Let's live in... Stokes Valley
Nestled between Upper and Lower Hutt near Wellington lies the suburb of Stokes Valley. It's a picturesque and peaceful enclave away from the main highways of the capital.
With a population nudging 10,000, it's as big as a small New Zealand town and an ideal place for a young family looking to own their first home.
Why should I move there?
The Valley was originally subdivided in 1840, and when you look at the house prices you could be mistaken for thinking you're still living in the 19th century as they are so low - but more on this later.
It has everything you need in terms of amenities, and anything it doesn't have is not too far away in Lower Hutt, or, for the rather adventurous Stokes Vallian, Wellington is only a 20 minute drive away.
Why it's not for everyone
Stokes Valley normally only makes the news because someone has been murdered, which is unfortunate really considering it doesn't happen that often.
There are two sides to Stokes Valley. Literally. Parts of the west side are a no-go zone where police are regularly in attendance. There is a Mongrel Mob presence and juvenile delinquents hang around the centre, Scott Court. The east side and the rest of the west is safe and mainly occupied by families.
Another deterrent is the fact there are few jobs in the valley itself, and the commute to Wellington is quite long.
What's the transport like?
Buses service almost all of the valley, with final destinations of Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Wellington. But being a valley it doesn't have great access to Wellington's rail network.
Pomare station isn't far away, but it is a decent hike if you're on foot. Taxis have been known to refuse to pick people up from certain areas and often require payment before delivery if you're trying to make your way home from town after a night out so that you can't do a runner.
There are three primary schools, all of them public and with deciles of two, four and six. The closest high school is over the hill at Taita College, it's role has reduced but the ERO reports are positive.
It has an indoor swimming pool with a gym, a decent half basketball court known as the "Rage Cage" and a kid's playground. The community centre gets a bit of use but there is only one pub, the Hardware Bar. In addition there is a New World supermarket, three bakeries, takeaway stores, a dentist, a pharmacy and a library.
Where to eat out
You've only got one option really, the Hardware. It's affordable, but that's about all it's got going for it. The other alternative is the Roast House, who do make a succulent roast lamb, but people would be best advised to travel out of the valley if they want fine dining.
Delaney Park is the home of sports in Stokes Valley. Situated on George Street, not far from the Mongrel Mob house, it hosts football, rugby, cricket and softball.
During the 90s, the cricket team had names such as Matthew Bell and Richard Jones of the Black Caps gracing the honours board, while former All White Grant Turner once coached the football team. Those days are long gone now as all the codes seem to be struggling with funding. That doesn't stop a man on the adjacent hill blasting 80s music from his sound system to entertain the cricketers during long summer days, however. That will clearly never stop.
Where to buy
The east side. Glen Road is nice, head up Horoeka Street and into Glenvale and you're looking good. Stay away from George Street and Delaney Drive. The top of the valley is hit and miss. There is also a new subdivision up Speldhurst Grove which has a selection of new, affordable houses and could be a good option.
This is the real reason to move to Stokes Valley. The median house price is $282,800 according to QV. The average rent is $320 per week. Most houses that are in this range and in a safe location come with two to three bedrooms and some of the places are an absolute steal.
Nestled in the southern hills of the valley, this three bedroom hideaway is a bargain at just $259,000. With panoramic views of the valley from the deck, it really is a great spot.
If you've got a little bit more cash, then maybe this three bedroom home in the new Speldhurst subdivision will catch your eye. Great views, a modern interior and a safe area for $415,000.
Notable Stokes Vallians
Someone must have put something good in the water about 25 years ago because Valley-bred sporting stars have been popping up all over the place recently. Recent All Whites footballers Cole Peverley, Dan Keat and Craig Henderson all graced the hallowed Delany Park turf during their childhood.
Current Hurricanes rugby players Brad Shields and Mike Kainga have been besties since they were little Stokes Valley rugby players.
Further back in time, the Hiscock brothers, Dave and Neville, honed their motorcycling skills in grass paddocks in the valley before dominating production class motorcycling in the 70s and 80s in New Zealand and Australia.
What the locals say
Scott Steer: "I chose to buy my house there as I grew up there and you learn that there are two sides to Stokes Valley.
"One is OK and normal and the other full of crime. As long as you live away from the bad side, your possessions and yourself will be just fine and remain intact. Plus the houses are a good price in the area."
Chris Duindam: "Everything is within walking distance. Supermarket right in the middle. Well placed dairies wherever you are. Pool, pharmacy, video shop, library."
Carl Tupangaia: "Whenever I'm in New World I always see someone I know. I do like the water quality up the top end of Stokes Valley."
What's my view?
First-home buyers need to be realistic in the current market, and Stokes Valley is the perfect place in which to get your foot up on the property ladder.