Tag Archives: housing

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.

The problem with intensification in Auckland

 

Quite simply, we stink at it.

A colleague mentioned to me the other day that she’d walked past a construction site in Ponsonby, where there used to be a row of townhouses – one of which she’d lived in for a few months.

“What’s happening here?” she asked one of the workers.

“The houses were leaky. They had to knock them all down,” was the reply.

My neighbourhood was one of the early pioneers of denser suburban living, with a few different apartment and townhouse developments. They’re flagships, really, and have been the subject of local housing studies.

I have lived in the two main complexes: in one of the apartments, and in two different townhouses – so three properties in total. All have had, or are going to be, reclad. Yep, leakers, or if you prefer, with “remedial issues”. None felt solidly constructed, built to last. Two out of three were cramped; all of them had a weird layout with bathrooms in the middle of the building, with no outside ventilation. And honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of the demographics they attracted.

I used to hope I could eventually buy around here. It ain’t happening. We have looooong since been priced out. Possibly we could afford a townhouse, but I wouldn’t want to buy a place that I wouldn’t be happy living in – and I already know what it would be like, having been there and done that. Plus, the body corps (and of course you have to take those fees into account!) have rules about everything from pets to hanging out laundry. It really would be the worst of both worlds.

Another new development, more or less around the corner, is in the works. I really hope they get it right. Plan the mixed-use aspects, don’t rush it, and for the love of god deliver quality residential construction and materials. We need to break the vicious cycle we’re in.

The show that sucked me back into reality TV

What’s a gal to do when tucked up in bed sick in the middle of summer?

Start watching TV – reality TV, even – again.

Normally I can’t stand reality shows, which is one of the reasons I’ve never watched The Block (despite my thing for houses). But I have been a little curious about Our First Home, as it’s something new…

The basic premise is this: Three families (one set of parents, one kid + partner) compete against each other. They have to buy a house in Auckland – bankrolled by the parents, obviously – live in it, renovate it, and sell it. Profits will go to the kids to use toward their own first home. The family that makes the most out of it, percentage wise, gets another $100k – a nice sum to go towards that down payment.

If they do well, they could come out sitting pretty, although in this case their profit might be taxed. (It’s all about the intention you have while buying, and this is a pretty clear cut example of intent to flip a property for profit, one being televised nationwide! NZ has no capital gains tax, however.)

To be perfectly honest, a part of me hates the privileged premise of this show. How many families can afford to take 10 weeks out of their lives to do something like this? And do we really need more people fueling the market by flicking on houses solely for profit? (All 3 families have a dad in the construction industry, to boot.)

But hey, at least this is an honest reality show – most first time buyers in Auckland need help from their parents. And they’re out there competing with everyone else for the same houses.

I was pleasantly surprised when one family, looking around a house that they really liked and was due to go to auction that afternoon, bowed out. After being filmed on the phone to the bank, they decided it was too much of a financial stretch. Shockingly sensible.

We see another family missing out by miles at an auction (a budget in the $500,000s gets you nowhere around here). We see mould and damp. Kitchens and bathrooms, untouched since the 50s or whatever. Features that don’t have council consent.

So far they’ve all managed to buy a house – a small one in a leafy setting, a big one on a busy road, a do-up in every sense of the word in a reasonably central area – and now the rest of the work begins. Guess what I’m doing tonight?

My beef with capitalism: Inequality’s a bitch

The problem with inequality

Economics is not my strong suit. Nor can I say I am particularly interested in it. I’m a micro person, not a macro person; a creative trying to get by in a capitalist world.

But even I can’t fail to note that the wealth gap is growing, not shrinking.  Yep, even here in little old New Zealand.

I like this dummy proof breakdown:

“New Zealand, which had the developed world’s biggest increase in inequality from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, has seen more economic damage than most. According to the OECD’s calculations, our economy grew about 30% in the last two decades – but it would have grown by 45%, or half as much again, if inequality had stayed at 1980s levels.”

