Opinion: Owning a house might just be down to luck

OPINION: Hardly a day goes by without reading another article about young people who have miraculously vaulted onto the property ladder, despite today's punishing housing market.

More often than not, the message is clear: Millennials can get on the property ladder, if they really want to.

The very fact it's worth reporting proves the complete opposite. Just count the number of paragraphs before the parents' role in the purchase is revealed.

Does anyone really believe the housing hurdles faced by young Kiwis in 2017 are the same they had to jump in decades past? (Guess what, they're not.)

Amongst my colleagues, I'm a rarity in being a homeowner. It helps that I'm relatively ancient - qualifying as either a late Gen X-er or early Millennial, depending on you ask.

My wife and I didn't get any help from our parents, either through inheritance or a couple of years living rent-free. Nor did we give up all semblances of a balanced life and work 97 hours a week, like the poor indentured servant one publication put on a pedestal earlier this week.

But unlike landlords such as Gary Lin, who kickstarted his portfolio with a $200,000 gift and told young renters they should harden up and join the army, I'm well conscious of the luck that's gone into getting us on the ladder.

Firstly, I started working full-time just as KiwiSaver was kicking off. I'd never saved a cent before, and the ease and simplicity of the scheme made it possible even for someone like me to save a deposit.

It also helped that between then, and when we bought our house, prices stagnated thanks to the global financial crisis.

Which brings me to the second piece of luck we had - the timing.

We bought in 2011, when the banks were totally fine with 5 percent deposits. Even then, our bank at the time - ASB - balked at our financials and said no. Kiwibank was more willing.

That was six years ago, I know. And here's why, despite being an owner, I can understand the Millennial malaise on housing: we're still living in that 'starter' place, with our dreams of upgrading - without leaving Auckland altogether - about as likely as buying a house in Mission Bay.

We live in a small two-bedroom unit which, according to a real estate agent desperate for our business, has more than doubled in value since 2011. I know that sounds good and you're probably thinking I should just shut up and enjoy my smashed avocado on toast, but it's really not - because everything else has doubled in price too.

It's simple algebra - gaining X dollars on paper is meaningless if everything else has gone up two X. If we sold now for twice what we bought, we'd barely have the 20 percent deposit required in 2017 to nab an average Auckland home. That we couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on anyway.

It's an absurdity that despite a much-improved income, I couldn't even afford my own house if I was trying to buy it in 2017.

And I still consider myself one of the lucky ones. That's how screwed up this housing market is, and no amount of Millennial-shaming is going to fix that.

Besides, I hate avocado.

Dan Satherley is a Newshub reporter.

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