Packs of wide-eyed first-homebuyers and shrewd investors are touring through open houses as market factors create a real estate perfect storm.The lowest cash rate since 1964, value-for-money property prices, first-homebuyer incentives and extremely competitive rents have combined to reinvigorate the buyer's market - despite gloomy global financial predictions.In particular, properties worth up to about $400,000 are attracting plenty of interest from home hunters.One potential buyer looking to buy a unit in North Wollongong around that price was told by an agent that there had not been such a high level of interest in properties which fitted that description for more than 15 years.The Illawarra Regional Information Service said buyer confidence in getting into the property market was at its highest point since March 2002.Illawarra Property Council chairman Geoff Jones said agents right across the region, including those who represent estates at Shell Cove and Haywards Bay, were reporting the extra activity."They were saying it was like the good old days," Mr Jones said.He said the first-homebuyers grant and a lack of new units being built, especially in Wollongong, were helping to make competition fierce.His agency, Martin Morris and Jones, found an open house for a $399,000 Figtree home attracting plenty of interest when the Mercury visited on Saturday.The buying spark also showed at a mid-week auction last Tuesday, when Ray White sold eight of 16 properties and three more within a few days, according to Shellharbour City principal Ben Mitchell.At a similar auction in November, only 16 of 46 properties had been sold.On Tuesday, 81 people registered to bid and more than 300 people crammed in to watch at the Wollongong location."Things are absolutely pumping at the moment," Mr Mitchell said."There are many first- homebuyers but also those at the higher end - while the cheapest we sold was worth $180,500, we had one worth $732,000 and it had plenty of interest."Mr Mitchell said it had become common to see "contract races" between people looking to buy the same property.