Okere Falls is Rotorua's priciest suburb in terms of median property value, according to a new report.
But while the area was a "jewel in Rotorua's crown", news it is the city's most expensive suburb has surprised some who say there are other higher-value lakeside suburbs.
While a property expert says it's part of a new market trend where people were discovering previously undiscovered areas.
CoreLogic's Mapping the Market report showed median property values in Okere Falls had climbed the highest of Rotorua's suburbs year-on-year to reach $936,950.
Senior property economist Kelvin Davidson said Okere Falls had climbed 41.5 per cent or $275,000 from $661,950 in March 2020.
"But it's not just Okere Falls. All suburbs have seen gains, and Tihiotonga and Springfield are also in the $100k club."
Meanwhile, Fordlands remains the city's cheapest suburb with a median property value of $294,000.
Managing director of the Realty Group Ltd, which operates Eves and Bayleys, Simon Anderson said buyers were unearthing a lot of previously undiscovered areas.
"Okere Falls has a variety of homes, including waterfront property. I would see the range in values would be quite significant.
"But we've seen some massive sales of property in that area of lakeside properties as investors look for something special to be part of."
Anderson said Fordlands had traditionally been the cheapest area but there had been significant growth in that area as well with investors from outside the city driving demand.
Tremains Rotorua sales manager Megan Davies said Okere Falls had traditionally appealed to the lifestyle, holiday set, with its "hip vibe" and river rafting tours.
"Today with the new upgrades on roading to Te Puke, Pāpāmoa and Tauranga, it has become a haven for Coasters looking for less traffic, solid lakeside investments and the prices reflect that interest.
"Many of the million-plus sales have gone to Tauranga purchasers, proving that Rotorua has appeal. If only we can get our roading in better shape, making it an easier commute."
First National principal and Rotorua REINZ spokeswoman Ann Crossley said property in Okere Falls was mostly lake view or lake edge and it was not surprising values had risen.
"There's a reasonable amount of people that live there full time."
Lake Rotoiti Community Association Inc treasurer Jim Stanton said he was surprised Okere Falls was the city's most expensive suburb.
Stanton said Okere Falls had seen some large sales but Lake Tarawera and Lake Okareka were typically the higher-value suburbs.
"Obviously Lake Rotoiti is one of our most popular lakes, as well as Lake Tarawera and Okareka. But I don't think it is our highest-value suburb.
"There is quite a high population in Okere Falls and there was a fair variety in the property around there.
"Certainly, it is popular for its rafting and kayaking population. There has been a lot of additional property purchased over the last few decades by people pursuing those activities."
Owner of River Rats Rafting and Kayaking, which operates at Okere Falls, Justin Hutton said the area had been a "trendy" place since the Okere Falls Store was established.
"Since then it's definitely become a more desirable place to live."
Although he was surprised Okere Falls was the city's priciest suburb, saying other lakeside areas were more expensive to live in.
However, Hutton said Okere Falls had a "pretty amazing" river right on the doorstep with easy treks to the waterfall.
"It's a jewel in Rotorua's crown."
According to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, there were 10 sales in Okere Falls and 19 in Fordlands in the 12 months ending February 2021.
Fordlands Community Centre housing strategist Amiria Savea has lived and owned property in the suburb for about 11 years.
"We've seen a lot of changes in the past few years."
Savea said Fordlands had a negative perception, which was why it was still seen as an affordable suburb.
"It's traditionally been very cheap. The house prices are only just coming up now.
"Fordlands is amazing in terms of what you get for the dollar. There are big blocks of land and some good, solid homes."
Savea said Fordlands was a "fantastic place to live".
"What I like about living here is the same families have been here for 10, 20, 30 years. It's a good community."
But she said rising rents were pushing many long-term families out of Fordlands and into emergency housing.
Savea said it will be interesting to see what impact the Government's $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund will have in the future.
The fund included doubling the bright-line test from five to 10 years and removing the ability to deduct mortgage interest from tax returns. First Home Grant income caps were also lifted and house price caps for the grants were set higher.
"We want people to be here, stay here and be part of the community."
REINZ acting chief executive Wendy Alexander said median prices across the Bay of Plenty have been increasing significantly over the past few years.
Increases have been seen particularly in areas including Tauranga and Rotorua, which have traditionally been popular with buyers for lifestyle and affordability reasons, she said.
"Although many would question how affordable these cities have become in the last few months."
Alexander said interestingly REINZ data showed Hamurana ($800,000) and Tihiotonga ($880,000) both had higher median sale prices than Okere Falls ($518,000).
"Traditionally these suburbs have been seen as higher-end suburbs.
"Looking forward it will be interesting to see what impact the LVR changes and recent government housing initiatives will have on the local market."