Buying a house on the city's outskirts can save Aucklanders up to $50,000 each year in mortgage repayments, despite the added commuting costs, new figures reveal.
The research, carried out by real estate firm Bayleys, factored in the cost of mortgage repayments as well as the cost of travel from the respective areas.
Lower house prices in outlying suburbs - like Papakura, New Lynn, Sunnyvale and Manukau - meant even with transport costs homeowners were still paying significantly less than those in city-fringe suburbs.
Bayleys calculated the first-year mortgage repayment costs for different suburbs based on median house prices from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) and the ANZ variable rate of 6.74 per cent.
It found the annual cost of servicing a mortgage for a median priced Orakei or Remuera home ($1.35 million) was $84,060 in the first year.
In Pukekohe, where the median price of a home is $500,000, the annual mortgage repayment in the first year would be $31,128.
Even factoring in the $4032 annual cost of commuting from Pukekohe to the CBD by train on the At Hop card system - as well as the $768 public transport cost from Orakei to the city - living in the southern suburb was about $50,000 cheaper.
Bayleys Research manager Ian Little said even if a Pukekohe resident commuted by car and chose to park in the central city, it was still cheaper.
Kelly Thompson had wanted to buy a house near her work on the North Shore, but skyrocketing prices forced her further afield.
The probation officer and her husband Michael instead bought a house in Warkworth three weeks ago and she now makes the daily return journey commute of almost 100km.
The house cost the couple $570,000 and Mrs Thompson said she spent about $140 a week in commuting costs, plus $600 a term in bus fares for her oldest daughter to get to Pinehurst College, Albany.
Buying out at Warkworth meant the family could afford a four-bedroom house on a quarter-acre section.
Auckland mortgage broker Stuart Wills said many professional couples chose to live in or near the city, whereas young families were happy to move further out.
"Many people from overseas - including UK and Australia - are comfortable living further out and commuting for an hour each way whereas Kiwis tend to want to live closer."
REINZ chief executive Colleen Milne said most of the houses for sale in Auckland below the new $550,000 price threshold for the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant had been in out-lying suburbs.
"An expectation that you can buy close to work or in the same suburb you were raised or where your parents live may no longer be a reality for first-home buyers. But the dream of young New Zealanders to own their own homes is still a reality," Ms Milne said.
'Better value out West'
When Peter Webster arrived from the UK in 2004, he wanted to live and work in the Auckland CBD.
But instead he and his wife Carolyn bought a three-bedroom house in Titirangi.
Mr Webster said West Auckland was not their first choice, but the inner-city suburbs were out of their price range.
Mr Webster said when the family grew to three children a few years later, they needed to upsize. After looking around St Lukes and Mt Eden, he realised they would have to stay further out.
So they bought a five-bedroom house in Glen Eden in 2007 for $640,000.
"It was just better value out West."
As the general manager for a coffee franchise in the CBD, Mr Webster said the money he spent on petrol - $100 a fortnight - was still cheaper than moving closer to the city.
He commutes to work around 6am to avoid the traffic, but said he cannot avoid evening congestion and it takes him up to an hour to get home some nights.