Inequality matters. It’s a no-brainer. It’s a drag on the economy, and I think the saying that “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” is perhaps relevant here.

“When families lack the income they need to pay doctors’ fees and keep healthy, or to fix their car so they can travel to a new job, or to give their kids the equipment and clothes they need to succeed at school, it’s obvious that economic growth will suffer. You could argue that these are problems of poverty, not inequality, but really the two are inseparable; the reason some people have so little is that the fruits of economic growth are going largely to our richer citizens.”

As someone who ostensibly belongs to the middle class, occasionally I feel a tremendous sense of guilt that I have it so much better than many other people, and gratitude to be lucky to be where I am. But the other 99% of the time I spend fretting that we’ll never be able to really get ahead.

Bridget at Money After Graduation sums up my feelings perfectly:

“Wealth inequality is a growing, terrifying problem and I don’t want to be on the losing end of the deal. I’d rather we live in a more equal society when it comes to wealth distribution, but so long as we don’t, my singular goal is to get as far away from the bottom as possible.”

When necessities take up more of your income, you may even need to borrow to afford them. I don’t believe in ‘broke yet happy’. I think it’s something people tell themselves in order to feel better. Nice idea – in theory.

So, what are we supposed to do? Same old, I guess. Hustle, hustle, hustle.

A key piece of the inequality puzzle in New Zealand boils down to that most basic of needs: shelter. The way I see it, so much of this hinges on property – stability, security and quality of housing. The status quo is a disaster in financial terms – and in health terms, for renters.

It’s good to see that our go-to economist for all stories on renting vs buying is finally starting to discuss the pragmatic downsides of renting in New Zealand. While the actual quality of rental housing isn’t a talking point (and thus, the problem with mainstream media and the limited perspectives of the typically privileged people within it) he acknowledges New Zealand has some of the most restrictive rules in the developed world for renters.

“New Zealand is strangely different in that we have made this almost special provision around renting of residential property versus other types of renting.” – NZ Herald

“The rental market is designed for students flatters. It is no surprise that it is the young couples with children who are most unhappy.” – Stuff

But the level of chatter around the state of rental housing is growing.  Research shows that private rental housing is in worse condition than houses that are owner occupied, however, in a tight market, you have to take what you can get.

“One potential tenant, looking at a property, asked if the holes could be fixed and rodent droppings cleared before she moved in. “[The landlord] said: ‘If you don’t like it, there’s other people that want to live here’.”

Is it any wonder the typical tenancy lasts only just over a year?

Amazingly, here’s a rare mainstream newspaper editorial that hits the nail on the head.

Housing in New Zealand is not only scarce and expensive; for too many people, it is also downright unhealthy.

“Our national housing stock is of poorer quality than most OECD countries. In particular, too many houses are damp and cold – which means they contribute to our grim rates of infectious and respiratory diseases.

This is deplorable in an advanced country, and like our other housing problems, it needs to urgently change.

Extensive work has already been done, so there is no excuse for delay. Most recently, results from a pilot study on 144 rental homes showed 90 per cent failing the warrant. That number needs some qualification – some houses failed for such easily remedied reasons as flat batteries in smoke alarms. But other results were more deeply concerning – like the third of rental properties that lacked any form of fixed heating.

No-one in New Zealand should have to live in a dog of a house.”

In order for renting to life to work you need to be able to save and invest what you’re “saving” by not having a mortgage. The problem is, rents are not going anywhere except up and up.

  • Renter demand in Auckland is forecast to increase by 63% over the next 20 years and it is unclear whether “mum and dad” investors will be able to meet this demand
  • Rental affordability is a critical issue for low- middle income households in Auckland, and people who enter retirement renting are likely to face ongoing hardship

The prospect of continuing to have to pay rent throughout retirement is scary. I can kinda understand why suicide at 65 starts to look like a pragmatic option.

