As house prices in the country's biggest city spiral out of control, Auckland homeowners are cashing in their chips and buying mansions in the regions.
Thousands of property owners are now sitting on million-dollar goldmines thanks to rampant capital gain. The lure of a traffic-free, laid-back lifestyle with outdoor space for the children is proving tempting for many, and one-in-10 Hawkes Bay sales are now to ex-pat Aucklanders. The Bay of Islands and Marlborough are also drawing "Jafa" homeowners keen to escape the rat race. They have newly acquired equity thanks to soaring Auckland house prices which hit a median of $720,000 last month - a 13 per cent jump in the past year alone.
In Marlborough, with its climate, vineyards and scenery, the median selling price last month was $316,500.
Bayleys Marlborough director Andy Poswillo said the median price of a home in Auckland would buy a dated two-to-four-bedroom house or unit, with single car garaging set on a "pocket-handkerchief of lawn".
In Marlborough, the same money could buy a modern three-to-five-bedroom house, some with great views, a swimming pool, hobby orchard and up to 4000sq m of land.
"It is easy to see why the temptation is there to cash up, do away with the mortgage and move down the line."
Mr Poswillo said at least eight Auckland families had bought local properties in the past three months. Many buyers had negotiated "work from home" or satellite office arrangements to maintain their city careers.
"They all share the same sentiment; they are tired of chipping away at their colossal mortgages for homes that are failing to serve their needs.
"Put simply they want a better lifestyle for their kids and to dump the financial stress of living in the big smoke."
On Saturday the Weekend Herald revealed the average Auckland home had earned nearly $230 a day in the past year - nearly twice what the average worker earned from their job. The annual capital gain on a standard Auckland home was on a par with the salary of an entry-level doctor or head of department teacher with responsibility for 10 staff.
The rampant property market has sparked warnings from the Reserve Bank and calls for action from the country's human rights watchdog.
In Hawkes Bay, Tremain Real Estate managing director Simon Tremain said about one-in-10 local sales were now to Auckland buyers. The number had jumped since December. The region's lifestyle was a big drawcard.
"We've got good schools, we're five minutes to the airport and 20 minutes between the cities. There's no drive times."
And with a median Hawkes Bay sales price of $285,000 last month, "you get a lot for your money".
"For a million dollars here you're on the beach with a substantial home in the best locations, or you're in Havelock North in a beautiful north-facing spot with fantastic views."
However, incomes were lower in the provinces and it would be difficult for buyers who sold up in Auckland to re-enter that market, he said.
Luxury Real Estate agent Charlie Brendon-Cook said the number of Aucklanders buying top-end Bay of Islands properties had surged in the past six months to about 50 per cent of total sales.
"Some are holiday homes to live in later, but they're definitely on the back of new-found wealth in Auckland. That's a very noticeable trend."
Some Aucklanders had bought homes for $300,000-$400,000 which were now worth $1.3 million.
"They can sell that and put 600 or 700 [thousand dollars] into a property up here and live off the difference."
Moving to Marlborough: The Andersons
Former Puhoi residents Kath and Brendon Anderson are now the proud owners of a four-bedroom Marlborough mansion.
It overlooks Marlborough Ridge, a golf course and vineyards and is set on 1191sq m of landscaped grounds.
The couple, who have three daughters, paid about $700,000 last month for the sprawling Fairhall home after being "gobsmacked" at what their Puhoi property sold for at auction. They say their dollar was worth twice as much in Marlborough as it was in Auckland and they can now enjoy "financial freedom".
"We fell in love with Fairhall and the views; it is just beautiful set among vineyards," Mrs Anderson, 41, said. Escaping the financial pressure of Auckland had been the biggest relief.
"Even socially - our teenage daughter was at a North Shore school where all of her friends had the latest phones, computers, clothes and Country Road bags. They don't even know what that is down here."
Mr Anderson, 42, had found work in the construction industry and Mrs Anderson was working from home.
She said wages were lower in Marlborough but the cost of living was more affordable.
"We will probably never be back in the Auckland market, but that doesn't bother us, we don't miss the Auckland traffic one bit."
Teresa and Rodney Ikenasio are trading their Auckland lives for country living 20km northwest of Teresa's home town, Blenheim.
The couple, both 42, and their two young daughters currently live 50km northwest of Auckland and work in Devonport. They leave home at 6.30am each day with the kids, and get stuck in traffic on the way back each night.
But after a year-long search, they have purchased a 1.05ha property in Marlborough and move at the end of the month.
Rather than selling up, the couple will keep their Kaukapakapa home of 11 years as an investment property. As its value increased, they were able to borrow against the house to finance the purchase of their new $742,500 home in Kaituna.
Their spacious new three-bedroom home sits on three fenced paddocks and comes with a heated pool, farm shed and room for sheep and pigs, chickens, ducks, fruit trees and a large vegetable garden.
"You do get a lot more for your money, but that is changing. If we did this four years ago we probably would've gotten a lot more."
Mrs Ikenasio and her husband have lived in Auckland for 24 years after moving north for work with the Defence Force. New work opportunities have now allowed them to relocate back to Marlborough.
And giving their children a country upbringing was a top priority, Mrs Ikenasio said.