Tag Archives: housing

Can you really afford NOT to buy a house?

Can you afford NOT to buy a house?

As you may expect, the following is a New Zealand and particularly Auckland-centric perspective…and yes, it is a rhetorical question.

Look, for many of us home ownership is beyond reach. That ship has well and truly sailed. Things may change in the future, but then again, they may not.

I’ve managed to scrape into my own place, but I worry about those who haven’t, who won’t.

Buying a house (as in the actual transaction) boils down to nothing more than money – albeit at levels that are wayyyy beyond reach for the average person, seeing as an Auckland house makes more than anyone working an actual job. But owning a home is not just about the money.

New Zealand: where you can’t afford to buy a house … and yet you can’t afford NOT to, either.

What’s your health worth?

Our housing stock is shite and our rentals are the worst. Cold and damp, they are literally making us sick. Renters in NZ have worse health outcomes than homeowners. What’s good health worth? $50 a week? $100? $250?

My house isn’t perfect. In the worst of winter it still gets too cold and the windows mist over. Yet it is many times better than the rentals I’ve endured. I can actually breathe. And that is priceless. More importantly, now I can install insulation, a heat pump, whatever I want.

Fixing renting needs to start here. Longer tenure is pointless if the property still sucks. But that does bring us to…

Can you afford the instability?

Renters have to move. (Often at the most inconvenient times.) Pay nonrefundable agent fees. Pay for the cost of moving (trucks, cleaning, double rent etc) over and over again. Sneak away from work to view houses because viewings are only ever during business hours. And you’ll have to do it many, many times because there’s so much competition for rentals.

That’s before we even try to quantify the stress involved with this lack of tenure. If you want a family, add kids into the picture and imagine how much harder it gets.

And after that…

What will you do when you stop working?

Retirees still need a place to live. Housing is a critical part of the retirement puzzle.

Rents keep going up. In my childhood suburb, my parents’ house has tripled in value, and the price of a 3 bedroom rental then is now the price of a 1 bedroom. Who knows how much market rents will be when it’s time for us to retire, and how much they may rise between then and when we die?

A project that I have been peripherally involved in around retirement policy is generating some discussion here in NZ. One particular submission sums the current situation up quite well, and I paraphrase it here: The political approach to housing is totally dysfunctional, favouring the old and wealthy over the young – and will cause huge problems for the currently young when they come to retire. A key theme among financially secure retirees, or those who are on track to be, is that they own their own homes. They are – or will be – free of a housing payment.

That’s going to change. Even now, there is real concern among renters about what their lives are going to look like in retirement. Moving is expensive, tiring and emotionally draining. Landlords are only going to continue to cash in on their capital gains – I know I would – and who wants to be forced to move at age 70 or 80?

Personally, I didn’t think I could afford to save enough for retirement to make up for not owning a house. I didn’t think the difference between (ever rising) rent and a mortgage payment would actually put me ahead (particularly if I was to try and rent somewhere decent). And there’s definitely something to the ‘forced savings’ discipline of having a mortgage.

But again, this is a choice that is available to fewer and fewer people as time goes on.

Us homeowners have lucked into a huge advantage. And it’s horrendously unfair. Once more with feeling: New Zealand: where you can’t afford to buy a house … and yet you can’t afford NOT to, either.

How homeownership saves me money

The surprising ways home ownership saves me money

Over the past decade I’ve wasted thousands of dollars renting (not even counting rent payments – those would be in the tens of thousands and at least I got shelter in exchange for those).

There are costs that come with home ownership – some unavoidable, some totally up to you – but those are covered extensively elsewhere on the internet and I’m not getting into those today.

No, what I’m talking about are the surprising ways home ownership has saved me money here and there.


A poorly insulated house is less efficient to heat. We’ve lived in iceboxes half the size of this house that cost the same in power bills as this one. And in the case where we’ve lived with flatmates, well, other people often don’t care about saving power the way you do.

Related: I’m probably saving a small fortune on tissues. I no longer have a constantly blocked or runny nose – it’s the exception rather than the norm now.  Rental standards in NZ are pathetic (and here’s even more skin-crawling stuff).