Recently, an acquaintance posted a photo on Facebook . In it, he and his girlfriend stood on the deck of their new house, all smiles. Of course, like all our other home-owning peers, they only managed this because their parents stumped up cash for their down payment. Heck, if mine offered, I’d swallow my pride and take the offer.

But is this what the future of our country looks like? Only the well off buying homes for their children and passing the privilege of living in a decent property on down the generations, while everyone else remains stuck in cold, damp rentals and suffering all the ill effects that poses?

Surely we can do better than that.

Landlord or slumlord? The downsides of private rentals

RENTING NIGHTMARES - NZ Muse

Much as I hate paying fees to rental property managers (here, rental agents do not do anything to help you as a renter, like assist you in finding somewhere to rent – they only serve the landlord) for the privilege of being allowed to rent a place, there is something to be said for dealing with professionals over the long term. Problems get fixed quickly and with minimal fuss.

For example, it would totally have been worth it to me to pay a damn fee to avoid these nightmares we’ve experienced:

Incompetent landlord #1: The Apartment

You might recall that we once spent a year in an apartment and hated it. Suburban apartments are usually kinda ghetto. Soundproofing sucked and it was impossible to have people over, ever, or you’d get in trouble for being too noisy. We were forced to use a certain utility company (one I’d never heard of) who charged stupid prices for electricity. There may have been a small roach problem. And like basically all new intensive construction, it had weathertightness issues – earlier this year the entire building basically disappeared under what looked like Gladwrap while they reclad it.

We also had a pretty crappy landlord. It was fine up until we left – then they withheld money from our bond. Why? We had been paying rent in arrears, they said, and thus owed the last week’s rent. Uh, HELL to the NO. Nobody – and I mean NOBODY – ever pays rent in arrears. Rent is always paid in advance – at the start of the week, for the week ahead. Landlords and agents simply wouldn’t have it any other way. I was so stunned I couldn’t reply. I don’t know what they were playing at. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, the saying goes. Maybe this was their first time as landlords. Either way, once they ‘consulted’ their records they realised their mistake.

The other reason they withheld money came down to a handful of ridiculous complaints. Dust on the outdoor balcony. Lint in the dryer. Rangehood hadn’t been cleaned underneath (okay, that one was fair – I’d never lived anywhere with a rangehood before and it simply didn’t even occur to me).

I was pretty pissed off and decided to take the matter to mediation – which was a complete waste of time. Within a couple of minutes it was suggested we split the difference 50/50 (literally, $50 and $50) and that was that. I’d taken the time to bus all the way out west and it was over in less than five minutes.

I would do things differently today, but 20-year-old me was young, naive and confrontation averse – I thought it would be worth taking the time to go to mediation with a third party.

Incompetent landlord #2: The House of Horrors

The house we moved into straight after that apartment was a nightmare. We lived with a couple of T’s friends, one of whom turned out to be the flatmate from hell and will never repay me the money he owes me. It was cold and damp and our bedroom, a converted garage, was the coldest and dampest room of all. For the first time, I had to deal with mould inside my wardrobe and on my clothes. Our front window had no security whatsoever; we had to secure it by jamming a piece of wood into the track so that it couldn’t slide open unless you removed it. It was also in a super ghetto area, but nobody would rent a decent place to us (students and entry level workers). After looking for months, this was as good as it got.

While we initially dealt with an agency  – not one of the big name companies, though, and weirdly it didn’t charge a letting fee – once the landlord lost his job he got rid of the property manager and took over the job himself. And it went downhill from there

He wanted to increase the rent approximately 25%, which I talked him down from. (My first ever negotiation!) And being out of work, he dragged his heels on fixing all the things that started going wrong with the house.

The floor of the shower cubicle cracked, which he tried to blame on us. It turned out the shower hadn’t been properly installed. Duh.

The power bills started going up…. and up… and up. We couldn’t figure out why. And then we lost hot water completely. Turned out these things were related. It wasn’t a quick fix, either. We had to deal with only cold water for a couple of weeks. I was too chicken to ask him to help out with the increased power bills, since they were due to the hot water cylinder and not anything we’d done – though I doubt he would’ve agreed, since he could barely afford to fix the water.

