Home-buyer reveals the one thing that made her offer stand out above others

Homebuyer Eva Billing says this was going to be her last attempt to buy a home for a while.
Homebuyer Eva Billing says this was going to be her last attempt to buy a home for a while. Photo credit: Supplied.

A home-buyer is attributing a letter she penned to the property owner as the reason why her offer was accepted over two others, including one that was higher.

Her advice comes as rising house prices have made it difficult to get onto the property ladder despite recent changes under the Government housing announcement. 

The nationwide median selling price reached $820,000 in May, up 32.3 percent year-on-year, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

Having looked at houses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Taranaki-based Eva Billing says she was just about ready to give up. With a pre-approved budget limit of $500,000, Billing, a previous homeowner with two young children, was buying on her own for the first time.  

Having seen an original (1960s) 3-bedroom, freestanding house in Inglewood, around 18km from New Plymouth listed for 'offers over $535,000', Billing decided to make a last ditch effort to buy.

"I'd lost out on so many houses because of investors [etc], I was at the point where ‘this is my last attempt’ and if this was unsuccessful, I was going to just sit back and wait," Billing said. 

Initially, there had been little interest in the property - but by the time her offer was presented, the real estate agent confirmed there were three offers going in, including hers.

Billing offered $499,000 ($36,000 less than the listing benchmark) - her maximum. Although she says it was a clean offer,  it wasn’t the highest: a real estate agent told her one of the other offers was $80,000 higher, but had many conditions attached to it. 

The house is on a quarter-acre section and it was evident that the previous homeowner loved gardens. 

Billing decided to accompany her offer with a letter, and was told it was this that got her offer over the line.  

"I wrote a letter to the lady [saying] we love the house, the kids love it and we want to continue with the gardens," Billing explained.

"She was happy with my offer so sometimes, it’s the right place, right time."

Having sold the home she co-owned in January 2020, Billing wanted to buy a home for herself and her children.  But due to COVID-19 lockdown, she was told to pull back and wait.

And her wait hasn’t been without sacrifice.

Despite paying her rent and bills on time and having no other debt, Billing went through "four to five mortgage brokers", one telling her banks wouldn’t lend her as much as $100,000.

Billing, who had a deposit of around $105,000, is a self-employed hairdresser. Around two-and -a-half years’ ago, she took on a second job as a part-time receptionist. Determined to get finance approved to buy a home, earlier this year, she took on a third job working at a bar on nights the children weren’t in her care.

"I sacrificed my social life, a lot of sleep...I just had to try and think outside the box on how I [could] create more money and I get my income up so it looked better for the bank," Billing explained.

The current low interest rates mean her mortgage repayments are almost on a par with what she paid in rent ($420 per week), with extras such as rates and house insurance on top.

Her message for other first home-buyers wanting to own rather than rent is to clear debt, get a good mortgage broker and be persistent. And finding the right home may also mean making sacrifices around closeness to the city.

"For me, moving out of town is going to add an extra 20-30 [minutes] to my commute every day - but I’m a homeowner,"  Billing said.

REINZ confirms prices in the Taranaki region rose 26.4 percent over the last year, the 3-month median reaching $531,000 in May. 

Acting chief executive Wendy Alexander said compared to the last few months, there weren’t as many record selling prices in May. But a lack of total housing supply continued to push up prices.

"For the second time since REINZ began keeping records, the total number of properties available for sale has fallen to below 15,000 properties. This has meant there's less choice for those looking to either buy or move house and that competition for properties - especially 'good' houses in 'good' school zones - remains fierce," Alexander said.

Anecdotal evidence suggets some buyers are becoming more 'creative' to get a foot onto the property ladder, using letters, going door-to-door, making cash offers or reaching out to agents to see properties before they hit the market.  

Buyer sentiment has gone from 'fear of missing out', to 'fear of overpaying' - and now, 'fear of not finding anything'.

"Given the lack of choice available [to] purchasers, people who are already on the market and are looking to move are anxious about listing their property until they’ve found somewhere to buy," Alexander said.

"This then becomes a vicious cycle where more and more people wait to buy before listing, therefore reducing the total pool of properties available."

With loan-to-value (LVR) restrictions now reinstated, it is hoped this, together with the Government announcement, will help to bring more stability - and listings - to the market.