Now don’t get me wrong. This is still an older house and we’ll need to add more insulation to the roof, which will be in the realm of $1500-2000 if we DIY and more if we get in the pros to install it. On the very coldest nights this winter the roof has gotten down to single digit temperatures overnight, with the rest of the house plunging to low double digits, which isn’t ideal. But it’s noticeably drier and warmer than the many rentals I’ve endured.

I’m sure winters are getting colder (either that or I just feel it more with age) and T agrees. We experienced some record low temperatures this year and last, so I don’t think it’s entirely my imagination.


My content insurance dropped to a third of its former cost once I became a homeowner. I’m deadly serious. Car insurance also decreased by a tiny bit. Just another way renters get ripped off.

Going out

Home is a haven now. Not a cramped, damp place to escape. Not a place with flatmates who grate on your nerves. I love my house so much, warts and all. I’ve always been a homebody and at last, after so many years, I have somewhere I can honestly nest and settle in for real. I feel an unbridled sense of joy and serenity every time I  step out onto my  sunny deck or sit down in my dining nook.

As you can probably guess, I have had zero regrets about buying a house. Home ownership has been everything I dreamed of and more.


Here’s the SINGLE best thing about owning a house

The best thing about owning a house

I can breathe easier. Not just metaphorically knowing that we have security of tenure here, but literally.  It might seem like small stuff, breathing freely, but it’s priceless.

You might remember I first mentioned that I was having occasional trouble breathing back in 2010. So, I never actually got it checked out. I pretty much knew it was down to living in cold, damp places, and there wasn’t much to be done about that until I could buy a house of my own.

I’m pleased to report that owning a house has made a huge difference on that front. Breathing has not come this naturally to me in years. Even on brisk walks outside in the thick of winter. Even overnight.

Sometimes (not always, I grant you, especially through the colder months – but still much more regularly than never) I wake up in the morning and find myself breathing comfortably through my nose, rather than sucking cold air desperately through my mouth.

It used to be that the only time I didn’t struggle to breathe overnight was in nice hotels, or overseas in warmer climates. But otherwise, I was never able to breathe solely through my nose at night; I just couldn’t get enough air that way.

I haven’t had the flu this year – and I always get the flu each winter, which usually knocks me out for a few days.

It’s hard if not impossible to quantify good health. How much damage has 10 years of renting already done? Renting for life might not have actually killed me, but it would’ve taken its toll.

Life with a mortgage (is surprisingly sweet)

Life with a mortgage is pretty sweet

Living with a mortgage ain’t half bad.

My contents insurance, which WAS around $1200 a year when I was renting, plunged to about $400 when I bought my house. Car insurance decreased by a few bucks too. Unexpected fringe benefits of home ownership! My jaw literally dropped when I heard the new figure and I had to ask the rep to repeat it back to me.

My house insurance is about $1250 a year. And since I got a $1200 cash gift from my new bank when I confirmed my mortgage, it’s basically free for the first year.

Council rates (the equivalent of property taxes in some of your countries) are pretty darn affordable. Mine are just under $1500 a year. This is typical for houses in this range; when house hunting I saw probably up to a $500 variation in annual rates between all the properties, based on their value.

And YES, before all you (non NZ) lovers of renting jump in, I’m prepared for the costs of maintenance – I will be referring back to my pre-purchase house inspection report plenty over the coming years, which was brimming with recommendations around everything from insulation to safety glass.

Replacing the deck and repainting the roof will probably be the priorities – but a new kitchen just might come first. There’s no rangehood, no splashback (both noted in the report as matters to remedy) and everything just generally needs an overhaul. Might even knock through a wall and make the whole living and kitchen area open-plan with an island.

How much am I paying?

My 30-year mortgage is structured in three parts. Here’s what it’s costing me per fortnight:

  • $77.83 ($30,000 floating loan @ 5.29% – was 5.44% at drawdown but rates dropped since)
  • $492.24 ($215,000 fixed loan for 2 years @ 4.35%)
  • $474.30 ($200,000 fixed loan for 3 years @ 4.65%)

So I’m paying the bank $1044.37 every fortnight, plus I’m also repaying my family at $200 on top of that: $1244.37 all up.

