Why first-home buyers are flocking to this growing Northland hub

Rainbow Falls, Waianiwaniwa, Kerikeri
Ngāti Rehia kaumatua Arena Munro (second from right, in suit) blesses the roundabout project with the Waipapa Rd-SH10 intersection in the background. Photo credit: The Northern Advocate

Budget-conscious Kiwis keen to get on the property ladder are looking beyond the big-smoke to secure their slice of paradise, and this growing Northland town is a popular destination.

Around 10 minutes from Kerikeri, Waipapa is currently booming thanks to its affordability and lifestyle reasons. 

Mitre 10, Noel Leeming and The Warehouse have all set up shop to take advantage of local development spilling over from Kerikeri.  Demand is growing - and so are house and land prices.

A local resident who wished not to be named told Newshub a year ago, she paid just over $430,000 for her free-standing 2-bedroom home on a 2,300 sqm (½ acre) plot of land approximately 5km from Waipapa.

"Kerikeri is a place of good, friendly people, low crime, tall trees, rivers, bushwalks and waterfalls," the ex-Aucklander told Newshub.

Having secured her first rung on the property ladder in 2015, the woman had initially bought a property 2.5km from the Kerikeri shops for $410,000, selling it for $580,000 three years' later.

"In the last few years, the area has changed from quiet rural to a busy hub," she said. 

Comparing Auckland to Kerikeri, local mortgage adviser, Sarah Curtis said that $750,000 buys more than a bog-standard, 3-bedroom home with a tiny piece of land in the suburbs.

"In Kerikeri, $750,000 buys a 4-bedroom home, generally with a view of the ocean or bush-setting, within a 15-minute drive of the town."

People moving into the town include couples, retirees, migrants, investors and returning families.  New housing developments and retirement villages are shooting up and while locals are concerned about infrastructure expansion, demand is driving prices up.

"Growth is expanding further than just the central area: the impact of price increases are reaching to Okaihau, Ohaeawai, Kawakawa and as far as Kaikohe.

"More first-home buyers want land [to] take advantage of the [KiwiSaver] HomeStart grant and build their own homes [and this is] increasing land sales. 

"[Given] the lack of rental properties available, this is driving up the price of rent," Curtis added.

Bindi Norwell, chief executive at REINZ said that average selling prices indicate strong growth in the area.

"Median prices in Waipapa have increased by 32.7 percent over the past 12 months [to August], and by 61.9 percent over the past three years."

Norwell confirmed that given retail development over the last few years, it's not surprising that the area has grown in popularity.  

"At the lower end of the market, [in Waipapa], homes are still more affordable than Kerikeri, [therefore] Waipapa is becoming more popular with young families and people looking for affordable lifestyle blocks," Norwell added. 

Median house price 12-months to August 2019 by specified Northland towns:

  • Haruru: $625,000
  • Kaeo: $328,000
  • KeriKeri: $682,000
  • Okaihau: $400,000
  • Opua: $600,000
  • Paihia: $545,000
  • Waipapa: $680,000

Other NZ centres:

  • Auckland: $850,000
  • Hamilton: $567,000
  • Tauranga: $665,000
  • Christchurch: $457,000
  • Dunedin: $435,000

Source: REINZ

From the historic Stone Store, to Rewa's village and a host of local eats and walks, Kerikeri and neighbouring town Waipapa have plenty to offer first-home buyers, retirees and families looking for more than a square piece of land and a long commute.

But if the rate of demand continues, it may not stay that way for long.