This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on August 9, 2019
Whanganui's property prices may be on the rise but the city is one of only a few in the country where the cost of a mortgage remains cheaper than renting in the suburbs.
Figures from OneRoof and its data partner Valocity have compared rent levels with mortgage payments around the country to see if there are some places where it's cheaper to buy a home.
Whanganui, Invercargill and Rotorua came out tops for having the biggest share of suburbs where owning a home is better bet than paying someone else's mortgage.
OneRoof editor Owen Vaughan said they compared the monthly mortgage repayment on a median sale price for more than 900 suburbs across the country, excluding areas with fewer than 20 rentals and 30 sales, and assumed an interest rate of 5 per cent on 30-year term with a 20 per cent deposit.
The figures didn't take into account the rate cut or include additional housing expenditure like insurance and maintenance costs. It assumed a 20 per cent deposit.
"The lower mortgage rates currently being advertised by the banks are unlikely to last the length of a 30 year loan so the calculations were done on 5 per cent interest rate to give a more accurate figure," Vaughan said.
The research found 187 suburbs where it is cheaper to buy than rent and another 94 suburbs where the difference between a monthly mortgage repayment and monthly rent was less than $100.
"Whanganui leads the pack and is the place buyers should turn their attention," Vaughan said.
"The monthly mortgage repayments were cheaper than the monthly rent in every suburb."
Vaughan said the city could also lay claim to the suburb with biggest difference between monthly rent and mortgage repayments.
"Otamatea, where the median house value is $562,500 and the median rent is $864, renters could make a $1040 a month saving if they decided to buy in the suburb instead."
But, despite Whanganui being more affordable than many other parts of the country the market is far from stagnant with "out of towners" snapping up property.
New CoreLogic data have revealed Whanganui's property market currently ranked the fourth best performing in New Zealand.
The figures compare current values with those in March 2009 when the national average bottomed out around the Global Financial Crisis.
They show that over the last 10-years Whanganui's average property value has increased 55 per cent from $198,571 (a rank of 46th out of 73 property markets) in March 2009.
Whanganui is now ranked fourth in terms of percentage increase with the average value in July sitting at $307,997. That's up from $253,071 at the same time last year and $200,022 in 2016.
Ray White Wanganui principal Jamie Doble says Whanganui experienced a similar boom in the early to mid-2000s.
"The number of sales increased markedly along with house values," Doble said.
"Then it was driven by out of towners, especially Aucklanders and Australians who were taking investor courses and buying lots of investment properties. Cheaper homes were selling, fast.
"After the GFC we didn't see a drop back in prices, although sales slowed significantly.
"This time we are seeing a mix of people moving here from elsewhere in New Zealand, and investors, especially from Australia."
Ray White Wanganui general manager Philippa Ivory says everyone she talks to locally says Whanganui "has a real buzz about it".
"There is a lot happening, from big public events like Whanganui Walls and Vintage weekend, to smaller local ones like the Durie Hill market and the lift 100 year celebration," Ivory said.
"Since we've moved here, we've had lots of visitors and they've been very impressed with Whanganui, its culture and its lovely climate. It's not surprising more people are discovering this hidden gem and want to move here."
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said the rising value figures were unsurprising.
"I don't think that will be any surprise to anyone who owns property or has looked to move in recent times, either to Whanganui or across Whanganui," McDouall said.
"It's fairly evident that people are starting to notice Whanganui and people are moving to Whanganui.
"We've had the best part of 2000 people arrive here in the last four or five years - probably over that but the Stats NZ estimate is about 2000."
McDouall said he hoped more affordable mortgages would bring an increase in Māori home ownership.
"I remember my mum telling me that rent money was spent money," McDouall said.
"Obviously it's better to have an asset from your expenditure.
He said a recent Salvation Army state of the nation report found While Pakeha home ownership was around 55 per cent while Māori home ownership was 39 per cent.
"So there's clearly an issue with Māori accessing mortgages. It might be that incurring debt is an intimidating prospect.
"I'd really like to see that percentage in Whanganui go up. I don't know what the percentages are specifically for Whanganui but it would be really good to see Māori home ownership increase."
In surrounding districts, Rangitikei's average property value in July 2019 was $239,680, a 59 per cent increase on the $150,860 average in March 2009.
Ruapehu recorded a 43 per cent increase over the 10 years from $159,414 to $227,370.
Ruapehu was eighth and Rangitikei 12th nationally in the latest percentage change rankings.