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Auckland's swanky Herne Bay has become the first suburb in New Zealand where the average house price has broken the $2 million barrier.

The latest edition of Where to Live in Auckland, a handbook which details which neighbourhood offers what and how much it costs to live there, shows the average price is $2.19m, up 24 per cent on last year.

Herne Bay property is now 50 per cent higher than its nearest rival, Remuera.

Last year Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker and his wife Mandy paid $5.6m for their home in Marine Parade, joining some well-heeled neighbours who, in some cases, have paid considerably more.

This year vodka king Geoff Ross, owner of 42 South, paid $8.45m for Wairangi, a waterfront villa once owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

"Herne Bay has always been a top performer, with Remuera and Parnell, but it has surged ahead," said the book's publisher, Stephen Hart. "For the first time we have a suburb which has cracked the $2m ceiling."

Hart says the Herne Bay area, which includes neighbouring St Marys Bay, is inhabited by younger, "more urbane" residents than suburbs like Remuera.

"Nip/tuck surgeons live side-by-side with interior designers, ad agency chiefs, and entertainment lawyers."

Real estate agent Graham Wall, who has sold millions of dollars worth of property in Herne Bay, said its "urbane village" atmosphere was part of the attraction.

Areas such as Herne Bay, St Marys Bay and Freeman's Bay had a "real sense of community. The world wants to live in urbane villages, and this is the wealthy person's way of doing it".

Compared with neighbouring Ponsonby (average price $993,000), Herne Bay homes are often large, stately and on bigger sections. Many were once owned by wealthy merchants.

Remuera's average price, based on QV sales figures data from June last year to July this year, was $1.39m.

Hart said Remuera might have "lost its crown", as the highest-price suburb, but it was still the suburb of preference for the "seriously moneyed".

Close behind Remuera is Parnell/Newmarket with an average price of $1.31m, Devonport at $1.29m, Epsom at $1.18m and Takapuna at $1.77m.

Auckland City had one of the lowest averages - dragged down by inner city apartments - of $283,000.

Close behind was Otara at $278,000, although the South Auckland suburb has seen average prices surge by 110 per cent, first equal with Whitford, over the past five years.

Otara was affordable for first-home buyers, Hart said. Investors trying to find reasonably priced houses to buy moved into areas like Otara "because it makes good sense on the spreadsheet".

What doesn't look good is the low increase in Auckland City - 9 per cent in the past five years, compared with lifestyle areas like Helensville (99 per cent), Kumeu/Huapai (92 per cent) or Pukekohe/Karaka (87 per cent).

Where to Live in Auckland goes on sale this week for $39.95. Herald on Sunday readers can get 15 per cent off ($34.95, including p&p) by calling the publishers on 0800 00 00 28 and quoting "Herald on Sunday offer."