Posts Tagged ‘housing’
I have a cousin who’s only a year older than me, but has always been light years ahead of me in every other aspect. Nationally ranked swimmer. Newly minted doctor. And now, a homeowner. If he wasn’t a really nice guy, I would really resent him for showing me up.
Seeing as I’m getting married in May, the adults of the family invariably turn to talk of property. Yes, I’m still renting, and plan to do so for quite a while yet.
Unlike in many places in the US, it’s basically never cheaper to buy than rent here (maybe in the smaller towns?). To buy a comparable place to our current dwelling would be about double our rent – and our rent is NOT cheap, either. We wouldn’t, however, be buying a comparable place, but a much cheaper one – an entry-level house in the $300,000s, hopefully, which would only be another $100-200 a week.
As I was telling my other cousin, it’s not so much the mortgage payments that are hard to swing (according to my bank’s home loan calculators) but that massive hurdle of the down payment. I always wanted to put down 20 percent. That’s the responsible thing to do. But to be honest, it’s quite likely that we’ll only end up putting 10 or 15 percent down (“That’s what everyone does!” Yeah, because prices start at about 4x household income and go up from there…).
Say we’re in a position to buy in 2016. We should both be able to get the full Kiwisaver first home buyer subsidy ($10,000 altogether, assuming the government doesn’t scrap that part of the scheme)
Who knows where prices will be by then, though? We had a slight dip in prices during the recession, but they quickly shot right back up to new heights. I don’t see the housing shortage ending anytime soon (not helped by lack of council/government planning and the traditional quarter-acre dream, which yes, I want a piece of too). And unlike in the US, our interest rates can only ever be fixed for a maximum of five years. Right now they’re in the 5-6 percent range (which is low for us, but not compared to the 3-4 percent outlined in this mortgage rates guide in the US) but lots of homeowners felt the pain a few years ago when rates climbed into the 8 percent.
Well Heeled, though, is making it a mission to buy a house in 2016. I will live vicariously through her!
Tags: housing, money, personal finance
Settling down/making it your own
I don’t give two hoots about decorating, but I would dearly love to settle in with permanent furniture, appliances, and most of all, insulation. Sadly, this is the exception rather than the norm in NZ houses. I’d be happy to pay to insulate my own home, but not while renting. In the meantime, we suffer on…
T also wants a dog something chronic. I’m not an animal person AT ALL, so renting has been a good way to shut that down. But I’m willing to compromise when we have a place on our own, particularly if there’s any security benefit to be had (we’ve been burgled too many times).
Putting money into your own pocket
I don’t see property as an investment, nor do I believe rent is dead money. But given housing is our biggest expense, it sure would be nice to be funneling that into an asset of our own – and mortgage rates right now are reasonably low, with home loans in the 5% bracket.
I don’t want to be renting when we have a family
Kids are in the 5-10 year plan. Still a while away, but wouldn’t you want to enjoy your first house for a while before they arrive? And with us getting married this year, this is only intensified. I always thought I’d get married closer to 30 and we’d be in a position to buy a house straight after, but things won’t be happening that way.
Alas, buying a house is not on the cards right now. Why not? Let me count the ways…
The moolah factor
Houses in Auckland are pricey. (For New Zealand as a whole, the median household income is just shy of $80,000 and the median house price is $389,000 – in Auckland, that would be barely entry level. Affordability as judged by the house-price-to-income ratio is nearly 5x, more so for Auckland average house prices – over $600,000 for the city area and $450,000 for the western suburbs, where we’d probably be forced out to.) We definitely don’t have anywhere near enough for a down payment yet. And let’s not get started on property rates, or the fact that we would have to buy a house further out, forcing us to get a second car. $$$$$$ all over the show. It’s a huge financial undertaking we’re just not equipped to make right now.
Flexibility is key right now
We might want to move away for a while or go travelling. T is still figuring out a career. Basically, it’s still too early to settle down and commit to a mortgage.
How stable are our jobs anyway?
T is an hourly worker and his income often varies. And working in publishing, I can’t say I’ll ever really feel secure in my job.
What, if anything, is holding you back from buying a place? Or if you own your own house, how did you know it was time?