The wallpaper on the other side of the wall from the shower in the bathroom started flaking and peeling off in ever-larger chunks. Again, due to dampness stemming from issues with the bathroom installation. By the time we moved out, that wall in the living room was basically bare.

Finally, the roof sprung some sort of leak. Of course, he tried to blame us. Which was insane.

Given all these issues, we might have had cause to break our lease. But at the time, I was under huge pressure during my last year of uni, dealing with T’s unemployment, and working all hours. I simply didn’t have the mental capacity to take on that drama. Instead, I took showers at work and ignored what was happening around me at home.

Would you rather deal direct with landlords, or property managers?

Why I’m WAY more worried about buying a house than retiring

Why I'm more worried about buying a house than retiring

New Zealanders have not traditionally been great at saving for retirement. (I doubt we are the only country in this boat.) KiwiSaver was only introduced in the last 10 years and still has a lot of skeptics.

Honestly, if I’d never come across personal finance forums and blogs, I wouldn’t be particularly worried about retirement savings. I might have left my contributions at 4 percent and never increased them.

But here’s the thing. Governments have proven they are unwilling to tinker with NZ Super. And the only parties willing to do anything about the state of rental housing have wound up on the wrong side of power.

To me, then, the logical and pragmatic thing to do is to continue to pursue home ownership. I’m not counting on the government to do anything about quality, affordable housing, either rented or owned. Current policy encourages buying – the latest change would double grants for first-time buyers who are building a new house, not unlike the Homestart first home buyers grant in Perth – and nearly 10 years of renting has well and truly turned me off renting in New Zealand. I see buying as the more likely route to securing a healthy and stable future for me and my own. Our chief human rights commissioner summed up things pretty succinctly in a recent speech: “…If you can do so you will do what it takes to ensure your family live in an adequate home … many people are not fortunate enough to find a landlord that they would trust to do that.”

Since the government seems far more likely to cater for me in my twilight years than ensuring healthy housing in my best ones, I’m going to prioritise getting into a house over retirement for now. I used to be pretty set on not touching my Kiwisaver account for a down payment. (I don’t personally think it’s a great idea to enable people to withdraw even more money from their Kiwisaver accounts to buy a house, as new rules will soon allow.) But I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to rule out drawing on it – that’s drawing from, NOT draining it, to be clear – if that’s going to mean the difference between owning and renting.

I’m tired of the terrible quality of rentals. Mushrooms and mould do not belong indoors, ever. As property owners get richer selling houses to one another, people priced out of buying have to make do with substandard rentals and no legislation to protect them from shoddy, unhealthy properties. For a country that’s been at the forefront of things like gender and marriage equality, it’s well past time we got onto the basics of housing equality.

I’m tired of being on the wrong side of rising prices. Just a few years ago when I graduated, $360 a week could get you 3 bedrooms in my area. Now it only gets you 2 on average, and I guarantee in another year or two, it will only get you 1 bedroom (and a lot of the smaller 1-bedders forbid couples. AWESOME). This is an untrendy fringe area; prices are much higher in more central suburbs. Our city is growing and there’s not enough housing. Auckland is the Sydney, London, or New York of New Zealand. I do not see this trend reversing. I think high (and rising) prices are the new normal – here to stay.

I’m tired of the uneven playing field. I have the privilege of having the kind of job where I can duck out of work during the day to go to a viewing, but even I can’t do this all the time, and you need to do this at the drop of a hat when you’re actively hunting.

I’m tired of the instability. At any time a landlord can decide to cash in and sell out, displacing you, (and of course increase rent).

Like marriage or having kids, home ownership will be bloody hard … but I believe with all my heart it beats the alternative here.