Thus far I’ve also knocked another $3,000 straight off the principal with extra lump sum payments but now I need to turn my attention to a few other financial priorities.

Mortgages in NZ

So, if any of that sounds weird, here’s a simple intro to mortgage options in NZ.

Or if you’re not much of a video person, let me try to run you through how things work here.

Fixed vs floating: There are fixed mortgage rates and floating (variable) mortgage rates. Fixed rates are typically lower.

The minimum term you can fix for here is generally 6 months and the maximum 5 years. Lots of people (like me) split up their mortgage into a few separate loans, some floating, some fixed. Floating allows you to focus on repaying the loan without penalties, while fixed gives you some certainty around rates (but with less repayment flexibility). And thus, a combo can offer the best of both.

Then there are a few more types of mortgage accounts available with floating rates:

Revolving credit loans are basically a giant overdraft, with one account acting as your loan, chequeing and saving account all in one. Your pay goes straight into the account and the idea is to leave the money sitting there as long as possible (eg putting your expenses on a credit card and paying them off at the end of the month). By keeping the account balance (and thus, loan balance) as low as possible at any time, you save on interest because the bank calculates interest daily.

Obviously this requires discipline and organisation, though you may be able to set it up so that your credit limit reduces over time, making it easier to stay on top of things and ensure you’re making progress. When it comes to refinance/rollover time I imagine I’ll choose revolving credit for part of my mortgage.

Similar but different, an offset mortgage is linked to your other accounts with the bank. Your mortgage interest is offset by the amount you have in your other accounts. For example, if your mortgage balance was $500,000 and you had $20,000 between your savings and chequing accounts, you would only be paying interest on $480,000. But compared to revolving credit, offsetting is not offered by as many banks.

And in case you missed it: my step by step guide to actually buying a dang house, from getting preapproved to settlement day.

How’d she manage to pull off buying a house? (blood sacrifice and dark magic, duh)

How I bought a house in Auckland on a single income

It’s too easy, for those of us who have somehow managed to scrape into the hallowed ranks of Auckland homeowners, to fall into the trap of blaming everyone else for their own poor financial choices and unrealistic expectations.

I’m determined not to do that.

I know that simply cutting back takeaways is not going to get you into a house.

I know that rents keep rising; when I was at university $350 a week got you a three bedroom rental in the humble suburb where I grew up, and today it gets you a one bedroom.

I know that prices and incomes are all out of whack, and yet, the way things are here, it generally makes sense to buy if you can.

Basic housing – dry, warm, healthy, affordable even – is a luxury in Auckland and it shouldn’t be. Renters are treated as second class citizens in every way. The quality of rental housing is abhorrent. There’s no stability. I note without pleasure (okay, maybe a LITTLE grim pleasure) that relatively well-off media commentator types who once often spoke out about what a waste of money it was to buy a house have now started families and oh, promptly gone and purchased property to live in.

I’ve put off writing more about the nitty gritty of buying my house – the financials, that is.

In a way, I feel like I haven’t truly earned it. And maybe more importantly, I’m nervous about the inevitable judgement that’s going to come my way.

Do I owe anybody any details? No. But might transparency benefit someone else out there? Maybe. And if the struggling house hunters who opened up about their finances for the Herald’s Home Truths series can do it, I probably should too.

Here it is.

Based on my pre-approval, I set out to buy a property $500k or less, using the Welcome Home Loan scheme (allows first home buyers to get in with 10% deposit, subject to other conditions). The majority of my deposit came from my KiwiSaver. (It’s never been affording mortgage payments that poses an issue, but rather the down payment.)

At this point I was temporarily staying with my parents, and they were helping me house hunt. There wasn’t a lot in my price range at all, let alone properties that were actually fit for residence. The two places in my budget that I wanted to make an offer on (though I was pipped to the post on those) … let’s say my dear mum wasn’t very impressed with the properties.

But as I told them: beggars can’t be choosers, and I’m a beggar in this market. My criteria is whatever I can afford, and within that, whatever I think I can live with. I was prepared to compromise on various things as required – basically anything, although not everything. Slim pickings weren’t necessarily a negative. I’m chronically indecisive so a narrow range of options was actually a good thing for me.