Tags: housing, money, personal finance
While looking at overseas accommodations options online, I started to see a few mentions of house sitting as an option for longer-term stays, and it’s something that seems popular among RTW and long-term travellers. I mean, what better way is there to extend a free stay?
House-sitting isn’t just for travellers, though. I know someone who lives in Auckland and house-sits, going from place to place every so often, as a lifestyle choice. (Imagine how much you could save if you eliminated housing from your budget.)
Upon Googling some house-sitting sites, I noticed that one mentioned that many of its house-sitters are professionals saving for a deposit on a house (which is darn near impossible in this country). So how would one make house-sitting work as a long-term lifestyle?
- You’d need to be good with animals, as lots of people are looking for a pet sitter
- You’d need to not have a lot of stuff, because moving is a bitch and carting tons of items from house to house frequently would be beyond tiring
- You’d need to have a car – in a sprawling city like Auckland it’s unlikely you’d be able to stay within your preferred area all of the time, and would probably end up jumping all over the place
- You’d ideally have somewhat flexible work arrangements – it’d be ideal if you work from home
- And of course you’d need to be okay with the frequent picking up and moving, packing and unpacking. No doubt there are long-term assignments out there – the woman I know seems to stay put for a couple of months at a time – but nonetheless you’d be always looking for the next place. You’d definitely need some kind of backup plan should you need somewhere to stay between assignments in a pinch (hostel? Friends or family?)
I briefly thought about signing up to one of these sites, mainly because I spotted a great West Auckland property available over the holiday period and thought ‘what a great way to spend New Year’s without going away!’ But in addition to needing to find someone to take a chance on a first-timer to get your foot in the door with house-sitting (again it’s that whole how do you get experience when nobody will give you experience? conundrum, except it’s even harder because you can work for free to get experience, but you’re house-sitting for free and there’s nowhere to start below that), there’s a membership fee. Too much work for a throwaway thought.
And as for house-sitting as a lifestyle? I just don’t think it’s feasible for us – that would require buying a second car, cancelling out a lot of the cost savings – and adding the other inconveniences into the equation, it’s not the right path for us at this time. But it’s definitely something to consider. Lifestyle alternatives FTW.
Have you ever been a house-sitter? Would you consider it as a lifestyle?
Tags: house sitting, housing, life, reflections
My property manager is on my case right now about renewing our lease. If there’s anything to make you hark back to the horror of moving house, it’s the prospect of, well, moving house. We’re planning to stay here for at least the rest of the year, but beyond that, who knows?
I have moved house many times in the seven years I’ve lived on my own (holy shit, has it really been that long?). Moving can be an expensive exercise, but I’ve pared down on many of these things because I am a cheapskate.
The most potential to save comes in being strategic (and lucky) enough to perfectly align your move out and move in dates. I think I’ve only paid double rent once (WOOT) and one week of double rent is not too bad (rent is usually paid weekly in NZ). This may lead to a bit of a mad scramble to move in the space of an afternoon or a day or two, but it’s worth it IMO to save the moolah.
I’ll admit I have a burly dude on call, and not only does T willingly lend his muscle, he also manages to provide boxes from his workplace. During our early moves, we utilised the vans/utes of people we knew. More recently, I’ve borrowed a company van after hours, and twice used James Blond to hire a truck ($75 for two hours), which I would definitely recommend. In these seven years, I’m pretty sure that $150 is all I’ve spent on movers.
Property managers take their initial cut from renters – a week’s rent plus GST – and because hardly anyone wants to manage their own rental houses these days, these fees are getting harder to avoid. I’ve always sought out private rentals in an effort to get around agency fees, but haven’t always been successful. Boo.
Upon emptying your old place of all your crap, you will invariably notice weird spots, stains, scratches. This will result in a panicked trip to procure all kinds of products to clean up the mess. There might even be a visit to the supermarket to borrow a Rug Doctor. Or, if it’s a big house, you might just give in and pay for a pro to come give it a proper once-over scrub. And all those blown lightbulbs you never bothered replacing? It’s time. Prevention is better than cure. Don’t slack off on maintenance like me.
I was talking to a friend once about how out of reach home purchases are for Aucklanders today. She said something about tacking on another $20k for furnishings when considering the cost. I nearly choked.
