For many, Whanganui is booming; it's the place to be.

Brad van Bakel is very much in that camp.

After growing up in the river city, he and his partner, Jaymie Massey, did a stint in Wellington before fleeing rising rental prices there to buy their own home.

"I've got no beef with Whanganui, I like it here," he said.

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"When we went to Wellington we weren't looking to buy a house for a while ... to get a house at entry-level it will cost you $500,000 to $600,000."

So they had to rent and that quickly became unbearable.

"The rent started to get pretty insane and when we talked our friends in Whanganui ... they were like 'that's twice our mortgage!'

"We'd had a taste of the big city life and it wasn't that great."

They bought a four-bedroom villa on Somme Parade.

It could be touched up a bit, Brad admitted, but it was theirs.

"It's nice to park out the front and be like 'this is my house'.

"There's just a lot more freedom ... it's nice knowing you can do what you want to do with the place that you're living in to make it comfortable to you, which you can't do when you're renting."

He also admitted they were yearning for a dog and that was part of the reason behind buying the house.

They aren't the only ones who have made the move to the river city; it's commonplace now to hear names of people and businesses who have moved from Auckland, Wellington or elsewhere.

At the Chamber of Commerce, chief executive Marianne Archibald rattled names off the top of her head:

Matt and Karen Ellingham, who have set up three different businesses in the city; Proaxiom, a credit software company that's come to town; the former owner of the Sandwiches bar in Wellington.

There's more.

Stanley Manthyng moved from Dunedin to renovate houses; Mark Wilburn from RFS Fire and Building Compliance was lured here to do a job; Debbie Macpherson and her family moved from England.

"It's a great lifestyle choice" Archibald said.

"There's affordable offices, there's affordable housing, but also we've got a fibre network," she said.

Whanganui: the affordable city.

Some people aren't even moving here; they're just buying the houses according to Mortgage Link adviser, Moira Hart.

"I noticed the other day on Somme Parade, I drove past and the property I looked at that has been empty possibly for three to four months, had a multi offer on it ... and it's still sitting empty," she said.

"My thoughts are: it's probably somebody from Auckland that's bought that. They may or may not be doing it up, I don't know. It's just sitting empty."

She had seen a number of houses with multiple offers on them and the case of one house with 11 offers.

Philip Kubiak from Property Brokers was happy to call it a boom moment for the Whanganui housing market.
Philip Kubiak from Property Brokers was happy to call it a boom moment for the Whanganui housing market.

The branch manager at Property Brokers, Philip Kubiak, wasn't afraid to call it what it was: a booming market.

"The market's been buoyant for between two and three years now at least. Really good sales, increasing prices ... the number of sales has increased."

CoreLogic figures provided to OneRoof back that up.

Springvale is leading the way for Whanganui as the 14th fastest selling suburb in the country with houses typically sold 15 days after being put on the market.

Philip Kubiak pointed to first-home buyers being a big part of the boom.

Individual first home buyers can use the majority of their Kiwisaver as well as a grant of up to $5000 to buy a home.

That meant a couple, each person with about $20,000 in their Kiwisaver for example, could have about $50,000 to use as a house deposit.

Moira Hart said now was the time to buy for first-home buyers in Whanganui; low interest rates and the ability to use Kiwisaver money as well as grants for first home buyers were all positive factors on the buy side.

"It could dry up," Hart said.

"We could get a Government that says actually we're going to stop using Kiwisaver for buying a first home. That is possible," she said.

"It's a really good time [to buy] because you've got a lot of avenues open to you."

Moira Hart described the Whanganui housing market as 'buoyant' - houses were in demand.
Moira Hart described the Whanganui housing market as 'buoyant' - houses were in demand.

Hart was starting to see more renters at her door every week asking how they could buy a house - sometimes the very place they were renting.

"With the rental prices going up, some of the time they're not paying any less.

"So if everything works out and they don't have a lot of debt and you can get a loan and you've got a good Kiwisaver amount ... chances are you're almost going to be paying the same as what you would for a rental ... but it's yours."

She said Whanganui's market was 'buoyant' - meaning there were plenty of buyers around and sometimes not enough houses for them to snap up.

