The benefits of closer living for homebuyers

  • 14/12/2017
  • Sponsored by - ANZ
The Wills family has embraced closer living by moving to Hobsonville Point.
The Wills family has embraced closer living by moving to Hobsonville Point. Photo credit: Supplied

Erica and Stuart Wills should have been living the Kiwi dream. From the expansive deck of their renovated bungalow, they looked out over a 2.5 acre paradise in Kumeu, West Auckland. Chickens and sheep roamed as their young son hurtled around on his mini motorbike.

"It all looked beautiful," Erica told Newshub. "But we're sitting there exhausted because we've spent all day getting it to look like that. Roundup was our best friend."

It was clear they needed to downsize - but no one expected them to do it so dramatically. Today, their brand new home is attached to their neighbours', their backyard has shrunk to 180 square metres, and their view is a line of cookie cutter houses in progressive Hobsonville Point. Erica worried her farm-raised husband would feel claustrophobic. "I thought 'oh my god he's going to hate this'," she said. "But he surprised me."

The new government wants to see more Kiwis living this way. More compact housing is an obvious solution to Auckland's housing shortfall, but it also plans to duplicate the model of quality and quantity in Hamilton, Tauranga and Queenstown, particularly targeting first-time buyers.  

Erica said families needed to realise the benefits of closer living. Her children Harrison (13), and Mackenzie (11), felt part of a community, and loved roaming the green spaces with other kids from the neighbourhood. Her home's clever design meant everyone still had privacy.

"We added a window to our house and the building company had to get planning permission from the Hobsonville Point Residents Society so the window wasn't intrusive on any other house," she said.  

ANZ Mobile Mortgage Manager Rachel Holding told Newshub that intensified housing developments built around Auckland's fringes, offers low maintenance, security, and a sense of community.  "Good city design doesn't mean you have to have a massive amount of land."

"The quarter acre paradise doesn't exist to the same extent anymore." she said.

In Wellington, Stef May and her family have been adapting to life in a contemporary townhouse on a 258 square metre section in the new subdivision of Grenada Hunters Hill.

They needed a bigger house, but could only afford that by halving their section size. But Stef said their backyard held a surprising amount: a trampoline, basketball hoop, outdoor seating, a patch of grass and a spa pool.

"I think it's the perfect size, I really do," she said. "I don't want a big section. I hate gardening. We're all too busy. There are plenty of parks around, and it makes you get out of the house – it's perfect. I honestly wouldn't want to go back to a bigger space."

ANZ's Rachel Holding said buyers investing in new developments should be aware of potential problem areas. She said buyers should consider:

  • What's the timeframe for completion and can you get lending for this time period?
  • Is there a sunset clause? This gives parties an out if the build isn't finished on time - but puts the buyer back at square one.
  • What does the fine print say? In some contracts, the developer can ask for more money to cover rising costs. Get legal advice on this.
  • How many units are on each building consent application? If your house is in a block of 5, and one fails, none of the others can get signed off.
  • Is there a ballot for first-home buyers offering more affordable housing?

Erica and Stuart Wills said the biggest thing their downsize had given them was time. They used to spend their Friday nights mowing the lawns on their lifestyle block for weekend visitors. Now, they socialise at the Hobsonville Yacht Club, where the kids go sailing in the evening. And as hundreds of tightly-packed homes go up around them, they're already eyeing up the next step - an apartment.

"It's simplified our life," Erica said. "We've made the most of the time that we've gained."

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