In moving from smaller places to bigger ones back to smaller ones then upsizing again, we’ve done plenty of both purging and acquiring. My bed is one of the few items of furniture I paid for. Our TV was originally nabbed for a few bucks from someone T knew as it wasn’t working (he fixed it, and voila, a nice flatscreen). Our lounge furniture is all free – donated by friends and family, and once, picked up off the kerbside during inorganics. My desk, I admit, was pinched from the first flat I ever lived in. And I’ve never owned a dresser in my life, though I’d like one when we eventually own our own place.
One of those costs that really grates, but one you can’t avoid. Even if you live alone, you’re gonna need a spare set (funny how they never hand over more than one set; surely the previous tenants also had multiple copies?).
How do you keep costs down while moving?
Tags: housing, money, personal finance
As I mentioned in this post, the housing market in NZ is rather unique. Crappy stock, sky-high prices.
I thought it might be fun (in what sense of the word, I’m not quite sure, actually) to recount all the places I’ve lived in since leaving home.
Student life is, of course, meant for building up horror stories about bootstrapping. Two-minute noodles. Walls of beer bottles. Bongs and one-night stands and other awful flatmate escapades.
The boarding house
My first place was .. an experience. Along with one of my best friends, we set out to find somewhere we could both live. Nobody would rent to 17-year-olds, and no flats were advertising two empty rooms at once. Eventually though, we found a special situation: a six-bedroom townhouse/boarding house where each tenant paid the landlord individually. And he didn’t mind if we weren’t 18. (He actually also proposed us living in the basement apartment of his own house, with cheap rent in exchange for help with chores and cooking. That was a bit too weird, though.)
The first night my cell phone was stolen off the coffee table. Everybody locked their rooms when they weren’t home. Flatmates came and went, including the P-addict who used my soap and shampoo, the crazy old lady who threw dishes into the bin if they weren’t washed immediately, the girl who slept with the middle-aged body builder who lived next door, the guy just out of jail, and more.
The family townhouse
Next was another terraced house, with my friend and her grandad. Nothing much to report there. It didn’t last long; her mother came back to the country and I got the boot so she could live there instead.
The quiet suburban house
This is the furthest I’ve ever lived from public transport – a good 20 minute walk at least. Very inconvenient. Again, only lasted a few months.
The old bungalow
This was the oldest house I’d ever lived in, but it did have mixer taps (this is a requirement for me in any house). Flatmate had a few dope plants growing in the cupboard, but otherwise was sweet to live with. My first experience living on a main artery road, in which I learned to factor in road-crossing time in my walk to the bus stop, T had a major car accident just outside, and I vowed I would never buy a house on a busy road.
The suburban apartment
Apartments are rare outside of the CBD, but this was one of the notorious blocks. We were here for about a year. You pretty much couldn’t make any noise; the big communal rubbish bins were always overflowing and the pool was usually kinda grotty. Our dishwasher was home to cockroaches and for some reason half our mail never made it to our letterboxes, which were inside the lobby (I was a student then so had plenty of correspondence from Studylink to deal to … or I should have had, anyway).
The ghetto house
Nobody would rent to students. So we ended up in the ghetto. Our street was nice at one end, but at the other end was a state housing enclave – and that’s the end we lived at. Our room was a converted garage. There was mould in the closet, on the ceiling, and I could see my breath in front of me in the winter. Our landlord lost his job and when the hot water cylinder went, he took over a month to fix it. That was coming into winter, too. He also then tried to pin a bunch of things on us when we left, like the roof caving in. Oh, and we got burgled… three times?
Other fun things: nightmare flatmate still owes me nearly a grand from this. He was a terrible drunk and broke a couple of panes in our door while on the piss. Similarly, the boys used to wrestle all the time and managed to break a couple of windows doing so. I got half decent at painting/puttying. Nightmare flatmate also got his car rear window smashed several times, mostly by the shits down the road who also burgled us, and once by his girlfriend.
The thoroughfare house
Weed got sold. People came and went. One of the flatties literally had a walk in closet for a room. Another had a bit of casual polygamy going on. Lots of Naruto was watched.
