tauranga were forcing some buyers to the outskirts of the city to nearby centres, where demand was already strong.
Rochelle Carter, the owner of Ray White Pukehina, said there was plenty of stock and buyers in the Western Bay.
She said lifestyle properties were very popular at present, with people prepared to travel further to work to achieve their dream property.
"Pukehina, for example, is a mere 35 minutes to Tauranga with the new eastern link. It offers lifestyle and coastal options, buyers want to get away from the built-up areas, and Western Bay provides multiple options."
Carter said in 2015 you could buy a beachfront property in Pukehina for $550,000. The same property was now selling for $850,000.
Te Puke and Paengaroa were also popular, she said, with new housing developments springing up there.
Carter agreed uncertainty around the 2017 election, and wet weather affected the market last year, but things were improving now.
Meanwhile, the new Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures also showed the median sale price across the Bay of Plenty region had increased 20.4 per cent year on year from $496,500 to $598,000.
The most significant increases were in Opotiki, Whakatane and Rotorua – 60, 33 and 31 per cent respectively.
Median sale prices and sales volume in Tauranga and Western Bay (December)
Median sale price December 2017: $655,000
Median sale price December 2016: $615,000
Volume sold December 2017: 255
Volume sold December 2016: 235
Western Bay of Plenty
Median sale price December 2017: $650,000
Median sale price December 2016: $525,000
Volume sold December 2017: 46
Volume sold December 2016: 53
Source: Real Estate Institute of New Zealand
Dream to live on the beach realised in Pukehina
Andrew Young bought a two-bedroom beachfront property in Pukehina in October for $865,000.
The 51-year-old said that price was "a bargain for anywhere in New Zealand on the beach".
It was a long settlement, and he moves in at the end of February.
"Pukehina is certainly very attractive with the community feel they have and everybody looks after each other. It still feels that way, which is like old-time New Zealand really."
Young has owned a house in Papamoa for 12 years and has lived there on and off during that time. He only discovered Pukehina in June last year.
"The motorway, to be honest, put me in touch with Pukehina. Went out there for a drive on a totally miserable day and fell in love with it quite quickly."
For the past three to four years Young has mostly been working away from home and returns once a month to visit his children and grandchildren in Papamoa.
He works in dairy factory construction and has travelled all around New Zealand for work over the past 20 years.
"My dream has always been to live on the beach, and as a working man, that's normally pretty much out of the question in Papamoa/Mount Maunganui."
He said he was "absolutely staggered" to find Pukehina was still reasonably within reach.
Young said it was such a beautiful spot and his plan when he retires, is to spend most of his time there.
He already has a few rentals and will rent out his Papamoa property when he moves to Pukehina.