Not every rental is crap and not every owned house is warm and dry – there are always exceptions. But in broad terms, there is a divide. When you’re an owner, you have the option of taking action to address the root causes of issues with your house. I can’t wait to have (or install) decent insulation and maybe even a heat pump. When you’re renting, you simply have to put up. I personally tried to do my bit for the cause by going beyond the numbers and highlighting the quality issues in a recent magazine article on renting vs buying, but what we need is sustained mainstream coverage.

There’s a reason multiple political parties put their support behind standards for rental housing this year. There’s a reason people are talking about this issue (though as has been proven, Twitter/the internet are far from representative).

What do you get for $250k, $500k, $750k or $1m in Auckland?

(I know I promised no more real estate masochism, but I put this together weeks ago! Scroll to the bottom for the other blogs taking part in this real estate roundup)

A little context first, perhaps.

Our CBD is more a place for work/leisure rather than living. There are apartments in town, but in many cases they’re cheap and nasty shoeboxes, with some nice luxury ones at the other end of the spectrum and not much in between. While the Auckland real estate market has soared, apartments have not appreciated in the same way. (Banks have relaxed the rules in the past couple of years but generally you needed a 30-50% deposit when buying an apartment. )To get an idea of how our housing market has grown, there’s a great interactive chart over at The Economist – aside from the craziness that is Hong Kong, NZ is basically on par with Australia and Britain.

The most sought-after places to live are the areas immediately surrounding the CBD. Years ago these were worker bee neighbourhoods, with houses packed up close against each other in narrow streets. A generation on these villas are now the domain of the wealthy and go for seven figures – gentrification! Woot!

Outside of the CBD, standalone houses remain the norm here. You’ll find the odd apartment block or terraced house complex here and there, but in many cases they’re hideous and poorly built. ‘Leaky home’ syndrome also affects a lot of the new standalone homes built in the 1990s/2000s boom.

Finally, very few properties actually get listed with an asking price (as you’ll notice on a few of these links) and most are sold at auction. There’s a lot of guesswork involved if you’re buying a place in Auckland, and council valuations are more often than not just a starting indication – places sell for well over those prices.

Auckland is pretty sprawling, but I’ll be focusing here on the inner city suburbs surrounding the CBD, as well as the CBD itself – roughly within the Outer City Link bus route. This provides a better reflection of the areas where people most want to live. (We don’t really delineate between ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘suburb’ here, certainly not as clearly as some of you might be used to.) According to Google Maps, this area is within about 10km of the CBD.

auckland

$250,000

In the CBD, you’ll get a 1, maybe 2 bedroom apartment. The nicer ones might be 50 sq m with one bedroom; the more cramped ones 40 sq m with 2 bedrooms. (There is a listing – that I will not dignify with a link – for a 3 bedroom apartment crammed into less than 50 sq m … that’s half of what a 3 bedroom dwelling should cover.) A carpark is a maybe at this price. Here is a reasonably typical example.

You might find the odd apartment in the fringe suburbs – there aren’t many of those (less than 10 at this very moment, one with ‘weathertightness’ issues). At this price point they’d be 1 bedroom.

$500,000

This would get you a somewhat decent apartment, with carpark even, in the CBD or surrounds. Like this.

In the inner suburbs $500k will barely stretch to a small , 1-2 bedroom unit in a block. These most often come in rows of 4. Here’s a typical example, as pictured above.

$750,000

In the CBD, you get a pretty nice, roomy apartment. Maybe this one?

In the inner suburbs, this is still entry-level territory. You’ll get nothing special; houses in this bracket might even still be do-ups that need work.  Example here.

$1,000,000

There are about five CBD apartments listed in this price bracket (but yes, they are lovely).

In the inner suburbs, it’ll get you a classic 3 bedroom bungalow or villa (here’s a do-up, and here’s a renovated one), or a newer build house. Or a condemned hovel on some prime land.

Why not rent instead?

Alas, while renting might be cheaper, it might literally kill you. The standard of rental housing here is ridiculously low. See my most recent rants here, here and here.