And landlords were taking the opportunity to offload their investment properties to keen first home buyers.

"More landlords are getting out of it as opposed to getting into it.

"A property might have been worth $150,000 and it's now worth $180,000. Well if you're a landlord and you're making 30 odd thousand you've got to ask, do I want to get out of it now?"

Philip Kubiak from Property Brokers backed that up.

"The compliance costs now of being a landlord are very high. You have to maintain your property, you have to insulate up and down, ceiling and underfloor and you have to have smoke alarms.

"There's a whole lot of things that add to costs and compliance if you're a landlord."

He said buyers from bigger centres were swooping on those landlords' houses.

"Because Whanganui's had such affordable housing and still has, there's a lot of out-of town people moving to Whanganui.

"They're selling up in Auckland or Tauranga, or Hamilton or Christchurch or Wellington and they're buying very affordable, good quality properties in Whanganui.

"That is taking good properties out of the rental pool."

Salvation Army's Tenancy Manager, Pikihuia Box, said the rental market in Whanganui was very difficult for those on a low income.
Salvation Army's Tenancy Manager, Pikihuia Box, said the rental market in Whanganui was very difficult for those on a low income.

Renting is now bordering on the impossible for many Whanganui families according to the Salvation Army's Tenancy Manager, Pikihuia Box; she's helping pick up the pieces when renters have had to leave houses being sold.

"The increase in [the price of] rentals has had a huge impact on the community."

She said someone on a job-seekers benefit would get about $215 a week.

"You're lucky to get a one-bedroom house now for under 200 a week," she said.

Whanganui: the unaffordable city.

As at Tuesday this week there were 23 three bedroom houses available for rent on TradeMe at an average of $335 per week.

There were 11 two-bedroom properties and eight one-bedroom places up for rent.

In the 'for sale' listings on TradeMe, it was a different story.

There are more than 100 three-bedroom houses for sale in Whanganui and about 60 two-bedroom properties.

Mortgage adviser Moira Hart said she knew of one house with 11 offers on it.
Mortgage adviser Moira Hart said she knew of one house with 11 offers on it.

Pikihuia Box said Government moves to make it easier for first-home buyers were great, but she felt renters were left in an awkward position.

She's heard of a number of cases where tenants have been pressured to leave a selling house to allow for the new owner to take over a vacant property.

Then they were left to an unforgiving rental market.

"All our clients will go to the same viewing more often than not. But they've got another 20-odd people vying for that house too."

Property Brokers managed a number of rentals in the city and Kubiak said times were tough for renters.

"There might be a good three-bedroom come to the market and there'll be 20 to 30 people that will want to rent it.

"It's pretty hard out there for tenants at the moment. Rents just inevitably have risen because of the shortage and also because compliance costs are really high now."

The Salvation Army's Pikihuia Box said couch surfing was becoming the norm for a lot of those people who couldn't get a rental.

"There are big families having to double up. When does it become overcrowding when you've got a family of six taking in a family of six?

"That's happening in Whanganui ... big families are taking in big families just to get a roof over their head because they're not getting anywhere in the rental market."

"We'd had a taste of the big city life and it wasn't that great," said Brad van Bakel after the couple moved from Wellington to become home owners in Whanganui.

When Brad van Bakel was house hunting - he specifically avoided the houses that already had a tenant.

"If I saw a place with tenants, I just moved on. I didn't bother.

"I knew there's a hardship around trying to find a house to rent. I didn't want to put anyone out.

"I put myself in their shoes: suddenly your world gets flipped around because someone wants to buy this house and kick you out sort of thing."

In the end Whanganui appears to be on the end of a ripple effect from the bigger markets such as Auckland and Wellington.

Van Bakel said Whanganui was most definitely on the end of a ripple effect ricocheting from housing markets elsewhere.

"It's a latent result of the crazy housing market that went so uncontrolled for so long.

"They came from Auckland to Wellington, which made it hard for people who are already in Wellington like us to find a rental.

"So we had to go elsewhere, which is making it hard for people in Whanganui to find a rental, which means they have to go elsewhere," he said.

"It's like a big ripple and it's just bouncing off all these centres until it gets to a small dreg somewhere where someone's going to have build a small house for the last person to fall off to."