"A lot of houses now, they don't have an actual price on them."
First-home buyers Jeff and Talia Menzies are finally on the property ladder, but in a red-hot market full of auctions and "priced by negotiation", finding the right place, at the right price was difficult.
They moved up from Southland to be closer to family, and for the same price they paid for their three-bedroom house in Blenheim they could have bought a lifestyle block down south.
Talia Menzies said a friend bought a three-bedroom house, on a half acre section, in Southland for $110,000 earlier this year.
The Menzies, who paid $325,000 for their house, are among many from outside the region buying property in Marlborough.
Figures from one real estate firm showed more than 100 homes had gone to buyers from outside the region so far this year - that was nearly two in every five sales for the company.
The Menzies said they found the demand for affordable housing in Marlborough high, with some open homes attracting as many as 20 potential buyers.
But they were more determined to buy a house after seeing rent prices in Blenheim, Talia Menzies said.
"You're looking at a mortgage less than what you would pay for rent here [in Blenheim]," she said.
The couple viewed 10 houses over three months before they bought their Islington property.
Talia Menzies said when they bought their house, they did not go to an open home, but instead arranged a private viewing through their agent. They were the only people to put an offer in despite interest shown from others.
"The entry level house is quite hard to get in to," Jeff Menzies said.
Despite the high demand and higher prices compared to Southland, they just wanted to be closer to family.
"We could have stayed in Southland and got a house there, but then we wouldn't be close to family," Talia Menzies said.
The couple rented a three-bedroom house in Drummond, Southland for $260 a week.
Harcourts Marlborough statistics for 2017 showed 38 per cent of home buyers were from outside the region.
From January to October this year, 107 houses sold in the region were to buyers from elsewhere.
The real estate agency believed it was down to affordability.
Harcourts Marlborough manager Chris Greenhill said the company had seen high demand in the region this year.
"We have had a shortage of listings this year, and we have seen more first-home buyers able to enter the market.
"This has created a lot of competition for buyers, with most being in a multi-offer situation when they purchase," Greenhill said.
The affordability of housing compared to big cities had also driven people from outside the region to buy houses in Marlborough, she said.
Some of the reasons for people moving could be due to selling homes in Auckland for profit, a change of lifestyle or retirement, Greenhill said.
Bayleys Marlborough general manager David Lee said he did not have numbers on buyers from outside the region, but got "inquiries from outside the region every day".
However, it had been like this for the past two years, Lee said.
"The market is still quite active, there was a slowdown in winter, for some reason people sit on the fence during the election, but the market is still very active," Lee said.
House prices in Marlborough had also gone up, with the latest statistics from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) showing the median house price had increased by 16.7 per cent from October last year.
The median house price for Marlborough in October was $420,000, compared to $360,000 in the same month last year.
"I think the lack of stock and the abundance of buyers, creating competition, has been a key component for driving prices up," Greenhill said.