While the average Tararua house increased in value by 11.6 per cent in the past 12 months, we still have some of the cheapest housing in New Zealand, with an average price of $173,000.

And with 29 unconditional residential sales in Dannevirke since May 1, with an average price of $175,943 and total residential sales of $5,102,350, Green Door real estate agent Hugh Crawford said the sales are "impressive".

"Inquiry levels from outside the area continue to be strong, with many new listings receiving multiple offers within days of going on the market.

"There's a positive vibe in the market here and we're almost into spring which is traditionally a busy time for real estate companies," he said.

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"Listings tend to lift due to factors such as the warmer spring weather compared to the winter southerly busters, combined with the ambience associated with a manicured vegetable garden and blooming flower beds. Windows are open and exhilarating fresh air along with lashings of sunlight inside the house, all make the potential purchaser glean that warm, comfortable feeling.

"The downside is that with so many new listings in spring, competition can be fierce, however the way the Tararua market has been over the past three months, sellers can still feel confident."

In Tararua, 37 rural properties, including 26 lifestyle blocks, sold for $28.5 million.
Amongst those moving to a lifestyle block in Dannevirke from the Kapiti Coast were Karen Drummond and her partner Pete.

"When we compared the cost of buying a similar property down there, we were looking at a minimum extra $200,000," they said.

"It was a no-brainer for us. We love it here. We both work from home. Pete has meetings in Auckland on a regular basis and we feared the Manawatu Gorge closure would be a hindrance but in reality, it's not.

"He leaves 15 minutes earlier and goes to the airport over the Saddle Rd and it looks like there will be a new road built at some stage soon, so people should not be put off at all. We certainly aren't."

Soaring rent in Whanganui forced toymaker Chris Cape to look at investing his inheritance in a home.

"In the space of three years my rent went from $130 a week, then up to $140 and then $160," he said.

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"In February I received a letter giving me 42 days notice of my rent rising to $190 on April 25. At that point I decided to make a choice between living in an uninsulated rental hovel and owning my own home.

"I had $100,000, some of it left to me by my mother when she died, and I thought 'what do I do'?"

Mr Cape looked at Taihape, Marton, Horowhenua, Taumaranui and considered Hastings as possible places to put down roots again.

"I ended up in Dannevirke," he said. "It's within reach of an airport, as well as Wellington, Wairarapa and Hastings and there's more going on on this side of the country.

"It was about local and affordability. The two-bedroom house I purchased here for $90,000 still needs some work, but it has a large garage and a log fire and my cats love it. It's smaller than I would have liked, but it's a way of putting money into an investment."