Whangarei couple 'still in disbelief' after snapping up first home during COVID-19 Delta outbreak

After two years of searching, the couple bought their first home by auction in September.
After two years of searching, the couple bought their first home by auction in September. Photo credit: Supplied.

Having bought their first home amid the COVID-19 Delta outbreak, a Whangarei couple says Auckland's prolonged lockdown could've worked in their favour.

It comes as realestate.co.nz reported in October that "stock and new listings remain a challenge" across the country, offering slim pickings for buyers. Property values increased 2.1 percent in October, CoreLogic House Price Index figures show, head of research Nick Goodall telling Newshub this was a likely reflection of strong demand and fewer properties for sale during lockdown restrictions.  

In October, Wikiriwhi Hetaraka and fiancé Te Aki, settled on their 4-bedroom, freestanding home in the Whangarei suburb of Kamo. It marks the end of two years' of searching, the couple telling Newshub they're "still in disbelief".

"When we finally got our house there was an immense amount of happiness, joy and relief,'' Hetaraka said.

As one of two bidders at the auction - the couple, who paid in the mid $600,000s, attribute their purchase to good timing.  Auckland was in alert level 4 until September 21, Northland moving to alert level 3 just before midnight on September 2.

"From my point of view, COVID played in our favour when it came to the auction as no one from Auckland was able to view the house," Hetaraka added.

Having scraped in before November 1, (when deposits to owner occupiers of less than 20 percent reduced to just 10 percent of a bank's total lending), the couple used the KiwiSaver first home withdrawal - and the old-fashioned envelope system - to save their deposit.

"Using the envelope system, we'd get money out and pay for our groceries and treats...once the money was gone, that was us for the week," Hetaraka explained.

Viewing other auctions first also helped them prepare, the couple said, as it gave them a feel for the bidding process.

"Our auction happened at 5 pm...I went to the 1pm auctions to get a feel for how it would go and to calm my nerves, Hetaraka explained.

The couple said they bid confidently,  until "we were close to our limit". They also attribute their success to their mortgage advisor, who "coached and guided" them through the process.

According to latest REINZ figures, the median selling price in Whangarei was $700,000 in September - up 27.3 percent year-on-year. 

In addition to Northland, other areas where the median price point is under $1 million include Waikato, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu/Wanganui, West Coast, Canterbury, Dunedin and Southland, REINZ chief executive Jen Baird said.

In Auckland, the median selling price is $1,150,000. First-home buyers with budgets up to $1 million wanting to buy in Auckland could consider townhouses and apartments, as well as areas further out from the city.

"Suburbs in Auckland with more affordable options include Papatoetoe, Clendon Park, Otara and Warkworth," Baird added.

Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) changes, rising interest rates and the introduction of debt-to-income ratios are making it tougher for new borrowers.

But in what could be a welcome reprieve for first-home buyers, experts expect the rate of house price growth to slow, Sir John Key telling Newshub house prices have "run their race".