Home buyers in Wellington are abandoning the city in favour of better deals in Hutt Valley and Porirua.
National valuation service Quotable Value said yesterday that the shift away from the city had become noticeable, with prospective buyers increasingly looking in what it called outlying areas.
The most popular of these appears to be Upper Hutt, which had a 4.3 per cent rise in sales to first-home buyers in the past 12 months - more than anywhere else in the country.
Demand was so hot that it surprised Aucklander Michelle Blom when she began house-hunting there with her husband and daughter in October.
They had expected to find a modern, three-bedroom place for about $300,000 but ended up stretching to $365,000 to snap up their new home in Trentham.
"It surprised me. It was a bit more expensive in Upper Hutt than we thought it was going to be," she said. "A lot of the nice houses were around the $400,000 mark, and we weren't expecting that at all."
The family moved down from South Auckland, where Ms Blom estimated a comparable character home to the one they bought in Trentham would cost about $500,000.
"We looked at a lot of homes [in Upper Hutt] and they all sold," she said. "There's a lot of really nice properties here at reasonable prices . . . some are really well presented."
First-home sales also rose in Porirua, backing up the idea that people are looking away from Wellington city in order to get a foot on the property ladder.
QV figures showed house values in Upper Hutt rose 4.2 per cent in the past year. The average house there now costs $341,521 - still the lowest in the Wellington region.
Values in Lower Hutt rose 2.6 per cent to $372,791, and in Wellington city by 2.7 per cent to $534,748.
Since the Reserve Bank introduced its 20 per cent loan-to-value lending restrictions on October 1, sales to first-home buyers in Wellington and Napier have fallen 5.4 per cent.
QV valuer Pieter Geill said the Hutt Valley market was being driven by people moving out of central Wellington. They had flocked to open homes there last month.
"It's affordability," he said. "They get much more for their money in the suburbs than they could in the city."
Professionals Upper Hutt real estate agent Jamie Gillies said the QV numbers were not a surprise, as the Upper Hutt market had been heating up for some time.
"There's a lot of people coming through saying they've looked elsewhere and couldn't find what they wanted, and there's much better value out here.
"It's like chalk and cheese - the value out here is incomparable."
However, Upper Hutt Harcourts agent Mike Ledger said he did not trust QV statistics and he believed the Upper Hutt market had slowed since October. "They have rocks in their heads ... Because of LVRs and the 20 per cent factor, while sales are still occurring they are not occurring at the same rate as this time last year."
QV.co.nz research director Jonno Ingerson said nationwide figures showed some of the heat was coming out of the market.
"Nationwide values increased 0.3 per cent in January compared to December, while a month earlier the increase was 1.3 per cent. So while values are still increasing, the rate of this increase has slowed considerably."
- The Dominion Post