Sky-high property prices in Queenstown are being boosted by Australians and overseas Kiwis buying houses without stepping foot in the resort.
In December, the average house price in Queenstown-Lakes tipped over the $1 million mark for the first time, with an 8.2 per cent increase on the previous year, according to Real Estate Institute New Zealand.
It means Queenstown remains one of the most expensive places in the country to buy a house — well ahead of the national average of $675,000.
Local agents said expats had been sending proxies to viewings, as they looked to return home earlier than planned or make sound investments in the pandemic-struck world.
Colliers director for residential sales Fred Bramwell said inquiries from Auckland-based buyers were also up, about 10-12 per cent compared with last year.
Some were looking for second homes, while others were first-time buyers or looking to move to the resort and away from urban life.
"I think there are a mix of people who now no longer have to work in the office . . . Covid has jumped us forward 10 years," he said.
In recent weeks he had had conversations with New Zealanders in the United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland and Hong Kong about purchases in the resort.
"Some of these people are buying without seeing, getting friends and family to do due diligence."
He said land lots, such as in Kelvin Heights, were proving popular with absentee buyers.
But he did not believe these were speculators looking to flip properties — rather they were longer-term investments.
Both Bramwell and Bas Smith, of Ray White, said Australians were particularly eager to buy property in Queenstown.
The latter said his firm had already tied up several "impressive" deals with Australians familiar with the resort.
Smith said there was a general feeling the "world's eyes" were on New Zealand for investment opportunities.
"Obviously we have a foreign buyer ban ... but there is a feeling in Queenstown there will be an influx of Aussie buyers when that border is open."
He said about 50 per cent of inquiries were from out of town, but were not strictly limited to Auckland, as there were people from Christchurch and Dunedin also wanting to invest in Queenstown.
"Kiwis are falling in love with their country and I think people who do have money and would otherwise travel ... are looking at real estate."
Smith tipped Fernhill to become the next up-and-coming suburb for the housing market, as some landlords ditched the rental market because of more stringent demands on housing quality.
"You sort of forget how, arguably, it has some of the best views in the world, with the lake and The Remarkables."
He said people could look to combine some units to create newer, bigger homes.
Real Estate Institute New Zealand reported median house prices in Queenstown rose from $970,000 in December 2019 to $1,050,000 last month, as properties sold faster than ever.
The average Queenstown-Lakes house price was $10,000 higher than in Auckland, although some suburbs such as the CBD and North Shore had started to tip the $1.3 million mark.
Dunedin had a sharp rise in house prices, despite remaining on average nearly half that of Queenstown's values.
The institute's regional commentator, Liz Nidd, said median prices had increased 18.8 per cent from $492,000 to $585,000 in the past 12 months.