Moving to Manawatu could pay dividends for Aucklanders wanting to start or buy their own business, says Steve Davey of ABC Business Sales, Palmerston North.
"Aucklanders who cash up in their booming housing market could buy both a home and a business in the Manawatu," he says.
"They could be not only be their own boss but also be debt-free."
He points out the median house price in Manawatu is just over $300,000, whereas the average house price in Auckland has topped a million dollars.
"You can buy a new brick-and-tile four-bedroom home in Palmerston North for about half that, so your money will go a lot further here and allow you to invest in a business, too.
"Chances are you could afford a house and a business here after you've sold your home in Auckland."
Davey says though house prices are much lower in Manawatu, business incomes are comparable.
"So you can have a similar income but lower mortgage costs or you can afford a house more quickly.
The most recent Demographia housing survey, which compares median household incomes to median house prices in our cities, ranked Palmerston North with one of the lowest multiples: 4.1
That compares to multiples of 9.1 in Auckland, 6.1 in Christchurch, 5.2 in Wellington and 5.1 in Hamilton.
"Even on a lower salary, incomes after housing costs are often higher in regional centres like Manawatu," Davey says. And if that sounds too good to be true, he invites people to check out the Numbeo website, which compares the cost of living in various cities.
Many Aucklanders have already done so. Earlier this year, the Herald reported more Aucklanders were interested in buying properties outside the city, with Manawatu recording the biggest hike in buyer interest following Hawke's Bay on Realestate.co.nz.
"It's a wonderful place to raise a family given the awesome schools, easy commutes and the lifestyle choices on your doorstep," Davey says. "We have great primary and intermediate schools, our high schools are nationally regarded as first-class, and then there is Massey University.
"Manawatu's big enough to have everything you need but small enough that virtually nothing is more than a 10-minute commute. And within a few hours' drive you can be skiing in the central North Island, boating in Taupo, exploring the wineries in the Hawke's Bay, or taking in the culture and cafes of the capital or a test match at the 'Cake Tin'.
"One of the best things about living here is being able to duck out of work and go see your kids at their school sports events or assembly. With no big traffic jams, it's so easy to get around and seeing that big smile on your kids' faces when they see that you came to watch them is priceless."
As well as a more relaxed lifestyle, business opportunities abound for entrepreneurs, owner-operators and the self-employed.
Davey says the region has a skilled, stable, well-educated workforce, with labour rates lower than most other major cities in New Zealand and Australia. "Statistics New Zealand projects strong population growth for Palmerston North City over the next 10-15 years.
"About 114,000 people live in the region and it is viewed as the central hub of the North Island and is home to many world-class research organisations and key industry sectors."
These include retail, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, education, distribution and logistics, government and Defence, health care and social assistance, which is Palmerston North's biggest employer.
According to Palmerston North's Central Economic Development Agency (Ceda), health care and social assistance has grown markedly in the last decade and is the biggest generator of new jobs for the region.
"Ceda can help any new business access information, funding, training and development services," Davey says.
"It was set up to attract both national and international business to the region.
"It actively supports companies relocating here and is keen to work in partnership on initiatives to grow strategic areas."
Davey is so convinced of the region's appeal that he is offering to pick Aucklanders up from the airport, "and show them the sights myself".