The average house price in the Western Bay of Plenty has jumped more than $50,000 in the last year - but it's still $70,000 cheaper than in Tauranga.
The latest QV House Price Index showed Western Bay house prices rose 9.1 per cent, equating to a jump of $52,185 from an average value of $571,520 in December 2016 to $623,705 in December 2017.
Tauranga home values increased 3.2 per cent year on year or $21,528 from an average value of $672,197 in December 2016 to $693,725 in December 2017.
Simon Anderson, chief executive of Realty Group which operates Eves and Bayleys, said the strength in the Western Bay market meant buyers were seeing value in owning homes in places such as Te Puke, Katikati and Pukehina.
"It reflects people are looking for better value, and we are seeing more people are happy to travel especially with the Tauranga Eastern Link," Anderson said.
"We are also seeing a lot of development in that area over the last two to three years and a lot of those properties were now ready for selling."
Anderson said Aucklanders were also prepared to move to Katikati due to its close proximity to the big city.
First National, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga and Omokoroa owner Anton Jones said smaller Western Bay towns such as Te Puke and Katikati had seen a big surge in population.
Jones said people could not afford to buy in Tauranga and had moved to the outlying suburbs.
Ray White Pukehina owner Rochelle Carter said she was not surprised by this growth as she was seeing a lot of buyers from Tauranga and Mount Maunganui wanting to be away from the traffic and congestion.
"They are recognising the fact they can purchase a large section with a reasonable house in a fabulous location like Pukehina with the beach across the road for $450,000-$600,000," Carter said.
She said the Western Bay offered well-priced and good-sized sections offering a lifestyle living experience without the work of a lifestyle property.
"Western Bay is acknowledged as a growth area, areas like Paengaroa, Maketu, Pongakawa and Pukehina are still attracting good buyer activity. We are also selling to young couples from Auckland who plan to start their families in the area as they can have the complete package for half the price of their Auckland home.
"What more could you ask for - our climate, our beaches, our schools, our selection of shopping plus employment opportunities versus hours on the motorway, people are also searching to be part of a community, this is very important to young families these days and also retiring couples. It's all about lifestyle."
Karen and Darren Raggett bought in Pukehina three months ago after selling their house in Otumoetai.
The married couple's new home is about 120sq m and three bedrooms and they "love it".
They were looking for a lifestyle change and were sick of Tauranga's traffic, Karen said.
"We bought on the beach, beachside – so the sea's our backyard. It was lifestyle, lifestyle and wanting to be by the beach and we couldn't afford on Marine Parade. So this is the next best thing."
Karen, 43, is a mortgage adviser at Rothbury and Darren, 50, is a commercial banking manager with ASB Bank. Both work in central Tauranga.
"I get up early so I miss the morning traffic, so it's really just the night traffic," Karen said of her longer trip to work now.
She said they did not look too long for their new house – about a couple of months.
"Because the properties were getting snapped up so quick. So we just had to sell and buy."
They had no trouble selling in Otumoetai, Karen said.
The move to Western Bay was also a strategic decision for the pair moving forward.
"We just feel that it was a good move for us if we want to make any capital gain … within two to five years is our long-term plan."
The couple has also had friends move to Pukehina from Maungatapu a month ago for similar reasons.