REAL ESTATE COMPARISON IN OTHER CITIES

CANADA

U.S.A.

Location, location, location: Renters just wanna live centrally (this one does, anyway)

Location, location, location: Renters just wanna live centrally

It’s funny how different people’s priorities can be when house hunting.

The only negative about our current place, in my eyes, is how freezing cold it is. That and the fact it doesn’t have a full stove. The cold issue, however, is the one that might prompt me to move sooner rather than later. (It’s so cold I’ve actually been keeping half an eye on listings, but there just aren’t that many options out there, certainly none that are overall better than this.)

My MIL, however, seems to think it’s a bit of a dungeon, due to the small size and the fact all the windows have dark tints, for whatever reason. Apparently there’s a two-bedroom house available for rent she knows of and suggested to T, but I can tell you right now that we would not take it. Why?

That house is in Te Atatu, which is further out than where we currently live. That would increase the cost of my bus pass, and I can guarantee the commute would only be worse. Right now, we live literally a minute away from the bus stop, not to mention a few minutes from the local hub with mall, train station, multiple supermarkets, butchers, grocers, Asian stores and organics shop. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’d happily sacrifice a degree of convenience to live in Te Atatu if we were buying a house there, but not for a rental.

For me, as a renter, location is the first thing I look at. I know I won’t be able to afford to live as centrally when we buy, so I’m making the most of it. Even if I had a car of my own, I couldn’t/wouldn’t drive to work, so access to public transport is paramount.

I can’t do much about cold and damp because that’s the default for New Zealand rentals, so onto the next thing on the list…

Next, I stand my ground on mixer taps in the bathroom and kitchen. I will not live somewhere where hot and cold water pour out of separate taps (yes, this is still common in a lot of rentals). That is barbaric; it’s 2014 and any landlords who haven’t updated their plumbing need to get with the programme.

Having lots of space comes last for me. But I guess it comes first for my MIL, and if T was single I think it might be his top criteria, too. Me, I grew up in a fairly small house. I hate cleaning. And I’m not big on entertaining at home. Home is where I go to escape from the world.

What do you look for when choosing somewhere to live?

Generation Rent needs habitable housing – it’s that simple

By: grahamc99

It’s painful to admit, but for a brief moments earlier this year I allowed myself to hope that T might do well enough at his last job that we might be able to afford to buy a house in a year or two.

Obviously those hopes went out the window with that job.

Our current place is only slightly damp, thankfully – no ceiling or closet mould, just window condensation – but it is fucking freezing. It most definitely would not meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended indoor temperature of 18-21 degrees. So, you know, like most everywhere else we’ve rented. /shrug

In nearly 10 years of renting, and moving on average every 18 months, the warmest and driest place I’ve ever lived was a studio under our landlord’s house in leafy Epsom. Dark and tiny, the tradeoff for insulation was having barely enough room for two people to stand up (the rest of the house where the landlord and his family actually lived, though, was reasonably large and very nice) so when the rent went up, we started looking elsewhere right away.

I absolutely refuse to raise my kids in this kind of place. I want to provide them with at least the standard of environment I grew up in. I really don’t think that’s asking too much. We lived very modest lives, but in a dry and warm house in a safe area.

It’s all well and good to say:

“Tenants are encouraged to find a property that not only meets their needs and lifestyle, but does not have any existing issues like [being cold and damp].”

but that totally ignores the reality of our market. That might work in other countries – not here. Nobody wants to live in a cold, damp place, but the majority of our rental housing stock IS cold and damp. Yet everyone needs somewhere to live. So the default question becomes not ‘is it damp and cold?’ but ‘how damp and cold is it?’ in an attempt to gt something toward the better end of the spectrum. Except for the very worst cases, it’s hard to gauge the extent of cold and damp during a 5-minute daytime viewing, especially during the non-winter months.

