Rotorua's median house price has climbed more than $100,000 in a year, new data shows.
Real estate agents say million-dollar homes are now becoming commonplace and it is "almost impossible" to find a property for under $400,000.
The latest Real Estate Institute of New Zealand data showed the city's median house price reached a record $695,000.
That is a growth of $45,000 in a month and a whopping $115,000 more than it was in October 2020.
The city was one of three districts in the Bay of Plenty to reach record highs, including Tauranga ($1,050,000) and Whakatāne ($755,000).
First National principal and Rotorua Real Estate Institute of New Zealand spokeswoman Ann Crossley said the new record house price meant it was getting harder for first-home buyers.
"You can feel every inch of that pain for first home buyers."
Crossley said their ability to save had decreased and the requirement to save had increased.
"All the checks and balances are going in the wrong direction.
"All I can say is whatever they buy just buy something to get onto the ladder. People will have to adjust their expectations. Your first home is never your dream home."
Harcourts Rotorua sales manager Michelle Matthews said Rotorua's median house price jump was a "healthy and exciting outcome" reflecting continued confidence in the market.
Matthews said the rise was partly due to the continued lack of stock and was a reflection of the strong top end of the market, as $1 million sales became commonplace.
"The market is interesting with some caution being displayed by investors giving room for the first-home buyers. It is now almost impossible to find a home of any description for under $400,000."
As low stock levels prevailed, it was likely to put continued pressure on prices, she said.
"Salespeople are having to make sure we look after sellers because of this uncertainty.
"Making strong negotiation skills and thinking outside the square [will be] a major component of real estate moving forward in what is now commonly being called Covid times."
Rotorua Professionals McDowell Real Estate co-owner Steve Lovegrove said the sub-half-a-million dollar house had "very much become a mirage of the market".
Lovegrove said a waterfront property on Harbour Rd was sold for $2.455m at auction last Saturday, a record sale for the company.
But, he said, there were still options for first-home buyers, with properties at the Mount View Green development selling for at or just above the median house price.
"The first stage is completely sold out and the second stage is selling like hotcakes."
Managing director of the Realty Group Ltd, which operates Eves and Bayleys, Simon Anderson, said there was a lot of demand for lakefront property.
"We have seen some huge record sales in the lakes."
Anderson said the company sold a property at the lakes for $1.6m last week and another two-bedroom home at Lake Tarawera for above $1m.
"It reflects the amount of cash that is still available in New Zealand."
He predicted a lot of interest from Auckland and Hamilton buyers in the Bay of Plenty's market once the lockdowns were lifted but that would be short-lived and the market would start to flatten off with more supply.
"But it's going to take time."
In the meantime, he said first-home buyers would need to find other ways like calling on family or buying with friends to fund their property dreams.
"People always find a way. They will be more creative."
REINZ regional director Neville Falconer said the region's usual uplift of market activity in spring has been delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions, but more listings had started to come onto the market this October.
Falconer said the region was still experiencing a low level of stock, which was down 13.2 per cent compared to October 2020.
"People are acting with a level of caution around the uncertainty of Covid-19 and the potential rise of interest rates.
"The Bay of Plenty is seeing a decrease in its numbers of investors, which could be due to many of them residing in Auckland and Waikato – both experiencing heightened Covid-19 restrictions."
Properties were also selling faster than last month, with the average days to sell now at 35, down from 41 in September but up from 34 in October last year.
"As alert levels ease around the country and the feeling of uncertainty dwindles, this should see more properties come onto the market and an increase of activity from outside the region."