They also offered to help out, moneywise. I was very appreciative of the offer – and also very reluctant to accept it. My preference was to buy within my original budget, on my own steam, but together we started looking at some more expensive properties as well.

The more we looked, the more it made sense. The phrase ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’ comes to mind.

The prospect of them topping up my buying power went against my core principle of Doing Things On My Own. And yet they genuinely wanted to. Rather you pay us than the bank! It would mean a better house – still absolutely in entry level territory, but more liveable and better located. And importantly, potentially a forever home. I’ve moved so, so much while renting and it has been exponentially more soul destroying each time. I always wanted to buy a house and then never move again if at all possible. I just can’t imagine dealing with the stress of moving PLUS throwing the logistical headache of both selling and buying into the mix. Obviously people do it all the time, but I can tell you right now that climbing the property ladder is not for me.

The final price for my house was $595k, so with them making up the difference, means I owe them close to $100k. A little less than that now, after a few months of repayments.

So in the end, I didn’t take a Welcome Home loan, just a regular one – but it worked out for the best. As a result, the rest of the loan process was a lot simpler and shorter (less paperwork). And I didn’t get the $5k government HomeStart grant, but that would basically have been cancelled out by the Housing NZ premium applied to the WHL anyway. Turns out that’s a bit of a wash as a single income home buyer…

Withdrawing KiwiSaver money for my first (and hopefully last) home puts a major dent in my retirement savings, it’s true. But I’m comfortable with that choice, having pondered it for a couple of years, and still being young with time on my side. Saving for the future is important – but so is having a stable and healthy living environment in the present. (One word: mushrooms.) And while I don’t see my home as an investment, having a paid-off house will be a huge benefit come retirement. There’s a lot of talk right now about how Generation Rent will be at a disadvantage in this regard, and for good reason. Having discussed this with people at work who know much more about finance, mortgages and the economy in NZ than I do, I feel confident in this decision being the right one for me.

Probably more painful – emotionally anyway – is the fact that I accepted family help. Now I’m just like basically every other Auckland homeowner my age. Even as a loan rather than a gift … this makes me one of those awful privileged millennials tapping into the Bank of Mum and Dad. Let me tell you, that stings.

But pride ain’t everything, and I’ve said before that I wouldn’t look a gift horse like this in the mouth should it cross my path. I’m happy (understatement: DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY) and apparently so are they. A win-win, I suppose. Heck, for health reasons alone, I can tell you it has been so, so worth it already! I rub rosehip oil into my stress scars each night (from the chronic eczema that literally evaporated once I moved into my house) and I know I made the right choice. I pinch myself most days, wondering if this is actually my life, and feel so grateful to be here.

All the money I’ve wasted renting

All the money I've wasted renting

Ten years of renting was a few too many, personally.

Non refundable agent’s fees

A week’s rent plus GST – many, many times over.

Bonds you never see in full again

Fair enough in some cases, but definitely not in others.  And as a tenant you’re at a vast disadvantage here.

Carpet cleaning

Expensive carpet cleaning fees are included in leases by agencies – big and small alike – everywhere. Tenancy law information online seems to suggest these are unlawful, or ‘unenforceable’, but practically speaking, if it’s in the contract what are you going to do, kick up a fuss? There’s a dire shortage of housing in Auckland and it’s hard enough to secure a rental as it is.

Dodgy utilities

I was briefly in a very strange situation where I was in charge of the power bill, and everyone was supposed to split it evenly with me, but there was also a separate couple subletting the self contained downstairs rooms from one of the other flatmates/tenants (who was also the mother of my friend and fellow flatmate), and that flatmate was charging them a flat all inclusive rent and not including them in the power bill split. Yeah, try wrapping your head around that. Then there was the shitty apartment where you had to use their electricity provider – there was no other choice – and that provider had only one plan and no low user option, meaning we were stuck with higher prices than we would be paying on the free market.

Buying and selling things

Every move forces change of some sort – buying or selling appliances and/or furniture depending on each individual property’s size and what is or isn’t provided with it. Fridges, washing machines, tables, couches … It gets old.