The bottom floor studio
A really nice small place, albeit a tiny kitchen with old cupboards. But brand new bathroom, gorgeous built in cupboards and drawers and a cute little patio-type thing. It was a quiet, affluent neighbourhood handy to everything – and really cheap.
The bad: the yard was always in the shade so I hardly ever used the patio and our clothes took forever to dry on the line; it got a little too small for our liking (even the apartment we lived in had a living room); the landlord’s kids upstairs were often loud and the floor was thin; it was always dark because we were on the bottom floor and surrounded by fence/trees; T’s first bike got stolen, after which he hated the place; and it was just that little bit too far away from the west, where everyone he knows lives.
Also on a main road, but not at the same level as the other bungalow. We have a garage, a deck, lots of sun, a 20-minute walk to work for me and a spare room for junk, among other things. After moving in, we also found the previous occupants had been growing cannabis in the space between the roof and the house, hacking a power point to run electricity up into that space, and apparently using the hall cupboard (now my wardrobe) for drying.
The house itself isn’t all that nice, I’ll be honest – it needs work and it’s very much a rental (but all the cosmetic things, like the carpets and walls, are pretty well hidden once you move in with all your stuff). It’s at the low end of my standards, but it does well enough.
The house itself is split into two dwellings; the back one is a one-bedroom, and the tenant is a lovely older lady who’s rarely home. In fact, we haven’t seen since Christmas and just found out she’s down south caring for her sick mother. Hope she can continue to pay rent and keep her place – quiet neighbours are great!
So, that’s my woeful housing history from 2005-2012. What does yours look like?
Tags: about me, housing, renting
Looking over Waitakere to the Shore. Image via Wikipedia
We Aucklanders are an insular lot. You grow up in a certain area, and apart from a possible stint living close to or in the city, it’s likely you’ll end up going back to where you came from.
We’re snobs for suburbs. There’s something that comes with being a Westie, a Shore-ite, whatever – it might be cred, or it might be denigrating. Usually elements of both. And sometimes people take it far too seriously. T gets flak from people he knows for not being a proper west Aucklander since we moved to a more central location (first to Epsom of all places, about the swankiest old money area there is, and now Mt Albert, less swish but still very nice). Never mind the supercity, never mind the fact that Waitakere city is no more – the old lines are still as clear as ever for the hardcore.
At least now that we’re a fair bit closer to the west side (all his friends and family live within a very close radius; on his bike T can make it back from any of theirs in under 10 minutes) he’s stopped hassling me so much about moving further out and how much more house for our rent we could get.
Sure, we would get more floor space for the same amount (maybe cheaper). But we now live in a 1.5 bedroom house with garage (the 2nd “bedroom” is no more than a study with small closet – we’d probably struggle to rent it out for $50 a week), and definitely don’t need more room. I would need to get a car of my own. Youch. Not only do I not enjoy driving, I’m not very good at it.
To me, it makes sense to live centrally while we can afford to – we’ll have to move further out when we buy anyway, because prices in this suburb are way beyond our reach. Commuting sucks, so I’ll take my 20-minute walk and proximity to everything while I can get it. And if that makes us suburban traitors, so be it.
What do you like best about the area where you live and why’d you pick it?
I hate moving house. But like death, taxes, and work, it’s one of those inevitables in life.
I finally got the prod to start nosing around when rent went up from a nice round $500/fortnight to $560. Still cheap, but we’re both sick of our one-person kitchen and keen to get a garage where T’s motorbike can reside (do you know what the difference in excess is if stolen from a garage vs not? More than a thousand dollars. Might even be closer to two grand, if I could assed getting up to check).
The hunt didn’t actually take anywhere near as long as I’d thought. I think our current place was the first or second we looked at, but in 2008 I literally lost count of the number of rentals I viewed and applied for (didn’t help that I was a student at the time). T and I literally pulled up outside this house and were underwhelmed, but seeing as I’d dragged the agent out there, figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it the once over. And know what? It was surprisingly A-OK.
