Aucklanders stuck in lockdown are eyeing properties in the Bay of Plenty, with some top-end Tauranga listings snapped up sight-unseen.
Real estate stock in the region is "critically low" heading into spring, but prices continue to climb.
Real Estate Institute sales figures show Tauranga hit another record median house price of $970,000 in August, up from $930,000 in July.
The number of houses sold dropped from 261 in July to 186 in August - also well under the 278 in that month last year.
Only 36 properties were sold in the Western Bay, sending the median house price to $930,000, up from $812,000 in July.
Property Brokers regional manager for the Bay of Plenty, Simon Short, said there had been a "huge" number of people migrating out of the bigger city centres.
"We're already seeing Aucklanders getting out.
"We've had a number of transactions from Aucklanders deciding enough's enough."
Short said the Bay of Plenty was attractive to out-of-towners.
"The Bay is like the Gold Coast market of New Zealand. The lifestyle is all at your feet."
Scarcity of stock was the biggest driver of house price increases, he said.
He had heard anecdotally some landlords were looking to re-enter the market and capitalise on the high prices.
"I think we are going to see a bunch of listings in the weeks ahead, probably not enough to appease the price pressure."
With more stock comes more activity in the market and the traditional spring lift was just around the corner, he said.
"There are still a lot of approved loans that haven't been spent."
Managing director of the Realty Group Ltd, which operates Eves and Bayleys, Simon Anderson said agents were seeing Aucklanders buying in Tauranga sight-unseen.
"That's typically at the top end of the market where people were using someone here to look at the property for them.
"It's not a big part of our market but something a bit different."
Before lockdown, there was also strong inquiry from outside the region, not just Auckland, as people continued to see Tauranga as a desirable lifestyle choice, he said.
"By nature, the number of inquiries from Auckland has increased because they are in lockdown or have had enough and decided to look elsewhere."
He said a commercial property in Rotorua was snapped up by an Auckland buyer who had never entered it, while another Auckland buyer was considering bidding on a residential property next week.
He said sales volumes looked more like a typical January than an August, which reflected the latest lockdown. Listings had been at record lows before lockdown.
Oliver Road Estate Agents partner Jason Eves said there had been inquiries from Aucklanders but people were stuck in lockdown.
"Probably less than one in 100 properties sell sight-unseen," he said.
"There will be a lot of Auckland buyers waiting for the release to be able to view property again."
Eves said the agency had two "very good sales" to local buyers at the top end of the market through lockdown.
"With all the discussion and fixation on out of the region and international buyers, it's easy to forget that people already in the Bay buy most of the property that's for sale in the Bay."
First National Real Estate Tauranga general manager Cameron Hooper said about 10-to-15 per cent of inquiry was coming out of Auckland.
The majority of property under $1 million was "locals buying from locals".
"The mentality of some vendors was to wait until Auckland can come back down and view property again."
Hooper said the agency had more inquiries during the latest lockdown than the previous one. "It is less foreign this time."
Vacant lifestyle sections were in hot demand, often fetching "way over $1m" and driving up Western Bay house prices.
The stock shortage was evident in online listings, which were less than half of normal, he said.
Professionals Rotorua McDowell Real Estate principal Steve Lovegrove said since the Bay left lockdown he had seen "significant" inquiries from people looking to leave Auckland.
"I suspect Aucklanders are looking for locations within driving distance of Auckland, far enough they don't get locked in and close enough they can go back if they need to."
But Lovegrove said stock levels were "critically low" with new listings coming in "dribs and drabs".
"We need a building boom to really house the people who need to be housed to soften the extravagant price increases that have happened in the last few months."
First National principal and Rotorua REINZ spokeswoman Ann Crossley said inquiries were coming from Auckland before lockdown.
"I would think there would be a bit of a surge once they can come out," she said.
Crossley said a spring lift was coming but there was a "serious supply issue".
The latest OneRoof/Valocity figures showed Tauranga's average property value hit $1.115 million last month, up 33 per cent or nearly $300,000 in the last 12 months.
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said there had been 54 per cent in appraisal requests in the Bay of Plenty in the two weeks before lockdown.
"That is fairly high compared to the rest of the country.
"A flood of cashed-up Aucklanders to the Bay isn't exactly great news for locals in the market and will probably exacerbate an already tight market."
But he said there would have to be a significant number of outsider buyers to put pressure on the market.
REINZ regional director Neville Falconer said the Bay of Plenty had the lowest number of sales for an August since 2011.
"First home buyers are having difficulty finding properties within their price range with
63.4 per cent of properties being sold over the $750,000 price point.
"Investor numbers declined, which is likely due to the legislation changes earlier in the year ... and likely rises in the OCR."
Three Tauranga recruiters spoken to by the Bay of Plenty Times had not seen a significant increase in Aucklanders interested in Tauranga jobs.
Nigel Tutt, chief executive of economic development agency Priority One, said inquiries from Aucklanders looking for work in Tauranga were usually high.
Normally, roughly a quarter of the roughly 6000 new people arriving in Tauranga each year were from Auckland, he said, but with less international migration during the pandemic Aucklanders were accounting for about a third of arrivals.