Lost and broken stuff

I’ve had countless possessions go missing or break due to flatmates. No point having nice stuff.

And I can’t put a dollar amount on it, but…

So much time and stress. Taking time off during the work day to dart out to viewings (always within business hours) and to agency offices to sign papers.

Literally months of uncertainty over the years when you know you have to move and scramble to find a new place (about six months total in 2015 alone).

Fighting shitty landlords trying to blame us for things going wrong with the house, so they wouldn’t have to foot the bill for their own maintenance and repairs.

So, so glad not to be living what amounts to a temporary life anymore.

So you want to buy a house in Auckland?

So you want to buy a house in Auckland?

It’s funny that buying a house is one of the most stressful times in life, and a time when you’re also forced to deal with all sorts of horrible people – realtors, bankers, lawyers. (I don’t say that in a mean-hearted way; I was once a journalist, one of the most reviled jobs on the most-hated professions list every year.)

The good ones make things easy and I think I got off fairly lightly on that front! I would definitely use my lawyer and broker again. (Alas, we do not have buyer’s agents in NZ.) You’d think it would be quite rewarding, too, helping people achieve a big dream and being involved in part of that happy (if stressful) process. They’re only in our lives for a brief stretch of time, but it’s such a significant period.

That said, I encountered NO END of awful agents and nightmarish properties.

Allow me to rant a little about…

The houses themselves

There are so many damn things to watch out for, the most obvious being leaky homes. But then there’s also all sorts of other materials to be wary of. Asbestos in older houses. Weatherside (I’d never heard of it before), a cladding that looks just like hardiplank but not as sturdy, and falls apart.

Then there’s unconsented work to look out for, or things that don’t match the plans.

I wasn’t opposed to buying a do-up, but do-ups need to be affordable enough in the first place to make financial sense (because you still need to pay for all the renovations!) and in no case did the prices stack up. Plus there were basically no “light” do-ups. They were universally in dire need of a total overhaul… and when you’re spending half a million dollars, you want it to be somewhat liveable off the bat.

And other stuff

I lost count of how many times I turned up to an open home (or emailed about a listed property to organise a viewing) only to be told that it was already under contract. Look, I get why they continue to do showings when an offer is still conditional, but I think it’s lame not to be upfront about it, when it’s rare for contracts to fall through. I can only think of about one instance where I saw the actual house listing had been edited to say “under contract” online, in every other instance it was a case of ‘surprise’!

Speaking of agents, not to tar ‘em all with one brush, but the majority I had the misfortune of crossing paths with were useless. Can’t tell you anything, or won’t tell you anything – well, I’m not going to get a lawyer to check the plans or a builder to inspect the place for every single house I have a modicum of interest in!

I suspect it’s damn near impossible to actually use KiwiSaver funds toward the deposit that goes to the seller’s lawyer. They say you need at least 10 days to process the withdrawal, and that’s a long time. I only had five days to go unconditional – my KiwiSaver money went toward the remaining balance for settlement.

And can I add the weird mind games that come about when bidding on a house? There were eight on this one. You’re in to win and then at the end of it all, second guessing yourself – am I paying too much?

Also, I (perhaps naively) imagined my broker would be 100% in the know and up to date with all things KiwiSaver and home-buying related. Not quite the case.

Hey, vendor’s lawyers: how about being prompt with sending through the dang statement with the final sum to settle? Do you want a deal or not? Because I want to pay you. Seriously.

Finally, dear bank: so my passport expired a week after my mortgage draw down / settlement day, and months after my initial approval, and you need an updated form of ID now? And are you seriously going to ask me for updated ID every few years?

Adventures in first home buying

Buying a first house in AucklandThis was not how I pictured myself buying a house.

I imagined being blissfully married, with two reliable incomes, a solid savings history, starting to think about a family, maybe.

None of this was true in 2016.

But the main thing is I now have a stable place to call home. It means the world to me to have a house of my own, after two years of living in a holding pattern. The last few months in particular have been the textbook definition of ‘transitory period’ and I’m so ready to put them behind me.