- Mixer taps – a non-negotiable
- Modern bathroom
- A touch of stained glass
- A minuscule second bedroom that can be T’s domain, aka mancave
- A spacious kitchen and dining space
- Lawns are done for us
- A single garage
- Outdoor patio
- Busy road
- Closet is in the hallway outside the bedroom. (The property is half, or possibly 2/3 of a converted bungalow, which is split into two self-contained units, so our main bedroom was probably once a lounge)
- Roomy kitchen, but very little storage space
- Ancient light fittings and somewhat dingy carpets – but those are minor details, and I kind of prefer not having the pressure of keeping a brand new place pristine
While I really didn’t want to pay more than $300 a week, I gave in a little on this one – $320. We are, after all, doubling if not tripling our space easily; it’s almost excessive. We also had to pay a letting fee (boo!) as it was through an agency. Four weeks’ bond, first week’s rent and the letting fee came to nigh on $2000, all of which I paid last week (that seemed to surprise our agent).
No more living under our landlord – we’ll just be next door to a single lady.
This means a new supermarket, new route to the office, new local park and mountain, and I can finally sign up to Powershop! I’ll be about the same distance from work; T may be a little further from the motorway, but we are back closer to friends and family, which is important to him.
It also means furnishing the place. I don’t care for home decor, so I’m totally happy to take castoffs from T’s family – they may not have money but they have stuff and we are welcome to it – and will Freecycle/TradeMe/garage sale anything else we need. We’ve had more furniture in the past when we lived in an actual full three-bedroom house with flatmates, but couldn’t obviously bring it to our studio. The biggest priority will be a fridge, and after that, stuff like couches, clothesline, cutlery drawer, table and chairs (possibly x2 for outside on the deck) and a second TV because T insists on one in the bedroom.
It kind of got me thinking about the future – I always imagined getting married closer to my 30s, and buying a house right after. If we go ahead with a 2013 wedding, that’s simply not going to happen. Possibly we could afford a unit/small townhouse, but I’m in the “house for life” camp. Moving is bad enough when renting. Landlording doesn’t interest me, and honestly, the market here is not for smaller dwellings (particularly new construction, often leaky apartments and terraced houses) but for the traditional Kiwi family home. And, you know, there’s the whole travel idea.
Image via Wikipedia
When I first moved out on my own, I lived with one of my good friends. Nobody would rent to a couple of girls under 18, so we ended up moving into a six-bedroom house with a bunch of strangers. There were good things about that arrangement: rent included all bills, and the setup was a rare one: each tenant paid their share to the landlord directly. There were good times hanging out watching movies, gossiping and consolation when my ex and I broke up.
But having so many classes together and, often, catching the same buses everyday, as well as living together, was a bit much sometimes. Our bedrooms were on separate floors and by no means did we spend all our spare time at home together, but I suppose I’m just not social enough to make something like that work.
Later on, after T and I moved in together, we also lived with mates of his and a mutual friend. Those never ended well. Inevitably the financials caused awkwardness (partly my fault – I have no problem talking about money here or in real life, but asking for it – even when it’s for paying the bills – doesn’t sit right with me). Chores were a whole other can of worms – lord knows there are enough posts on this blog on that topic from those years. Living with friends in all of those cases proved a mistake.
We’ve discussed possibly living with one of our friends in order to get a bigger and nicer house, but I’ve always dismissed the idea – although it might actually work, because he’s quiet and likes to do his own thing, like me – because I just don’t want to jeopardise that relationship. Likewise, another of my best friends used to talk about us all getting a house together and having a merry old Friends-esque experience (before going overseas and returning to plunge into poverty as a grad student, that is, scrubbing all talk of that dream).
What’s your take on living with friends?
If only...Image via Wikipedia
This week, we viewed our first prospective new home since our rent went up and we started tentatively looking at what was out there.
Of course, it’s rare that a place lives up to the promise. The shower was far too small and low for T, the outside was positively peeling and dilapidated (I’m fine with a less than pristine exterior, but this was going a bit far) and quite significantly, the landlord came across as somewhat of a douchebag.
The key things we do like would be having a garage and a bit of garden (yes, for under $300 a week!) and a decent sized kitchen. It’s one of two split units in an old villa/bungalow, with a third detached unit out back. The location is great and the street seems nice enough. I spend the majority of my time at work, so I want to live close to the office (logical, right?). This would be walking distance. (T is pretty much always going to have a long commute; the industrial areas are all out south and a highway hike away – and we would never, ever live in south Auckland.)