I’m getting too old for this shit.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do. I’m still hopeful that we might be able to buy at some point. (I’m not going to make any projections or commit to any goals here; T’s work situation has been so variable over the years that it would be frustrating and feels pointless.)

Otherwise, quality rentals are few and far between. Finding a place that’s insulated at all is the first hurdle. The second hurdle: can we actually afford to rent such a place? And the third hurdle … would we even get it? Granted, we aren’t at the very bottom of the tenancy ladder anymore. We’re not beneficiaries or students (oh, the times we house hunted when I was still in uni … how many places we missed out on!) But we are not particularly high income earners and in a tight market, when you have your pick of applicants, are you going to approve the couple making more, or the couple making less? I’m not delusional; the kinds of places we qualify for in Auckland are not the nice ones.

I think it’s really hard to grok the state of the market here unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. There’s the sheer fact that there’s so much competition (one showing per rental and always during work hours; houses almost always sold at auction, or blind tender).

And anyone who’s spent time abroad can testify to the dire physical state of housing here; there are countless expat message boards devoted to this topic. We’ve stayed in many, many apartments and houses throughout Europe and North America, thanks to friends, Couchsurfing and Airbnb, and all of them stunned us in a good way. Yep, even the supposedly crap places – and that includes the depressing grey Stalinist apartment block in Berlin that was astonishingly lovely inside – were miles ahead of anywhere we’ve rented here. Heck, we even have landlords who apparently would have no qualms about renting out meth houses. That is, to put it mildly, somewhat worrying.

And if you need a memory refresh, here’s another reason why renting for life isn’t a good option – here, tenants have very few rights/security.

Change may be on the horizon – at some point. I recently came across a blog devoted to examining the state of housing in New Zealand (hallelujah!). Student Elinor Chisholm is writing her PhD on collective action to improve rental housing in New Zealand.

The poor quality of New Zealand’s rental housing is finally getting the attention it deserves. People seem to agree that our housing is having terrible effects on health, and that it’s not right.

Not long ago a  scheme that sets minimum standards for rental housing was trialled. Criticism has mainly been along the lines of:

a) it’s going to raise rents

b) a lot of the criteria are shallow

to which my responses are:

a) I would be willing to pay more in rent if the property merited it, because I care about my health – I would be more open to renting for life if it didn’t put me at such risk of dying with black mould in my lungs. I suspect the savings on heating and medical costs (we did not need to use a heater at all when we lived in Epsom and didn’t get sick) would even it out. Maybe at the low income end, the government needs to increase Accommodation Supplement – but the current state of rentals is just not acceptable by any standards.

b) as a result, they are reviewing some of the criteria – but really, let’s not nitpick, let’s focus on the important stuff – namely, insulation and heating. I’d love to see minimum indoor temperature introduced as a criterion.

I mean, the fact is that the vast majority of houses in the sample failed: 90 percent, or let’s be generous and knock it down to two-thirds since 36 percent only required “minor” fixes to be brought up to scratch. And given that the surveyed rentals were volunteered by landlords, it’s probably not a big leap to conclude that the real number would be even higher.

Tenant horror stories often make the mainstream media, but how often do we hear about the horror houses we have to make do with? That’s why I’m so glad to see Elinor getting a platform on Public Address (which reaches a fair number of people).

“Horror renters” are a very small issue, about 0.6% of the population, that, fortunately, we deal with through the courts. Horror rental houses, on the other hand, is a huge issue – 44% of our rental homes. Our current system, with its lack of quality standards, and with its disincentives to tenants for taking issues of quality to the court, is not working.

I think it’s safe to assume the quality of owned houses here is overall higher than the quality of rented houses. (Here are some sad stats about the condition of rentals vs owned properties in NZ.) Maybe it used to be okay to do your time in mouldy rentals before buying your own place, doing it up if need be. But as home ownership slides further out of reach for our generation, we need habitable rental housing to fill the gap.

Because, to borrow a phrase from this Medium piece:

“It shouldn’t be easy. But it should not be this hard.”