Tag Archives: housing

The truth about flat hunting in Auckland

If there’s one thing we took away from our various American hosts, it’s that you guys enjoy an insanely high standard of housing.  Your bathroom is straight out of the 70s, you say? Oh, please, spend a day a flat hunting in Auckland and you’ll realise how good you have it…

When we left, the state of property here was insane. Six months on, the market is even crazier, and there are no signs of the housing shortage abating or of any political action being taken to fix it. Yes, Mum, there’s nothing more I’d like than to buy a place of our very own, but even a standard house in humble suburbs like the one I grew up in are well over the $500,000 mark.

We’re looking for a cheap rental so we can save up for a down payment. Somewhere that won’t kill us financially – or physically. One place we looked at … well, I wouldn’t let an animal live there. Dank, filthy and creeping with mould in every room. All the other people there to look at it seemed to be new immigrants, and I worry for whoever winds up renting it. My mother has taken it upon herself to help us look through listings, and it’s cute to hear her keep muttering “If I was a landlord, I’d fix this up and …..” Of course, if she were to do that, she’d also charge a lot more rent and probably price people like us out of the market.

We could flat with others, saving money and also getting to live in a nicer place as a result (as long as I’m not head of the house; I had that responsibility before and will never do it again). If we had our own bathroom, I think I could probably handle it. We’ve even looked at a couple of shared houses.

T isn’t so keen, however, and so we focused mainly on rental properties. Ideally:

  • around $300 a week (or less)
  • in an area where it’s easy for me to get to work (I work in the suburbs, not the CBD, so this makes things trickier, as we are a one-car household)
  • not visibly mouldy (it’s a little sad that this has to be said)
  • with a full kitchen (oven and stove, not just a hotplate)
  • mixer taps (my pet peeve is separate hot and cold faucets; I want to be able to wash my hands without either burning or freezing them)
  • off-street parking (garage would be a dream)

Beggars can’t be choosers, of course, so I was open to compromise. (And all going to plan, today we sign on the line for a tiny but very nice place, which is very affordable and includes whiteware – but has only two cooking hobs and no oven. Lots of stovetop cooking for us, then…)

But as well as being a beggar, I am also a blogger, and predisposed to ranting about things that get my goat. Here are three things that completely blow about flat hunting in Auckland.

If you don’t have a somewhat flexible job, you are shit outta luck

Agents don’t give a flying f*ck about renters.

Viewings for rental properties are always held during regular working hours, and because the market is so tight, there is only ever usually one single viewing. If you can’t make it, tough luck – it’s almost a certainty that property will be gone after that viewing to someone who DID attend. (By contrast, open homes are always on weekends – usually both Saturday AND Sunday.)

You might get lucky and find the odd property that’s managed directly by the owner, but in our experience (that is, lower end of the price range in central west Auckland) almost all rentals these days are managed by agents.

You will waste a lot of time

Compare a typical rental listing on TradeMe to a typical property for sale listing.

One will have a multitude of photos of every single room from every possible angle, and a flowery description to accompany, along with address or at least the name of the road.

One will state the bare minimum and the bleeding obvious (number of bedrooms, type of dwelling, and maybe the total move-in cost). It MIGHT list the address, but often it will simply only give the suburb. Super helpful. As for photos, there are a few rare listings that include photos of all the important rooms as well an exterior shot. Most of the time though, one of the following is true:

  • No photos at all (yes, this really happens)
  • One single photo of the exterior
  • Multiple photos of the exterior from different angles (sometimes up to about 10 – why?!)
  • Photos of the interior – bedroom and/or lounge only
  • Photos of the interior – minus the kitchen
  • Photos of the interior – minus the bathroom

I will remind you again that almost all of these are managed by agencies. I’m sure many of these amateur photos are provided by the owners, but that’s a weak excuse especially if you’re paying someone to manage your rental for you.

Then again, it hardly matters since the market is so tight that even crapholes get snapped up in a flash.

What sucks is that the managers put zero effort into the listings, forcing US to take time out from work to go along to viewings to get any sort of idea whether a place is really like inside. If we were better able to screen listings online, this would make flat hunting a lot less of a headache.

Did I mention that lots of agencies still don’t offer online application? Apparently they’re still stuck in the 1990s. Seriously – if I have to download and print a form (then scan it to email or physically deliver it to the office), then it doesn’t count, *cough Barfoot & Thompson*.

Meanwhile, house hunters have apps to get pre-approved in 10 minutes. I know there’s a lot more money to be made off buyers, but renters are people too, you know – and we need shelter over our heads just as badly.

On a budget? Then your choices range from Damp to Downright Uninhabitable

Yes, our climate is pretty dang mild compared to most part of the world. But that doesn’t mean living in an uninsulated house is healthy.

Did I ever tell you about the time we found a mushroom growing through the carpet in the hallway of our last house? I also hate to think how many spores I’ve breathed in over the past few years in the process of cleaning mould off bedroom and bathroom ceilings (and walls, come to think of it). I met up with a Kiwi friend while she was over in San Francisco at the same time we were, and we collectively marvelled at how warm and dry it was inside American houses.

If there wasn’t such a shortage of (affordable) property, maybe landlords would sort out their act. But there is, and so there’s no incentive to.

Please, share your other big city renter sob stories in the comments. Let’s wallow together.

A few more thoughts on house buying

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.

my house my castle, some more thoughts on home buying

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!

Three reasons why I want to buy a house (and reasons why I won’t)

1951 ... Farnsworth House 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?

House-sitting as a lifestyle choice

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?

Moving house the cheapskate way

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.

Double rent

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.

Moving costs

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 fees

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.

Cleaning up

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.

Furnishings

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.

Key cutting

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?

Places I have lived: A rundown of my renting history

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.

Current house

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?

Suburb snobbery

An eastwards view over the Waitemata Harbour, ...

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?

We found a new flat.

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.

The good

  • Location!
  • 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

The bad

  • 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.

Living with friends. Yay or nay?

living with friends ever a good idea

Modified CC image, original by Flickr user stevendepolo

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?

Will something better come along, or is this as good as it gets?

House

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?