A few false starts

I lost track of how many houses I saw. Dozens upon dozens. But here are the ones that came close.

The first one I saw was a cute early 1900s bungalow with a country feel, hardwood floors and nice outdoor flow. But conversely, there was no available information upfront about what updates (if any) had been done to bring it up to code, the kitchen was cramped and there was only one minuscule wardrobe (this was a tiny place with barely two bedrooms).

The next one I liked was a similarly country-feeling house, except this one was actually semi-rural, with a septic tank and all! Again only two bedrooms, but it was the location that gave me pause – it was just a little too far away. Plus, it was on a unit title, something I’d rather avoid.

Then there was an unassuming duplex that dropped my jaw once I stepped inside. Perfection in every way. There was even an adorable spiral staircase. The buts: it was two stories rather than single level, attached to another unit, parking was limited, and it was cross lease.

This one ticked basically all the boxes. Liveable off the bat, solid bones, sunny and cosy. Of course there are things I’d like to do but they can be tackled slowly and aren’t major or urgent, and there’s room to renovate.

But how do I actually do this?

I have yet to find ANYWHERE a brutally detailed, step by step guide to buying a house in New Zealand. I had basically no idea what to expect at each stage. There are bits and pieces of info online but what I desperately wanted was a thorough walk-through. I hope to never ever do this again in my entire life … but just in case, I’ve recorded the process for reference. Here’s my experience of buying a house by negotiation in Auckland.

Apply for mortgage preapproval

Meet with broker, do paperwork, gather supporting documentation.


I was applying for a Welcome Home loan, which takes quite a long time to process – two weeks in this case. It was an immense relief when it finally came (I was half convinced I would be rejected, given my usually stellar records had taken a big hit thanks to the whole unemployed partner debacle) and I had a wee lie down on the floor after opening that joyous email.

Start going to open homes

Graduate from stalking listings online to actually going out and seeing properties.


Endless viewings every weekend; scrambling to view new listings after work before they get snapped up. And then emailing my broker about every individual listing that I was seriously considering. Bleh.

Negotiating/Making an offer

AKA welcome to Stressville.

This house was listed as ‘deadline private treaty’ – aka get your offers in by a certain date. That date was about a month out and I could tell it wouldn’t get anywhere near that point. Indeed, after one look around I knew it would go like hot cakes; we got there about 10 minutes into the first open home, and there was already at least one offer in.

Getting mine in apparently involved signing a non binding  ‘offer to purchase’ form, which looked ridiculously informal. Scribble in your offer amount, desired conditions … and then text a photo to the agent. I wish I was kidding.

We popped back the following day for the second open home, which confirmed my first impressions. There were even more offers by this time. After this viewing, the negotiation commenced that same evening. It was an exhausting and inefficient round robin over the phone, slowly whittling down the eight bidders to one.

You know, I had all these grand notions about crafting an emotive personal letter to submit with my offer that would dazzle the sellers and help secure my bid … but this didn’t happen. In the end it had no bearing on the situation, and it was only money that talked.

Getting the call to say I’d gotten the house was pretty surreal. Then came a congratulatory text from the agent, and a bit of emoji-heavy banter back and forth.

Sealing the deal

Forget Stressville, now we’re in Stress City.

Hurrah for long weekends. On Auckland Anniversary, I went in to sign the sale and purchase agreement and organise to pay the deposit. The contract was a super daunting document in some ways and yet so underwhelming in others. It wasn’t totally unfamiliar to me, as the agent for the very first house I went to actually gave us an S&P agreement to take away. Then the contract was sent to the broker and lawyer, and the wheels set in motion for the next phase.

Working through the conditions

No rest for the wicked.

The agent provided a LIM report, so I just had to confirm finance and organise a building inspection. Seriously – the longest five working days of my life. And as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, I had to contend with daily calls/texts from the agent nagging me for updates and reminding me about all the backup offers on the table. Duuuude.

More paperwork than you’ve ever dreamed of

So much you could drown in it, if the papercuts didn’t kill you first.

KiwiSaver first home withdrawal forms.

