Interest in Waihi and Waihi Beach real estate began from day one of lockdown as expats began to take another look at the most beautiful small town in New Zealand, agents say.
Despite a "scary time" during level four, real estate agents report a hot sales market since, including inquiries from overseas.
They say prices are appealing and people are seeing the boutique retailers and cafes along with accolades such as the title of Most Beautiful Small Town in New Zealand.
LJ Hooker Waihi and Waihi Beach owner Gary Alway says Waihi got a poor reputation 20 years ago and has struggled to grow out of it.
But he advises locals wanting to buy their first home to attend open homes that inspire them to save for a deposit, as buyer interest is high and interest rates are at a record low.
"Look at what's out there. That's going to get you excited about what you can and can't have and give you the motivation to make some sacrifices and put another $20 in the bank."
He acknowledged it was not always easy when a secure income was key.
"The rule of thumb is, can you service a mortgage on one income, can you get a flatmate in? It's about how you can service the mortgage."
Professionals Waihi Realty agent Peter Sherman agreed locals seeking a first home should not wait.
"First home buyers have been shut out of the market for some time. Now those doors have opened up again with cheap money and the LVR (Loan Value Ratio) gone. The multi offers are still happening so it's a bit of pressure time for first home buyers but they'll learn quickly.
"People make the mistake in real estate of waiting, saying they'll see what happens," he says.
LVR refers to banks now having no restrictions on the amount of money that they can lend to high-loan-to-value-ratio borrowers.
The rules introduced in October 2013 stopped banks from lending more than 20 percent of their residential mortgage book to owner-occupiers who didn't have at least a 20 percent deposit.
One Roof reports this was a strategic move by the Reserve Bank to stop any potential issues if house prices dropped and is also designed to bolster the economy and boost demand for property as New Zealand came out of lockdown.
Like most agents spoken to, Peter said commentators were not aligning with the 'coal face' reality which was positive.
"It's good to see One Roof and TradeMe putting out what really is happening. I think it's really positive around the country if you listen to the agents."
Meanwhile Gary Alway says Statistics New Zealand confirms people are moving to Waihi and Waihi Beach at a younger age than previous 'retirees' and seeking to invest in more affordable, village-feel towns after selling up in the city.
"The average age coming here is 56 and they're coming here for quality of lifestyle. People are coming to the regions, they're having a look.
"The mature generation with money in the bank have possibly got to a time where the banks will charge you to have money, so why wouldn't you buy two $400,000 rental properties in Waihi."
He said other examples he'd seen were buyers cashing up more expensive homes and buying a $500,000 Waihi house, then travelling the country in their motor home.
Dynasty Holtz and Kate Scott work in the Eves Realty branch office that opened in Waihi in August. They are also seeing buyer enquiry from Australia.
"It's a lifestyle that's very close to the beaches and in between walks," says Dynasty, who has returned home to Waihi to take up a real estate role.
"They want to have more of a community feel post-lockdown," adds Kate. "Often they were looking in Thames and a friend will say 'try Waihi'.
"Lots of people ask us what it's like to live here. They're always surprised to hear how many sports and clubs there are."