COLUMN Carly Flynn

I’m certain people who live outside the big cities are over it; but for anyone affected by the great property price war and land grab, it’s still the “big” conversation.

A friend recently overheard the former Prime Minister joke, “You go out for dinner in Wellington and they want to talk about politics, you go to a dinner party in Auckland and all they want to talk about it what their neighbours house sold for.” True story, and I’d say a fairly accurate observation.

I remember securing my own piece of Kiwi paradise, vividly. A mere 12 years ago we’d just arrived home from overseas, Ireland in fact, where the dream of owning a home there was long over for the 20-something market.

We didn’t know how to get in. Our rent for a tiny two-bedroom was higher than a first-home mortgage, so it was top priority. Interest rates were around 9%.

A casual stroll into a real estate agents office one afternoon introduced us to a motivated agent – who whizzed us around in her black convertible and showed us five potential first-home properties, apparently within cooee of our first-home price bracket.

We fell in love with at least one; thankfully it was the one with the best location. Just five minutes from the CBD off-peak, it was on a cross-lease, solidly stucco, had a small patch of grass and garden boxes, and was beautiful (to our eyes at least).

We had no deposit – zilch. No savings. We were 23 and 24, owned a couple of dusty backpacks and a few boxes of photographs filled with years of travel memories.

Next, we asked to ‘borrow’ the deposit on the back of a family member’s mortgage, paying the interest and capital 100%.

With a cautionary yes from the family and the bank, and a few ground rules, we headed to auction and bid to win.

In the auction room hundreds of buyers and sellers were fighting over dozens of homes. It was an eye-opener, but I had to close my eyes and crouch in the corner with everything crossed when it came to our turn.

My husband had the stronger stomach and fought in one thousand dollar bids the last 19 thousand to come out top dog.

The property investors we were bidding against finally caved. We were in. Ecstatic we’d won – sick about the price. $319,000. $20,000 more than our ‘very’ top dollar. More grovelling to the bank ensued.

It was huge. Potentially life and lifestyle crippling. But we didn’t care if we ate cheese on toast for the rest of our lives. The pink and purple walls we’d purchased were now our walls, darn-it, and we were going to sand prep them and paint them alabaster white until we made them just how we wanted. Renovators for life.

We’d forgo new clothes, dinners out, and be happy to sit on our single squishy sofa at night talking tradesmen not travel; happily knowing we were in the game.

A stake in the ground. That was the advice of a family friend the night before the auction I’ve never forgotten.

We haven’t looked back. Getting that first home set us up for a larger, family-friendly home a few years later. Both homes we’ve loved – both we’ve renovated and been proud of what we’ve achieved.

But now we’ve sold again to buy a property that has just that little bit more land, and one day will be able to house a second small dwelling for when the kids need a place to call home – away from Mum and Dads’, even if it’s just in the backyard.

I don’t imagine in this day and age they’ll ever have the experience of getting into the property market quite like we have, or indeed our parents or grandparents did.

Given that most city properties are being cross-leased and unitary plans are paving the way for ‘up’ not out – we may need to adjust our expectations of what makes a great family home.

I’m a huge fan of George Clarke, you know the guy who goes around meeting people who’ve turned tiny spaces into the most amazing functional places to call home? Shipping containers are seemingly the new dwelling du jour and I quite like the idea of plonking one on my new piece of grass.

It might not be the property dream we had or have been led to believe is our fundamental Kiwi birth right, but it might just be the way things are headed for the future generation, and we need to get used to it. A stake in the ground.

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This column by Carly Flynn featured on page 018 in Issue 014 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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