A young Auckland family who moved to Whangarei to get into the property market spent five months looking for a place to live.

Samantha Kearney, her partner Nathan Mountain and their children Oliver, 5, and Lilette, 1, made the move north in December last year, but have found renting in the city more expensive than in Auckland.

"We were lucky enough to be able to stay in a bach in Ruakaka over summer and that was to be our stepping stone to buying a house."

In Auckland the family rented a "tiny, tiny two-bedroom place" in Manurewa for $345 a week. She said they initially started looking at moving up a year ago hoping they could save on rental costs, which would help them get on the property ladder.

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"Between research and actually upping and moving the property market went up through the roof."

Kearney said they attended several open homes over the summer, but found high prices for houses in poor conditions.

Despite having Oliver enrolled at Otaika Valley School, they looked all over Whangarei for a house around their $300,000 price range.

"Eventually we just thought this was way too stressful for our family so we thought we would go and rent."

She said that was when they discovered some of the houses they had been looking at to buy were now listed on TradeMe for rent.

"The houses were being snapped up within the hours they were listed online."

She said she would see the house, call the agent, only to be told the house had been taken.

Kearney said 20 to 30 people would be at some viewings.

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She said they had their application pre-printed and filled out.

"We were applying for houses we hadn't even seen just so we had that head start."

She dressed as she would for a job interview, to make sure she made a good impression. They managed to get a house, but Kearney said they were one of the lucky ones.

The family moved into a three-bedroom home in Morningside two weeks ago. It costs them $370 a week.

Kearney, who is a vet nurse, runs an animal rescue business from the home, but she said she didn't think that had any influence on missing out on previous homes because they never got as far as looking at her application.

"If your first impression didn't go down well your application was ignored."

Kearney said the struggle of finding a home was "heart-wrenching".

Fellow Whangarei woman Marama Davis and her partner and five children, aged 13, 12, 11, 9 and 5 live in a four-bedroom house in Otangarei with eight other members of her partner's extended family.

Originally from Whangarei, they had been living in Hamilton but moved back to Whangarei in January last year.

They moved in temporarily with family members, but almost a year and a half later they are still there.

The five children sleep in the sitting room, while Davis and her partner have a room.

She said when one person gets sick they all get sick.

Davis said she has applied for more than 60 places, sometimes five in a week, but she feels that, despite having the finances, she is often stereotyped by the way she is dressed or because she has a big family.