There are few certainties in the unstable property market - but waterside homes are as close to a "shore" thing as you can get.

Although the number of homes and baches for sale near beaches, lakes and rivers has plummeted, most have held their value better than houses in other areas.

And in sought-after areas close to Auckland - particularly those popular with the rich and famous - premium prices are common.

Research prepared for the Herald on Sunday by qv.co.nz reveals changes to the waterfront market since the last market peak in late 2007.

Research director Jonno Ingerson said sales had dropped dramatically.

The number of waterfront homes changing hands last year was down two-thirds on 2007 - twice the total national decrease.

Ingerson blamed a drop in demand through the global financial crisis and owners nervous about losing cash in an uncertain market.

Of the 30 areas surveyed, prices in Cable Bay in the Far North took the biggest hammering, with properties losing almost a quarter of their value in little more than three years.

In general waterfront suburbs had out-performed other properties in the same area, Ingerson said.

The average property value in the Far North is 24 per cent below the market peak.

The price of homes in Paihia, Coopers Beach and Mangonui have dropped significantly less.

There was a similar trend in the Whangarei district, where the overall value had fallen 20 per cent but most waterfront suburbs about half that.

In Tauranga values had fallen 12 per cent, compared to 7 per cent in picturesque Papamoa Beach a short drive away.

There were success stories - usually places where the rich and famous like to play. Prices on Waiheke Island - a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland - were only just below the market peak. And Ingerson said Omaha Beach, about an hour north of the City of Sails, was a standout success.

The seaside getaway for such high-profile figures as Prime Minister John Key, designer Trelise Cooper and sailor Dean Barker had held its value the best. Bayleys agent Rob Hall said beachfront sections still commanded close to $2m and homes at the more recently-developed end of the beach about $3m. An entry-level bach could cost $600,000 to $700,000.

rachel.grunwell@hos.co.nz