Auckland city is still a tough gig for many Kiwi families, especially those dreaming of four bedrooms, a rumpus room and a decent plot of land.
Welcome to Millwater, where local development - and employment opportunities - are growing, making the trade-off between price and location more appealing.
Just 30 minutes' drive off-peak from Auckland's CBD and nestled in the gateway between Silverdale and Orewa, for people who work on Auckland's North Shore, have flexible work arrangements or are prepared for a bit of a commute, budgets of around $1m could buy a bigger home than in the city.
According to REINZ data for the three months ending September 2019, the median price for a 4-bedroom home in Millwater (including Silverdale) is $1.030m - just pipping the same-sized home within the more centrally-located Browns Bay on Auckland's North Shore at $999,000 and slightly cheaper than Orewa at $1.1m. Compare to this to the median price of $1.4m for a 4-bedroom home in Auckland City and the prospect of a longer commute isn't so daunting.
Renowned for its cycleway (the 'Te Ara Tahuna cycle path'), proximity to the coast, sporting facilities at nearby Metropark together with a strong community spirit, Newshub spoke to locals to understand more about why Millwater is growing and future plans for development.
A local resident who wished not to be named told Newshub that lured by the appeal of the estuary cycleway, the family moved from the North Shore to Millwater to bag the elusive "bigger house."
"The idea of a new, larger house for the same price as our [then current] home in Browns Bay held great appeal."
In mid-2016, the family purchased a freestanding, four-bedroom, two-storey GJ Gardner home on a flat, 560 sqm section for $960,000, complete with butler's kitchen, separate laundry and two living areas.
Aside from the larger space, the family is able to take their pick of a range of kid-friendly amenities just a stone's throw away.
"Since we moved, the Silverdale Mall has opened and the kids love playing games at the 'Mighty Ape' warehouse.
"With local restaurants including 'Mexico' opening in Silverdale and four playgrounds within walking distance (a new park in Bonair Crescent opened up this year), we're enjoying the lifestyle," the ex-North Shore resident said.
Older children can commute to Rangitoto and Orewa Colleges using local bus services.
Although Millwater is much further up the coast than Browns Bay, the resident said that the commute to town is not much worse.
"Leaving [Millwater] at 6am takes me one hour to get to Greenlane and from 4pm, the commute back takes 1.5 to two hours.
"Having cut down to one-to-two days commuting into Auckland city, I've started my own local business, enabling me [time] for the kids," the woman added.
Millwater's million-dollar entry
For prospective home-buyers with budgets up to $1m, Grayson and Sarah Furniss, local property specialists at Mike Pero Real Estate in Millwater, said that this is the entry point for a basic, freestanding four bedroom home.
"While [people] can buy an average-to-good 200sqm home for $1.050m to $1.100m, around $1.5m plus can buy a 300 plus sqm home with all the bells and whistles.
"We see a range of [people] purchasing in Millwater, from first-home buyers, to young families buying their second or third property and early retirees downsizing their family homes."
Although there are plenty of local residents who are prepared to endure a daily commute to the city, sitting in traffic for two hours each way would be extreme and the Northern Expressway bus service provides a convenient way to travel.
"People are willing to make the commitment for better lifestyle opportunities: beaches, boating, community environment and schooling.
"Increasingly, we see more people taking local jobs, including [around] the upper North Shore, [as well as] telecommuting and work-from-home options."
Look out Millwater - Milldale is coming to town
Located directly opposite Millwater to the West of State Highway one, there are great plans for Milldale to accommodate the rising number of local residents.
Julia Parfitt, chairperson of the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board said that there are homes available in Milldale for under the $1m price point. Among new developments planned for the area is bridge to link the two towns.
"Since the first sections were developed in April of this year (stage one), the first 150 have been sold and the next stage is to be released soon.
"Fulton Hogan is planning to accommodate 4200 homes there, and smaller developers are planning to build a further 4000."
As existing schools in Silverdale and Wainui are full, there are plans for Milldale to include a new primary school, catering for 370 students, and an 800-student college.
"[There are plans for] the school in Wainui to be upgraded and The Ministry of Education has announced that a new school will be included as part of stage three," Parfitt confirmed.
New employment opportunities are expected to fall out of adjoining employment-zoned land to the south of Milldale, and the business park at Highgate in Silverdale.
Despite all the growth making the area more attractive to live and work, Parfitt said that North Shore residents rather than city-dwellers are more inclined to move to the area.
"I don't believe Millwater is competing with central Auckland for new homeowners.
"These suburbs [Millwater and Milldale] offer a similar coastal experience, but Milldale has a more affordable entry point," Parfitt said.
Census data from Statistics NZ for 2018 puts Millwater's population at around 5946 (3642 for Millwater North and 2304 for Millwater South). Given the level of new development and schools planned for Milldale, there's more growth left in the area yet.
For families dreaming of more space - and room to swing a bat in the backyard - as well as downsizing retirees, Millwater - and Milldale - might be the answer to that elusive greener pasture.
For those happy with inner-city life, the trade-off of a smaller home and/or backyard may still be valid, especially if commuting isn't your thing.