Rural towns in Northland are taking the residential property market by storm- fuelled in part by cheap prices and their close proximity to major urban centres.
House hunters, particularly first home buyers, are finding their niche in small towns like Hikurangi, Kawakawa, Maungakaramea and Portland and local businesses couldn't be happier.
Figures released in the OneRoof Property Report show new mortgage registrations in Whangārei alone in the last three months were up nearly 28 per cent, despite house prices in the district remaining relatively buoyant and median values going up.
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said first home buyers were becoming active due to a slowing down of the housing market including a significant dip in sales volumes across Northland and changes to rental laws gave first home buyers.
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He said Whangārei's fastest growing suburb in the last 12 months was Hikurangi where the median house value grew 17.9 per cent to $395,000— underscoring the demand for housing at an affordable price point.
"Areas that are seeing good growth in Northland are usually the more affordable suburbs like Hikurangi which are the price points for first home buyers who are driving the housing market now," Vaughan said.
Mother-of-two Lucretia Charan is among Aucklanders that not only chose Hikurangi as their home but is trying to convince her friends to follow suit.
After renting in Oakura for five months, the family bought a four-bedroom house on George St in Hikurangi in May and said there were lots going for the small town.
She and her husband both work at Helena Bay Lodge which is a 30-minute drive from their home.
"Hikurangi is closer to work and to Whangārei. I was a little bit concerned that not everything may be here but I've found that wasn't the case. I am trying to convince my friends in Auckland to move to Hikurangi."
Charan said one could sell in Auckland and spend half the proceeds of sale to buy a decent house in Hikurangi and still live amongst a good diversity of people.
OneRoof statistics show 31 houses were sold in Hikurangi in the one year to mid-November and the most expensive sale was worth $665,500.
In comparison, 33 houses were sold in Ngunguru but the median house price in that suburb is $780,000 which Vaughan said perhaps indicated a demand for well-located beach properties.
Overall, the biggest increase in median house price in Northland occurred in Okaihau at 25 per cent but only 14 houses were sold in the past year.
Similarly, Riverside in Whangārei recorded a 21 per cent increase but just 13 houses were sold over that period.
• Northland property prices still rising, with Kawakawa seeing largest increase
• Northland property values still rising; first-home buyers a quarter of the market
• Northland property values continue to rise, with three million-dollar suburbs
• Aucklanders still top searchers for properties in Northland
At 15 per cent uplift, 55 houses were sold in Kaikohe but the median house price of $195,000 is significantly lower than that of other smaller towns.
Vaughan said good growth in the housing market in areas such as Kawakawa and Kerikeri was rubbing off in neighbouring places like Moerewa where the median house price was $165,000.
Where house prices are rising faster in small communities like Hikurangi, Kaikohe and Ngunguru, they are dropping off in the traditionally expensive areas such as Tutukaka, Matapouri, and Whananaki.
The number of houses sold throughout Northland in 2015 was 2542, 4773 in 2016, 3359 a year later, and 3037 last year.
Lang's Beach continues to be the most expensive suburb in the region, with the median house price sitting at $1.5m.
Next is Matapouri ( $910,000), Whananaki ($885,000), Kauri ($865,000), and Tutukaka ($840,000).
The highest number of properties sold in the Far North district last year was in Kerikeri (233), followed by Kaitaia (169), Paihia (52).
Herekino and Horeke recorded the lowest (one each).
Key stats from OneRoof:
* Most expensive home of 2019— $4.5m on Nook Rd, Parua Bay
* Median house price in Whangārei $535,000, Kaipara $487,500 and Far North $455,000
* Fastest growing suburb in Whangārei — Hikurangi
* Prices are rising fast in Hikurangi, Kaikohe, Ngunguru
* Prices are dropping off in Tutukaka, Matapouri and Whananaki