More bank forms (including a terrifyingly huge number called Priority Sum. I’d never heard of it. Still couldn’t explain it to you, really. Thank god for Google).

Confirming mortgage structure and interest rates.

Getting house insurance.

And income/life insurance.

Organising account setup with the new bank.

The land transfer form.

More bank forms (these ones signed in person at the lawyer’s office) and title form.

Waiting for the vendor’s lawyer to send through the final settlement statement with sum to settle.

A minor panic when it came time to transfer the balance to the trust account, and the lawyer’s deposit slip seemed to have some extra digits at the end of the bank account – as if my nerves weren’t already shot enough!

(I accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies in the naming of the documents listed above.)

Settlement day

AKA the most nerve wracking day of all.

My lawyer had told me not to worry if I didn’t hear anything from her during the day. That would probably be a bad thing – it means something’s gone wrong. Just hang tight.

The first person I heard from was the agent. About 11.30, he texted saying they had the all clear to give me the keys, and could he drop them off to my office? (Um, YES.)

A couple hours later the lawyer emailed to wrap things up. And boom, hello homeownership.

* * *

A garden, a dog, compost, chickens (well, eventually). Farms and bush around the corner, the beaches not too much further.

This is everything I have been dreaming of.

Real estate trends I’ve noticed in 2015 (also, hallelujah, we moved house!)

By: Shubert Ciencia

There is no bigger nightmare than competing for housing in a growing city.

Ever-more intrusive rental applications

Self-explanatory. With a growing population and not enough housing to meet needs, this is what happens.

Shorter tenancies

For some reason, there’s a fair few properties being advertised as available for only 3-6 months, and others are advertised as longer fixed term leases with no mention of possible extension. Weird.

Renting out houses in two parts

Bigger houses are increasingly being rented out as separate upstairs and downstairs floors, self-contained.

More heat pumps

More properties than ever before now have heat pumps installed, which is a good thing. And I’m seeing more frequent mentions of insulation as a selling point… since, you know, having proper insulation is still the bloody exception. Still the minority, though.

The misery is widespread #solidarity

Why yes, I have been devouring everything on the internet related to our property clusterf***. What’s new?

“I don’t want to be a landlord – I just want to own my own home so I stop getting kicked out of rentals.  It just happened again last week and I’ll have to find somewhere else to live, yet again.  It’s exhausting and demoralising…”

– Interest.co.nz commenter

“Our lease is up in April. Not looking forward to this shit. Saw so many places with obvious damp or complete lack of weather tightness last time around. Property managers get outright aggressive if you ask about landlord’s plans to resolve damp, usually saying it’s already solved (despite damp smell and to the touch).

“Bring on WOF, willing to pay more to not get sick from shitty housing.”

– Reddit commenter

“The amount of money I would need for a deposit on a house is astronomical but trying to rent is making me want a house just so I don’t have to worry about renting ever again.”

– Wireless interviewee

Our new place

After 5 years of living on our own (wow, it feels longer) it will be strange to live with others again. The good thing is we have our own bathroom – we’ve moved into the downstairs floor of a house, so we’re largely self contained. And the others aren’t home much.

I am SO excited to have:

  • room to breathe! To swing a cat, even! There’s actually a cat, no kidding. No more constantly tripping over each other. Space to do stretches, play guitar, and just live alongside, rather than on top of, one another. Even if I wasn’t married to a hulk, I hate small spaces. Micro apartments and tiny houses can bugger right off. Unpopular opinion, I know. Lack of living space has caused us a lot of misery over the years.


  • a full kitchen! A real stove and oven, and a DISHWASHER (thinking back to previous places where we had a dishwasher, life was vastly improved.)


  • a dining table (I have never lived anywhere with a dining space since leaving home)


  • a bathtub (in the main bathroom)


  • outdoor living space (the deck is epic)


  • no sharing any of the following with neighbours – driveway/water meter/bins/yard etc  


And we won’t know for sure for a little while, but it seems like a decently warm and dry house. (Fun fact: I now have a new warning sign to look out for, thanks to a random person who was at one of the same open homes as we were. “There’s a bit of dampness – you can feel it in the carpet,” she said to her daughter. Indeed, upon further reflection, there’s definitely something to that). It was a family home for decades, so that bodes well.

