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Is it too late to escape to the regions?

Tags: Residential Residential Views

With a little research, there are still bargains to be had by cashing in on a move to cheaper property outside Auckland.


While Auckland has seen strong inward migration In recent years, there has also been a steady stream of Aucklanders who have left the city to seek a new start in the regions.

Many have been drawn by the opportunity to cash in on the Super City’s super-sized house prices and downsize their financial obligations with cheaper homes. For others, the move has been more about swapping the urban bustle for a more relaxed lifestyle.

As a result, the ‘Golden Triangle’ area between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga has experienced strong growth, and across the country property prices have risen while those in Auckland are now relatively flat.

So has the horse already bolted on the dream of a bargain home and lifestyle move to the regions? If you crunch the numbers, the answer is no; though some buyers may want to reconsider where they would move to.

Door still open on Tauranga?

It may feel to many Aucklanders that the door has closed on a move to Tauranga. Long a favoured choice of departing Aucklanders, its house prices have climbed strongly and now sit at an average of $709,339, the fourth highest nationally after Wellington ($795,098). But this is still well below the Auckland-wide average of $1,047,415.

Ten years ago, the average Tauranga price ($450,453) was only $54,000 shy of that in Auckland. Since then prices in the area have increased by 57 percent, far less than Auckland’s triple-figure house-price inflation. This means relocating from Auckland to Tauranga can still represent a great move financially, one that also comes with the priceless benefits of the city’s laid-back beach lifestyle.

Rest of the North

If you live in Auckland, moving 125km to Hamilton ($572,169) will instantly save you $475,246 on the price of an average home. But there are even better savings to be had across the middle of the North Island. During the past year, Whanganui has seen its average house prices rise by over 13 percent – but it’s still a very affordable $260,872. On the other side of the island, just nudging over the 300k mark is Gisborne ($325,301).

Across the North Island’s other main cities and towns, homes are still around half as expensive as those in Auckland: Palmerston North ($406,711); Rotorua ($435,812); New Plymouth ($448,767); Hastings ($464,373); Napier ($511,341); Whangarei ($534,846).

Call of the mainland

If cheaper housing is your primary concern, and you don’t mind island hopping, two South Island regions top the national list as compelling destinations: the West Coast and Southland.

The average house price in Invercargill is $277,379, while on the West Coast homes are even cheaper: Greymouth, $243,000, and Westport: $195,000.

Yes, these areas are far removed from Auckland’s soy-milk lattes; but each has its unique attractions including access to natural beauty and outdoor pursuits which would be hard to match anywhere in the world.

And once you’ve settled in, your money will continue to work harder for you. While average house prices in these regions are 75 percent cheaper than in Auckland, average wages are typically around one third lower – so there’s a good chance the affordability equation will continue to stack up long after you’ve made the move.

But you might have to be quick to catch the best bargains. Over the past year, house prices in Invercargill have risen by 13.4 percent – the biggest rise in the country – indicating that our southernmost city’s secret is already getting out.

If you prefer your mainland charms mixed with the trappings of a larger centre, both Dunedin (average price $420,127) and Christchurch ($493,922) also offer great value for money.

Million dollar views in Queenstown?

Outside of Auckland’s exclusive suburbs, New Zealand’s most expensive region for housing is Queenstown Lakes. The average property price there, according to Core Logic, is $1,169,834 – higher than the Auckland-wide average of $1,047,415. But even a decade ago Queenstown was an expensive place to live.

In 2008, the average Queenstown house price was $610,126, compared with $504,550 in Auckland. Since then prices have climbed 108 percent in Auckland – and 92 percent in Queenstown – so, on paper, relocating from Auckland to Queenstown is more affordable now than ten years ago.

It’s still a move that might be hard to stack up in pure financial terms. But, if you have the means, the attractions of life in an internationally sought-after location amid a to-die-for landscape of mountains and lakes could still be for you.

Of course, any decision to up sticks and move to another part of the country will involve its own set of personal calculations. These extend well beyond house prices, to things like your employment and earning prospects, lifestyle preferences and local ties with family and friends, to name a few.

But, for those prepared to take the plunge, a well-planned move to the regions can still be rewarding – both financially and in terms of the kind of lifestyle that can only be found outside the big smoke.

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