Renting by accident - and loving it

No worries: Audrey Shaw and Stan Shaw outside their home in Acorn Way.
No worries: Audrey Shaw and Stan Shaw outside their home in Acorn Way.

Stoke residents Stan and Audrey Shaw are house-proud retirees who like to tend their small, neat garden which includes a rose variety at their front door from their Dunedin home town.

They rent their three-bedroom brick abode in the newly developed Acorn Way and are encouraged to treat it like their own home, but don't have the hassles of rates, insurance and a mortgage.

It's the first new house the couple have ever lived in, and possibly the warmest. There's also enough room for family to stay when they come and visit.

The Shaws are among an emerging trend of retirees opting to rent after selling up the family home, instead of ploughing freed up capital into a smaller home or retirement living option.

Audrey, 90, and Stan, 86, moved to Nelson last year and had not intended renting until they came across the new development by chance.

"We'd looked at one or two retirement villages, then we saw Acorn Way. We met the developers, took the next step and said, ‘we're definitely interested'," Stan said.

The private lane of 14 new rental townhouses off Neale Ave was opened in March by developers and owners Bryan Turner and Lyn Marshall.

The difference in the townhouse development is that none is for sale, but available for long term rental.

Marshall said there was no age limit on occupiers, but most were of retirement age, and mainly people who had moved from larger family homes and who wanted somewhere to live long term but without the worries of repairs and maintenance.

Yearly rent increases are based on the CPI index, or 2 per cent per year, whichever was greater.

The Shaws paid $400 a week rent, from superannuation and interest earned on the sum invested in the bank from their house sale.

Stan, a retired pastor who started his working life as a school teacher, said the advantages of renting were that they didn't have to worry about maintenance, mowing the lawn, washing the windows, but they got to help in the garden.

"The pattern seems to be that us and others are selling their houses and investing the proceeds in a term deposit but the big thing is that the capital retained remains intact."

The Shaws were not keen on the option of paying out up to a quarter of their capital to a retirement village in facilities and management fees.

They were now enjoying the community of new friends they had made in Nelson.

Nine years Peg and Don Salton sold their Stoke home nine years ago and have been renting ever since.

Don said they tossed around their options but the main reason renting worked for them was that they had a "very good landlord", helped by a property manager who took care of them.

They paid $300 a week rent for a modern home in a newish cul de sac in Richmond. All property maintenance was cared for but they enjoyed tending the garden themselves.

"We're not saying there's any real advantage. It's just the convenience of not having to pay rates, insurance or maintenance," Peg said.

The Saltons sold at a time when interest rates were relatively high, leading to a good return that contributed a good chunk towards their rental costs.

Since then the drop in interest rates has forced them to dip into capital, but that didn't bother them.

They've had bigger worries over Don's health, who in recent years has battled a rare cancer that has led to the amputation of his leg.

He said the rental scenario worked if people were prepared to live within their means. "It's the same old story - you adjust your lifestyle to suit," said Don, a former sales rep for a horticultural chemical firm.

Peg, a former laundry and factory worker, said if they won Lotto they might buy another house, but they were not worried about their security.

"We'll probably have to run down our capital a bit more but at the moment there's still plenty there."