Hordes of Aucklanders are fleeing the big smoke and heading south to live in the Waikato town of Cambridge, also known by locals as the "Ponsonby of Hamilton".
About a quarter of Cambridge house sales so far this year have been to Aucklanders, with real estate agents saying the family-friendly lifestyle, small-town feel and central location is luring people from the big smoke.
It comes after Lodge Real Estate told NZME last week it had noticed a spike in the number of professionals with young families moving from Hamilton in the last month.
Lugton's Cambridge has reported a 25 per cent of house sales in Cambridge have been Aucklanders as they anticipate a shorter commute time due to the opening of the Southern Interchange of the Waikato Expressway and more regional employment.
More-RE Cambridge director Peter Tong had noticed renewed interest from Aucklanders especially as Covid-19 had made working from home more of a reality for a wider range of businesses.
Cambridge was a bustling place that had the ambience of a smaller town with attractions of a bigger nature, he said.
"I think we are seen as central and attractive in Cambridge because where can you go to sit by a lake and watch world-class athletes train. It's just got a good feel about it."
While property wasn't as cheap as it had been, an entry level three-bedroom house could be snapped up in the late $600,000 to early $700,000s, while a "lovely home" in the popular St Kilda's eco suburb would cost upwards of $1.5 million.
However, finding a property wasn't always easy and Tong had a list of buyers wanting houses in the $1.5m market as listings dropped to an all-time low with just 78 Cambridge and Leamington properties on Trade Me last week. Many of those also already had conditional offers.
Cambridge Real Estate residential property consultant and director Sherry Herkes said with the exception of people in Cambridge itself, Aucklanders were by far the biggest buyers in the market.
Herkes said Cambridge had held an appeal to Aucklanders for years, but there had been an increase since the Covid-19 lockdowns as more people worked remotely and the motorway between Cambridge and Hamilton made it an easy commute.
"We are the Ponsonby of Hamilton," she said. "It's a preferred location."
While Aucklanders used to be drawn to Cambridge because they could sell in Auckland and buy in Cambridge with change left over, or perhaps even be mortgage free, she said this was not always the main driver now the price gap between the two areas was not as big.
Matt Gilray, Lugton's new Cambridge branch manager, moved from Auckland to Cambridge last month said he had swapped his hour commute from Hobsonville Point to Herne Bay for a 5-minute drive into Cambridge's CBD.
The former MasterChef contestant said the main driver for the move was to spend more time with his kids, aged 4 and 6, and instead of spending hours sitting in traffic he could now have breakfast with them.
"It's just everything a normal life should be. Not just kissing your kids goodbye as they get up in the morning and then coming home and putting them to bed ... Trying to be a father in that environment is not great."
While house prices were only slightly cheaper, he had managed to upgrade to a single storey house with a larger backyard.
Hamiltonians were also taking advantage of the easier commute and opting to live in Cambridge while still working in Hamilton. Cambridge, to a slightly lesser extent, was also proving a popular spot for people in Bay of Plenty and Wellington, according to the local agencies.