House Prices May be Falling

But they still aren’t cheap.

We spent Sunday’s open home at our house driving around the hill suburbs of Lower Hutt, looking at a few open homes of our own. The views of the harbour are amazing and the bush-covered hills are pretty cool too. But the asking prices on the houses are frightening. Entry level in Wellington would seem to be around $400,000 and you don’t get much for your money. We looked at one that was on for $410,000 even though it smelled oddly of chemicals and still had its original kitchen and bathroom. The decor, construction, and fittings gave me flashbacks to the various houses I lived in as a kid in the 70’s – and while I liked the houses I lived in then, I bet they wouldn’t look so flash now if they hadn’t been renovated after 40 years of wear and tear.

Just as well that we’re in no hurry to buy because I think we’ll be renting for the duration. We’re going to take our time looking around, finding suburbs we’re interested in and working out what you get for your money in this market. The kind of house available and the prices charged are very different from Dunedin, which is the only New Zealand market I know anything about, so we have a bit of research to do.

There aren’t many, or any, of the substantial brick and tile houses so common in Dunedin. Wellington builders turned to wooden construction after a big earthquake about 100 years ago. Very sensible of them as last year’s events in Christchurch have proved. The brick frontages popular around the turn of the last century just collapsed in the September earthquake, whereas wooden structures and modern earthquake-proofed buildings were mostly fine.

And whereas Dunedin’s suburbs are higgledy-piggledy affairs with mansions dating from the 1880’s sitting right next door to minimalist designs in corrugated iron as built in the 1980’s, Wellington’s northern suburbs, as well as the Lower Hutt region, seem to have started as planned developments. This means lots of similar houses all built by the same one or two developers at the same time. They were specifically for first-home buyers and lower income families, so they’re small houses of simple design on pretty small sections. The house we’re in right now is a so-called Beazley Box – one of the original planned housing designs in one of the original planned suburbs. We’re living in a Wellington icon. Travis chose well.

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