Property prices have soared in Tauranga for years and according to the latest figures, this does not appear to be slowing down any time soon. Reporter Jean Bell dives into the data and pulls out the top of the class.
Real estate experts say first-home buyers are getting their foot in the door as new data reveals the top performing suburbs in Tauranga and the Western Bay.
The latest OneRoof/Valocity figures show Gate Pā took the cake as Tauranga's best performer, where the median house value rose 11.2 per cent to $495,000 in the past 12 months.
Parkvale followed with an 8 per cent increase to $470,000, while values in Mount Maunganui rose 7.5 per cent to $785,000, Maungatapu rose 7.1 per cent to $600,000, and Hairini rose 7 per cent to $535,000.
In the Western Bay of Plenty, Whakamārama came out on top with a 12.9 per cent increase to $1,050,000.
Waihī Beach came in second with a 7.2 per cent increase to $815,000, while Pukehina rose 6.9 per cent to $775,000, Athenree rose 4.7 per cent to $670,000 and Te Puke rose 2.9 per cent to $525,000.
James Wilson, director of valuation innovation at Valocity, said the wider Tauranga housing market had remained buoyant.
The city had enjoyed an annual increase of 6.3 per cent with a current median value of $670,000.
However, Wilson said sales volumes were down significantly compared with the same time last year in Tauranga, much like other main urban centres.
He said the number of new mortgage registrations by investors had declined significantly, standing at 13.1 per cent in the past month compared with 23.8 per cent in mid-2017.
Rent or buy? New data reveals which is cheaper in Tauranga
First-home buyers were getting their foot in the door as the competition eased, with their share of new mortgage registrations increasing to 27.1 per cent, he said.
Looking into the future, he said "crystal ball gazing" was best avoided and there were a number of factors involved.
Historically low-interest rates coupled with stable net migration were balanced to maintain prices, but growth rates were expected to slow towards the end of the year due to increasing lack of market confidence and sentiment of unaffordability in New Zealand's main urban centres, he said.
He said the coming local and central government elections in this year and next may lead to a "wait and see" approach in the market as people await possible policy changes.
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said the best performing suburbs were those where the median prices were under $500,000.
"The most active in the market is your first-home buyer."
He said Mount Maunganui was a "special case".
"That's the high-end property where people want to live. It's cheap compared to Herne Bay or Queenstown and you've got the beach and the views."
Simon Anderson, chief executive of Realty Group, which operates Eves and Bayleys, said buyers - particularly those purchasing their first home - were drawn to Gate Pā, Parkvale and Hairini due to the good value offered in the area.
He said the changes in the legislation around rental properties had prompted many landlords to sell, making way for first-home buyers.
Mount Maunganui and Maungatapu were at the other end of the spectrum, he said.
"Over the last 12 months, there has been a real recognition of Mount Maunganui as a desirable area for a relaxed lifestyle and recreation."
He said Mount Maunganui was seen as a desirable location for recreation and there were more people who worked in Auckland but lived locally.
Meanwhile, Maungatapu offered waterfront properties with water views at a reasonable price, he said.
"This put cash in the system at the top end of the market," he said."
"We've seen quite a lot of amazing prices."
For the Western Bay, Whakamārama offered a "whole lifestyle" option, with attractive homes and good views on large sections - all while being close to Tauranga.
Anderson said Waihī Beach was an "uncovered gem" and, similar to Mount Maunganui, people chose to live there because it was close to Auckland and accessible to town.
Tauranga Harcourts managing director Nigel Martin said there had been a shortage of properties for sale across all of the best-performing suburbs during the past 12 months, which had driven up median values.
He said the lower price level in the top suburbs provided better returns for investors and better access for first-home buyers.
"The record-low interest rates are attracting a high number of first-home buyers to the market," he said.
Meanwhile, the limited number of properties available in the coastal suburbs and rural lifestyle areas, such as Mount Maunganui, Waihī Beach and Whakamārama, drove up the median price.
Martin anticipated that the warmer spring months would bring more properties on the market.