Out of Auckland frying pan, into affordable bliss

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2013
Sophie Braggins
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
NEW LIVES: Aucklander Sophie Braggins loves her New Plymouth house.
Sarah Chadwick
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
THE STICKS: Sarah Chadwick has no regrets about moving to Cambridge.

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Auckland's rampant house market is creating a nationwide group of middle-class refugees - sick of the overheated prices and willing to trade the big city for a better quality of life in the regions.

Real estate agents around the country report an influx of Aucklanders looking to trade out and up for less money.

Sophie Braggins, 30, was renting with her partner, Michael, in central Auckland but buying into the housing market would mean moving away from the city and probably into a much worse house.

They moved to New Plymouth three years ago and bought their first home. "We've got family here but the property market is a big factor. We've just bought our second home."

Braggins became pregnant but was able to leave her job: "We couldn't service a mortgage with one income in Auckland," she said.

They have just bought their second home and, comparing it to that of friends in Auckland, they are happy with their decision.

A friend who just bought in Takapuna paid more than $800,000 for "an absolute old dunger", she said. Braggins' new home cost $700,000, has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, sea views and a decent section.

Similarly, Sarah Chadwick and family moved to Cambridge in the Waikato six weeks ago.

Her husband works in Hamilton and had been commuting from Pukekohe. They left a 30-year-old, three-bedroom house in Pukekohe for a "big, four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-year-old home" in Cambridge for $80,000 more. "We were surprised at what we could get," she said.

Median house prices in Auckland are $565,000 and at least 17 suburbs have average prices of $1 million-plus.

BNZ economist Tony Alexander said the Auckland boom was similar to those in the 1990s which evenetually spilled over to the rest of the country.

"History tells us this will happen. First-home buyers will look to buy outside Auckland."

Centres where older people would look to retire - like Tauranga, Nelson, Wellsford and Warkworth - would also be affected.

Takapuna man Warren Chapman was semi-retiring to Cambridge for a larger section where grandchildren could play.

"You get more bang for your buck - you've still got the social environment, the cafe lifestyle.

"In the real estate market, you get a much better value proposition. If you want a $500,000 home in Cambridge, you get a near-new one."

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In Auckland, Alexander said the main problem remained a lack of housing stock. As well, real estate agents reported that Aucklanders were willing to leave the city but unwilling to sell their original homes there.

Similarly, people were moving within Auckland but holding on to their original houses. "People are buying their second homes but they aren't selling their first homes. They are keeping them as investments."

Alexander said he had spoken to a real estate agent who reported 93 people coming through an open home in Auckland, of whom only three also had houses they wanted to sell. "There is zero sign of Auckland cooling down," he said.

Barfoot and Thompson managing director Peter Thompson said the number of properties on the market "had shrunk to an all-time low".

June was the closest the company had come in 11 years to selling as many houses as it had listed.

"In June we listed only 1189 properties, while our sales for the month numbered 1059.

"At the end of June we had only 2873 properties on our books, the first time our end of month listings have dipped below 3000 properties in the past 11 years."

Barfoot and Thompson reported a stable average house price for the city of $649,945, $5000 more than May's average.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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