Kiwis offered chance to buy shares in $1 million Auckland house in new investment scheme

There's no doubt it's a gloomy outlook for first-home buyers right now, but an Auckland start-up hopes to fix that.

Opoly wants to level the playing field for people priced out of the housing market, and attract a new wave of investors who will buy shares in a property, rather than the whole thing.

"It's not the same as owning an entire property yourself, but it's a way to grow your savings with the property market; to get a foot on the ladder and not be left behind by increasing house prices," says founder and CEO Felix Watkins.

Like many young Kiwis, investor Sam Walsh has all but given up getting on the property ladder.

"I've tried, and I've gotten close a couple of times, but it gets harder and harder every year, especially with properties rising the way that they are," he says.

But Watkins says millennials like himself and Walsh can have their avocado toast and eat it too.

"What we're looking to do is make investing much more mainstream, and make the barriers to entry much lower."

Watkins describes Opoly as a "residential crowdfunding investment platform" - in other words, buying $100 shares in a house. 

So while you can't live in Opoly's $1.1m Ponsonby apartment, you can collect quarterly rent on it. After three years, it'll be put up for auction, and investors get back their money - plus the capital gains.

Watkins says the Government's recent housing reforms couldn't have come at a better time.

"It's levelled the playing field, so now cash-buying of property is seen as a more favourable option than having interest, than it was previously."

For Walsh, it's an easy first step.

"I wouldn't say I'm the most financially literate person in the world, but I also have an interest. I think like most people I want to know I'm putting my money in and making it work in better ways."

Investing has never been more accessible in New Zealand, thanks to platforms like Opoly, Jasper, Hatch and Sharesies.

"Just putting your money in a term deposit is boring, but getting to play around with some of these platforms and tools is fun. It feels like you're being proactive with your money," says Walsh.

"In general principle, the idea of accessing investments people couldn't get before and were only available to sophisticated investors, or people with large sheet-books, is a great thing," says Pathfinder Asset Management CEO John Berry.

He says technology has led to a new kind of investor.

"Access to investing is more democratised. In terms of wealth, we have a range of issues in terms of the distribution of wealth in society, but the access to investing is much much easier than it ever has been - particularly for smaller amounts of money."

While he's wary of the 'gamification' of investing, and it pays to know the risks, Berry says often the easiest way to learn about investing is to just do it.

"The younger people can do it, often the better. They can get experience earlier in life, which helps them when they do have larger sums of money - they've got experience already," he explains.

Tools helping novices break into the market, and get a slice of the property pie.