I was really not sure I could make it through another winter in our last place. Also, our neighbours were becoming even bigger pains in the ass, and traffic along my bus route was getting downright unbearable. Now my commute is shorter despite having a longer walk at the city end from the bus stop.

Still, there will be no rest until we are owners. Your place is not your own otherwise – you’re at the mercy of leaseholders/head tenants, property managers, landlords. I can’t wait to have a permanent home – one we never have to budge from as long as we make our payments, and that we can truly make our own. I want a heat pump and/or amazing insulation. A spare bedroom. A garage/workshop for him. A pizza oven, that we’ll build in our yard. And a dog. I can’t express how intense my nesting urges are.

I know my property fixation is not good for my mental health and happiness, and I’m trying to get it under control. I almost feel a physical stab every time I hear of someone I know managing to buy their first home.

Example: A former coworker who failed to buy property a few years ago and bowed out of the game, calling it a bubble, has just bought a place. Prices have only gone up since then, so I presume she saw the light and got in while she could. Interest rates can only go up so much before they fall; the same is not true of house prices, and I see nothing that actually points to a real reason for a crash (the way things are going, nothing short of a nuclear explosion would reverse population growth, and we don’t have nuclear plants here).

So: trying to get this real estate thing down to ‘motivational’ levels rather than ‘obsession’. Which should be easier now we don’t live in such a tiny hovel.

Wow. So much for paying professionals…

By: Gabriel

Man, I’ve dealt with some BS in my near decade of renting, but this has pushed me over the edge. Did I say agencies are better than private landlords? Whoops. I take that back.

That’s twice now the property manager has been an absolute twat upon moving out.

Last time around, dealing with them was a breeze throughout the entire tenancy … until our last afternoon. It was literally the day before we flew out of the country, leaving for 6 months. We waited, shivering, in our garage, as the rain started coming down, for the PM to show up for final inspection. Numerous calls to his phone went unanswered. Finally we gave up, placed the keys in the house and left. First thing in the morning, he starts trying to get in touch asking what happened – useless much? No, we are literally leaving the country TONIGHT, we do not have time to come back for a walkthrough – you will have to do it without us. We didn’t get our bond back until we returned to NZ, either – he never sent through the paperwork to me and I had to chase him for it when we came back to the country.

This time around, it was with an even bigger (and thus, ostensibly more professional) agency. Alas, they turned out to be douchebags pretty early on, and every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it kept building until move-out. These guys instruct you to drop off the keys at the office, and then do the final inspection on their own rather than going through the house with you in person. Two days later we heard from them – outlining an absolute litany of basic complaints about cleaning. (The legal requirement is to leave a property ‘reasonably clean and tidy’, which translated to a pretty grey area. However, I can tell you never had an issue at ANY of the many places we’ve lived. We know how to mop a floor and scrub a shower.) They also conveniently ‘forgot’ that they had sold us the fridge upon move-in (for owner had wanted to get rid of it, probably as it was getting older) and more or less accused us of stealing it. Oh, and I’m not even going to go into the dramas they caused in trying to force us to move out earlier than our planned date.

I’ve been thinking a lot about power, and the imbalance of it in the renting market. I’ve already been incredibly stressed out for months on end, and this whole situation with the house has basically doubled my stress levels since the start of the year. I made the decision early on that my priority was getting the hell out of here with as little headache as possible, while knowing the agency was highly likely to make it a hassle based on their behaviour to date.

So often it’s a question of where you can afford the time/money to pursue a conflict. For example, they insisted on going ahead with hiring a cleaner anyway (end result: splitting the bill). As another example: it’s actually unlawful to have a clause in a lease requiring carpet cleaning at the end of the tenancy. However you’ll find these in many, many contracts. I know I have, and gone along with it because in a tight market it’s a miracle if you can get approved for a place at all.

And for bigger stuff … Do you really want to jeopardise your chances of ever getting another place to live, if you take something to the Tenancy Tribunal and have that associated with your name as public record (no matter what the result)?

Cannot wait to be off the renting hamster wheel.