The other attraction was the lack of letting fee – the landlord manages the property himself. He also, unfortunately, came across as a wanker, rushing us through the interior, attempting to scare every prospect into applying on the spot by touting the number of views on the TradeMe listing and going on about how in his decades of experience, the market is the tightest it’s been in years. That MIGHT have something to do with the Rugby World Cup, the biggest event Auckland has hosted in a long time. He also saw fit to deliver a lecture on how we should always come to viewings prepared with references and information to wow property managers. Mmmhmmm. I am aware of this. Perhaps the reason we weren’t jumping to sign on the spot was more due to doubts about the place?
Don’t even get me started on the application form. Blurry and obviously photocopied too many times, it goes beyond any agency form I’ve ever filled out. Three character references in addition to previous tenancies, work and income info, and vehicle details? Not only that, it asks not for their contact details, but for references to be “attached”. Nobody gives written references these days; those died with personal cheques. Stuck in the past century much?
So I’m torn. Do I bother filling out the application form, not being entirely sold on it – and knowing competition is likely to be fierce? T likes it well enough, but doesn’t love it (as I say, he’d much rather live way further west, unlike me. Compromising on location is proving tough). He’s really eager to move out, but I just know that having to crouch to get under that showerhead – which doesn’t even have adjustable pressure – every day is going to get old.
Can I picture us living there? Well, we’ve lived so many places that anywhere can feel like home, really; that’s not a good test for me.
Really, it comes down to that age old dilemma – get in quick, or wait for the ‘perfect place’ which may never emerge.
What do you most value in a place to live – proximity to work, friends, amenities, bars and clubs and cafes? Outdoor living, kitchen, storage space?
Tags: housing, rant
Inertia. How often does that dictate the course of your life? It is easier to stay put than to make a change, so you do.
T has been wanting to move for a while. I haven’t. But now that our rent is going up, I’ve told him I will be happy to move when we find the perfect place. Because quite frankly, we have it pretty sweet here.
$280 (or $560 a fortnight, as we pay it) is not a huge number, I suppose, but it’s still pretty significant. The thing is, we already had a ridiculously great deal – even at the new price, I’m not sure we’ll find a better rental. We don’t have neighbours surrounding us on all sides, we have off-street parking, and are close to everything. Househunting in Auckland is also practically a full-time job in itself; it takes dedication and LOTS of time if you want a shot at anywhere half decent. It’s why LLs can get away with never renovating, having showings at 3pm on a work day, and not posting photos or addresses on listings. I shudder thinking about how religiously I checked TradeMe over the months it took to find our home before this one.
Anyway. I just can’t bring myself to take that on just yet. If I magically stumble across the one, great, or if T does, even better (though it’s doubtful – he doesn’t have the obsessiveness it takes). Dabbling in real estate listings has already got me down.
Here are a few examples of what we would get for our rent
$280 a week (T, excitedly: They’ve done up everything but the kitchen and bathroom! Me: So…they haven’t actually done up anything at all. A yard’s no good to me if there aren’t mixer taps)
$265 a week (Cheaper, but again, ancient facilities. Also stipulating one tenant only).
$290 a week (Cinderblock!!!)
Here’s my dream housing situation for now: a standalone one-bedroom with garage, gate, deck and full pantry.
More realistic: a one-bedroom that’s part of a house, or at the end of a block, with carport (maybe).
I will admit – our place is tiny, but I don’t need a lot of space. I would like a bigger kitchen (one that’s not the same size as the bathroom), and a lockup garage would be nice (dream on!). I guess an actual living room would be handy too, although we wouldn’t have much to put in it.
To find somewhere that ticks all the boxes, including being close to my work and bus routes (remember I don’t drive) just won’t happen. If we increased our budget, possibly, but I’d rather funnel money into my Europe/US fund than into more carpet to vacuum. And with the Rugby World Cup in full swing, it’d be insanity to go househunting for the next couple of months; we are, after all, right in the middle of it all, jacked-up rents and all.
There’s also the matter of agent fees. A week’s rent plus GST, because landlords these days don’t want to do their own dirty work. I’ve never paid an agent fee before and I’d like to keep it that way if at all possible – that’s a fair chunk down the drain.