Home values across Rotorua have shot up in the last year. But despite strong value growth, local real estate experts say it is still a first-home buyer market. Property reporter Zoe Hunter analyses OneRoof/Valocity's latest property report and puts the spotlight on the city's best-performing suburbs. Residents in one of the city's fastest-growing suburb in terms of value growth share what they love about the place they call home.
House sales in the Rotorua suburb of Westbrook totalled more than $40 million last year, new data has revealed.
Westbrook's median home values grew 19 per cent in the year to June, claiming a spot on the OneRoof/Valocity property report's best-performing suburbs. The median value in the suburb reached $510,000.
The data showed 81 homes were sold in the area last year, totalling $40,377,175.
Rachel Weinberg has lived in Westbrook for 11 years with her husband and two children before her eldest daughter started school.
"The main drive for us moving to Westbrook was the school," she said.
The Westbrook School assistant principal said her now teenaged daughters had grown up in the suburb.
"They can't remember life before Westbrook," she said. "It is safe. It has a real family feel. It is a nice place to bring up your children."
Weinberg said the value of their home had nearly doubled in the last two-or-three years and the family were now building a home in the suburb.
"We wanted to stay in the Westbrook area," Weinberg said. "It is good having everything we need right here. There is a real slice of New Zealand here."
Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins said more than 80 per cent of children who enrolled at age 5 stayed until the end of their primary school years.
"We have multiple generations come through the school. Some of the children's grandparents went to the school," he said. "People want to stay here."
Watkins said Westbrook was a "nice, comforting community" to live in.
"There is a significant mix of people of all ages and people from different ethnic and social economic levels," he said.
"It is that mix of families that I love most about Westbrook."
Meanwhile, median home values across the city had jumped nearly 16 per cent to $440,000 in the year to June.
But despite strong value growth, a total of 45.9 per cent of all sales were below $500,000.
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said the $500,000 and under price tag made Rotorua popular among first-home buyers and investors.
"First-home buyers continue to represent the largest share of new mortgage registrations, representing over 28 per cent," he said.
Investors of three or more properties represented 17.1 per cent of new mortgage registrations and those who owned two or more shared just 15.6 per cent.
Vaughan said the top five suburbs in terms of activity were Ōwhata, Pukehangi, Ngongotahā, Glenholme and Westbrook.
"All of these suburbs have experienced annual value increases of more than 10 per cent with values between $400,000 and $510,000," he said.
Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove said houses with the $400,000 to $450,000 price tag were attractive to first-home buyers in Rotorua.
But Lovegrove said the city needed more homes in that value range.
"If we had more, we would sell more. But how do we match that against the population growth?
"We have still got more people than we have got houses for sale."
However, Lovegrove said more people were buying rental properties as their first home.
"People are buying rentals and taking pride and renovating their homes, which therefore brings up the street value, making the street more desirable," he said.
"If this continues, this will be the changing image of Rotorua. It will be a city of first home buyers who are increasing the value of their properties."
Tremains Real Estate Rotorua sales manager Malcolm Forsyth said there was plenty of market activity in the $500,000 and below price range.
"We are certainly seeing a lot of first home buyer activity," he said.
Rotorua's top performing suburbs
Value growth in the last 12 months:
1. Mamaku $320,000 (36%)
2. Westbrook $510,000 (19%)
3. Utuhina $425,000 (18%)
4. Mangakakahi $360,000 (18%)
5. Pukehangi $405,000 (17%)
Total number of sales in 2018
Total value of sales in 2018
Utuhina $ 16,061, 423
Rotorua's top sales
1. 101 Acacia Rd, Lake Okareka $2.2m
2. 73b Burnsdale Dr $1,751,350
3. 330a Spencer Rd $1.6m
4. 13 Alexander Rd, Lake Tarawera $1.5m
5. 432c Dansey Rd $1.5m