Nearly 3000 homes sold for $1 million or more last year - a 36 per cent increase on 2011, new figures show.
More than 80 per cent of the properties were, not surpringly, in the Auckland market - but earthquake-ravaged Christchurch also had a high turnover of expensive properties as buyers competed for homes in lower risk areas.
Christchurch's 87 $1m-plus sales were a 27 per cent jump on the 58 in 2011.
But new owners in either market did not necessarily get luxury, property experts say.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures reveal that 2846 homes sold for $1 million or more, compared with 2093 the year before - an increase of 36 per cent.
Of those, 2310 were in Auckland, a 43 per cent jump on 2011. Most sales were within the old Auckland City Council boundaries which take in Herne Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Remuera, Epsom and Newmarket.
Wellington had just 143 million-dollar sales last year. Like several other New Zealand cities or towns, the capital had a decrease - 3 per cent - in the number of million-dollar sales.
REINZ chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said the country's biggest cities faced lack of supply, which had driven up prices.
"I think what the data illustrates is... the two-step market we're seeing in the New Zealand housing market.
"Where supply is significantly constrained we are seeing significant price increases and in the rest of the country it's either flat or in some cases there are declines."
In Auckland, house-hunters knew their money would stretch to three or four bedrooms but nowhere near "palatial mansions," she said.
Demand from Cantabrians wanting to stay in Christchurch was pushing prices up, Ms O'Sullivan said.
"Either buyers have got proceeds to spend from insurance or they've moved out of damaged areas into those that are perceived as lower risk.
"One thing we're seeing is a real displacement effect," she said.
"Places like Rangiora, where potentially you can commute but it's not perceived as unstable seismically, those places have seen real uplift in terms of the number of transactions and the value of transactions as well."
Meanwhile, figures out yesterday show the Christchurch House Price Index set another record high in December with average prices up almost 12 per cent compared to December 2011.
The Canterbury/Westland's region median house price moved up 1.7 per cent compared to November to a new record median price of $351,000,
The Auckland median price was up 10.5 per cent to $535,000 compared to December in the previous year, REINZ said.
A total of 74,000 houses sold nationally during 2012, a 21 per cent increase on 2011 and the highest annual total since 2007.
Sales by auction grew by 68 per cent over the year, with sales by auction growing by 87 per cent in Auckland and by one third across the rest of the country.
The number of sales in December - 5754, fell 22.8 per cent from the month before, but this was strongly seasonally influenced.
After being adjusted for this, sales were roughly in line with the month before.
Ms O'Sullivan, said that in spite of the strong growth in sales volume, the number of sales compared to the total number of dwellings in New Zealand remained well below the long run average and substantially below the peak volume of 2003 when more than 120,000 residential properties were sold.
The key drivers for house prices in 2012 were the Auckland and Canterbury/Westland regions, which together made up over half the real estate activity in New Zealand, where supply constraints resulted in significant price gains.
"The strength of these two regions is starting to spill over into other parts of the country, particularly in terms of sales volumes," REINZ said.