Buying an Auckland home can feel more than ever like an impossible dream for many families now the city's median sales price has soared above $1 million for the first time.
It's caused disgruntled buyers to call the city's housing market everything from a "hot mess" to downright "ugly".
Yet exclusive new research by the Herald and analysts Valocity showed there might be an alternative.
Pack up and move to Gisborne.
The research - which aimed to find the 10 best places outside Auckland to buy and move - showed those arriving in the East Coast city could expect to pick up a median-priced home for $525,000.
That's close to half of what they would pay in the big smoke.
"Gizzy's" typical three-bedroom home also came with an old fashioned, 834sq m Kiwi backyard, loads larger than Auckland's median 617sq m block.
And, best of all, prices were still rising. Gisborne home values had jumped 18 per cent since March's Covid-19 lockdown, meaning buyers could likely expect their house to continue rising in value.
"When we close our eyes and think what the idyllic New Zealand lifestyle is, Gisborne ticks many of those boxes," famous East Coast son Clarke Gayford said.
Yet Gisborne wasn't the only destination that could make sense for Aucklanders seeking a sea-change.
Marlborough, Hamilton, Upper Hutt and the Kapiti Coast also featured highly in the new Herald-Valocity top 10 list.
It came as many home buyers had earlier hoped Auckland house prices would fall as a result of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yet prices instead skyrocketed to new heights, with Auckland's median price hitting $1.06m in October - the first time it ever crossed $1m, Valocity data showed.
That had given Aucklanders considering leaving for cheaper cities added reason to act now.
To discover which regional escape hatches were best, the Herald and Valocity examined the most affordable council districts where median house prices were below $750,000.
These were then ranked according to which had enjoyed the largest house price rises since March and the Covid-19 lockdown.
The idea behind it is that an Aucklander could currently buy a cheaper house in these districts yet expect that investment to likely rise in value in the near future.
Gisborne had the fastest rising house price among the cheaper districts, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's fiance Gayford saying the city's coastal lifestyle was a fantastic hidden secret.
"I call it a land island because it is so difficult to get to, which is what has allowed it to develop at its own pace," he said.
And he couldn't help but be jealous of his sister's family, he said.
"They have such a great lifestyle there, nowhere is far from anywhere else, you can go to the beach every night after work if you want, there is a real sense of community and fantastic parks."
Former long-time Gisborne mayor Meng Foon said the city's horticulture, agriculture and fisheries industries were booming.
Expat children from local families were also arriving home armed with foreign currencies that were helping push prices up.
However, Foon was reluctant to encourage Aucklanders to flock to the East Coast.
House prices had gone crazy in the past few years, making it hard for locals to buy.
"I feel for the first-home buyers ... we need a cooling housing market," he said.
For those looking to escape further afield to the South Island, Marlborough could be the best choice.
The typical Marlborough district home cost $550,000 and came on a big 832sq m block, the data showed.
That meant Auckland retirees, who sold up and journeyed south, could have a significant chunk of cash left over to spend on having a good time.
The district was also popular with first-home buyers as well as investors due to its shortage of rental stock, which made it easy to rent out homes, said Valocity director of valuation James Wilson.
Yet Marlborough's popularity also appeared linked to a broader trend in which coastal and bach locations had become hot with buyers, who might have spent long lockdowns shut up in their city homes, he said.
"It aligns with people wanting to get away from the big smoke and have more of that relaxed water view-type property - that has come into play much more across the country post-Covid," Wilson said.
Hamilton city could be a great option for young Auckland families seeking a location with stronger job prospects
Hamilton's typical home was now selling for $700,000 and came with a 660sq m block of land - still larger than Auckland's 617sq m block.
Hamilton's median sale price had also jumped 12 per cent since the first Covid lockdown compared with 6 per cent before the lockdown.
"Hamilton has strong employment and a good rental market - which means that if you buy your first home there, you could then retain it as a rental when you move into your next property," Wilson said.
Another increasingly popular option for Auckland and Wellington families was Upper Hutt and the Kapiti Coast.
Being home to many government jobs that tended to be more secure in the post-Covid economy, Wellington's house prices were booming at a median $995,000 and came on even smaller blocks than Auckland - 528sq m.
Upper Hutt and the Kapiti Coast had typical sales prices of $735,000 and $740,000.
Three-bedroom Kapiti Coast homes also typically came on 809sq m blocks.
That all meant that while Auckland's housing market might be a hot mess, a move to the regions could result in a market that was a bit more of a "lukewarm mess".