Aucklanders stuck in lockdown are eyeing up properties in the Bay of Plenty, with some Rotorua listings snapped up sight-unseen.
Real estate stock in the region is "critically low" heading into spring, but Rotorua prices dropped a little last month and one agent predicts a post-lockdown "surge" of Auckland buyers.
Managing director of the Realty Group Ltd, which operates Eves and Bayleys, Simon Anderson said a Rotorua commercial property was snapped up by an Auckland buyer who had never entered it.
Another Auckland buyer was considering bidding on a residential property in Rotorua next week, he said.
Anderson said agents were seeing some Auckland buyers buying in Tauranga sight-unseen.
"That's typically at the top end of the market using someone here to look at the property for them."
Before lockdown, there was also strong inquiry from outside the region, not just Auckland, as people continued to see Tauranga as a desirable lifestyle choice, he said.
"By nature, the number of inquiries from Auckland has increased because they are in lockdown or have had enough and decided to look elsewhere."
He said sales volumes looked more like a typical January than an August, which reflected the latest lockdown. Listings had been at record lows before lockdown.
Ray White Rotorua principal Anita Martelli said the agency was hearing from Auckland buyers.
"I think they were hopeful the lockdown might have lifted."
Some Aucklanders stuck in lockdown were having family members in Rotorua view properties for them, or using FaceTime, she said.
"We have found it really busy across all price ranges. Stock levels are low, which is resulting in multi-offers."
Rotorua Professionals Mcdowell Real Estate principal Steve Lovegrove said since coming out of lockdown the agency has had "significant" inquiries from people looking to move out of Auckland.
"We have seen a noticeable lift in inquiry coming from Auckland despite the fact they are still in lockdown.
"I suspect Aucklanders are looking for locations within driving distance of Auckland, far enough they don't get locked in and close enough they can go back if they need to."
But Lovegrove said stock levels were at "critically low" levels with new listings "coming in dribs and drabs".
"We need a building boom to really house the people who need to be housed to soften the extravagant price increases that have happened in the last few months."
Lovegrove warned house prices could be peaking.
"Coming out of lockdown there will be an artificial peak. There will be a flush of property coming to the market over the next six to eight weeks.
"But I don't think the flush will be significant enough to soften demand and supply and price will remain strong.
"There will be a natural lift in spring and a drop again in December and January. But autumn next year we may see some very real changes in the market."
First National principal and Rotorua REINZ spokeswoman Ann Crossley said inquiries were coming from Auckland before lockdown.
"I would think there would be a bit of a surge once they can come out," she said.
"Once we get back into some kind of normality there will be another flush of movement, which isn't going to help with supply."
Crossley said a spring lift was coming but there was a "serious supply issue".
A recruiter in Rotorua had seen an uptick in interest from Auckland in the last week.
Kristen Bangs from Top Staff Solutions said it was even busier after Auckland's lockdown was extended a week on Monday.
She said the inquiries were a bit more "aggressive" than normal - but in a good way.
"I have been getting heaps of phone calls following online applications, which I don't usually get. They seem to be very keen and very passionate, which is awesome."
Bangs said she even had Auckland applications for a job in Whangārei from people wanting to get out of the big smoke.
"I really feel for them. They are taking one for the team."
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said there had been 54 per cent in appraisal requests in the Bay of Plenty in the two weeks before lockdown.
"That is fairly high compared to the rest of the country.
"A flood of cashed-up Aucklanders to the Bay isn't exactly great news for locals in the market and will probably exacerbate an already tight market."
But he said there would have to be a significant number of outsider buyers to put pressure on the market.
Property Brokers regional manager for the Bay of Plenty, Simon Short, said there had been a "huge amount" of people migrating out of the bigger city centres.
"We're already seeing Aucklanders getting out.
"We've had a number of transactions from Aucklanders deciding enough's enough."
Short said the Bay of Plenty was a desirable place to live and attractive to out-of-towners.
"The Bay is like the Gold Coast market of New Zealand. The lifestyle is all at your feet."
Scarcity of stock was the biggest driver of house price increases, he said.
He had heard anecdotally some landlords were looking to re-enter the market and capitalise on recent high prices.
"I think we are going to see a bunch of listings in the weeks ahead, probably not enough to appease the price pressure."
With more stock came more activity in the market and the traditional spring lift was just around the corner, he said.
"There is still a lot of approved loans that haven't been spent."
Real Estate Institute sales figures show Rotorua's median house price dropped 3.1 per cent to $620,000 in August from $640,000 in July.
The number of houses sold dropped from 83 in July to 72 in August - well under the 103 sold in that month last year.
Tauranga, meanwhile, hit another record median house price of $970,000, up from $930,000 in July.
REINZ regional director Neville Falconer said the Bay of Plenty had the lowest number of sales for an August since 2011.
"First-home buyers are having difficulty finding properties within their price range with
63.4 per cent of properties being sold over the $750,000 price point.
"Investor numbers declined, which is likely due to the legislation changes earlier in the year... and likely rises in the OCR."