Budget buys are still out there for first-time home buyers - just be prepared to travel out of Auckland to find them.
Barfoot & Thompson research reveals one in 10 first-time buyers are buying rentals rather than a home to live in themselves.
That includes Aucklanders who can't afford to buy in the City of Sails, instead opting to buy in less-competitive property markets around New Zealand.
"For many this can be a means of getting on the ladder while they live elsewhere for lifestyle or work reasons," managing director Peter Thompson said.
And in many cases the tactic makes financial sense.
The Real Estate Institute median Auckland house price was $660,000 in January, or $1,744 a fortnight on a 6 per cent mortgage if you have a 20 per cent deposit. But Northland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu, Taranaki, Otago and Southland all reported medians below $350,000.
For less than $200 a week in mortgage payments, you can find properties in places such as Flaxmere in the Hawke's Bay and Kaikohe in the Far North.
If you're willing to spend up to $250 a week, you can pick up properties in Whangarei, Rotorua, Southland and Whanganui.
Auckland Property Investors Association president Andrew Bruce said it was very hard to find investments in Auckland where the tenants' rent would cover the mortgage.
The mortgage payments on the median house price, with a 20 per cent deposit, are roughly twice the average $450 per week rent.
On top of that, investors would have to cover repairs, maintenance and any management costs.
But in other parts of New Zealand, many tenants will pay more in rent than the cost of servicing the mortgage.
Phil Hereford, sales manager at Professionals Real Estate in Rotorua, said he had had more enquiries from out-of-town buyers in the past three months than in a long time.
"We have more inquiries from Auckland on a month-by-month basis."
A Property Investor magazine survey highlighted the best places to buy for rental income.
Publisher Philip Macalister said the suburbs were ranked on rent compared to property price, and the price increases experienced over the past year.
Meremere, which topped the list with a median price of $180,450 and rent of $300, had an average price increase of 9 per cent over the past 12 months.
And property commentator Rodney Dickens said regional New Zealand would increasingly look more appealing to investors.
"Some areas haven't done at all well, and some are even going backwards. Rotorua, Wanganui and parts of Northland still face downside risk for a while then over [coming] years something will happen that will make them more attractive.
"When we see the next fall in interest rates, they could do better than Auckland and the major centres."
But property experts sounded a word of warning for those hoping an out-of-Auckland buy would result in guaranteed instant riches.
Macalister said investors considering buying in a small town should look at employment opportunities to ensure there would be a steady stream of renters for the property.
New investors should also bear in mind it would cost the same amount to maintain a $100,000 home as it would a $500,000 property.
New Zealand Property Investors Federation executive officer Andrew King knew of people who wanted to rent in expensive parts of Auckland, and buy elsewhere.
But he warned it could be risky if the goal was to eventually buy an Auckland home and prices elsewhere did not keep up.
"The risk in buying in a different market is that when it comes time to buy a house in Auckland you could find yourself priced out."