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NZ Housing (What to look out for)

The first thing you notice when you drive from Auckland airport into the city is the space. Yes, you're in suburbia, but there's just so much more space. And the reason for that is the houses, and the land they stand on.

As you can imagine, around the airport the area is not the best. But every house is on its own plot of land. Some plots are bigger than others (some are MUCH bigger!) but every house has at least a wide pathway running around it. We have found some flats (or apartments) and terraced houses in the centre of the city, but generally every house, even in the poorer areas, is detached. This gives a really low density of housing to the square kilometer, meaning that although Auckland is a huge city land-area wise (it's similar in ground area to London, apparently), there are only 1.5 million people in it.

And once inside the houses, the same applies. In particular, we've found the living areas to be very large and airy. The ones in our price range mostly have at least three double bedrooms and two bathrooms. There are also 'units', which are very suitable for single people, and have two bedrooms. My uncle and my cousin-in-law both have these.

Most houses have a garage big enough for at least two cars. In fact, one of the tips that the Real Estate agent gave us was never buy a house that doesn't have at least a double garage or you'll have great difficulties selling it. To illustrate the point, she took us to a lovely detached house with a sea view, but with only a single garage, that had been on the market for over three years. It's something that we would never have considered!

As Auckland is not flat, many houses take the slope into account and are built with the main living area and bedrooms on the first floor, allowing all-round windows, and leaving an area below. Generally this is taken up by the garage, and sometimes a 'rumpus room'. This seems to be the haunt of the teenaged members of the family, or is turned over to Dad's work room. Very useful! In our new house, the garage, and the bedrooms and bathroom that we're turning over to all you potential visitors is down there.

And another thing that every house we've been in has - a separate laundry room. These range in size from a reasonable sized cupboard to one that we went to which was so big you could have run a Chinese Laundry business from it!

So what are the negatives?

Well for a start, even though (contrary to popular opinion) it does get cold in Auckland, most houses don't have central heating or double glazing. I thought Arthur would be on the next plane home after the first night here - we were freezing! However, he's now happily planning how to use his computerised thermostat to run electric heaters in the new house! See What no central heating

Also, many houses don't have as much land as they used to. Our house is one of two that has been built on the original plot. So we have half-ownership of approximately 950 square meters of land, and we need to collaborate with the other house on the plot if we want to make any changes (as they do with us). This type of ownership is known as 'Cross-leased'. In Auckland, there are now many original plots that have been split, meaning that houses with large gardens are now less common and generally sell at quite a hefty premium - especially to builders who plan to build on the garden. So the housing density is going up.

Houses falling into the sea

OK you have spotted a house in a fantastic location overlooking the sea perched on top of a cliff, but the cliffs around Auckland are made of a mixture of volcanic ash and sandstone, i.e. not too robust! So beware, do your homework, get expert advice, everything may be fine. Insurance will cover a sudden slip caused by the weather (but check if the house in on a slope), but not erosion. Three houses near us on Clovelly Road have become unstable and unlivable, one owned by the ex mayor of Manukau.
For more info from the Herald http://www.nzherald.co.nz/bucklands-beach/news/article.cfm?l_id=369&objectid=10530886&pnum=1

Leaky Buildings

There has also been a big uproar recently about some houses that were built in the 1990's. Apparently the building regulations were changed then to allow the house frames to be built with untreated timber and no eves, this is coming back to haunt them. A number of these houses have 'leaky building syndrome'. Water has leaked between the walls into the timber, which has rotted. The mildew then starts coming through the walls, and in some (many?) cases, this mildew is toxic. The cost to put it right is phenomenal - and on top of that, even if the property's been fixed the value of the property drops just because it's in a 'leaky building syndrome' area. So the people can't afford to sell. Unfortunately my cousin's in this position. So when we were looking, I think every member of our family warned us to get a thorough survey! Do ask the question and do get a survey, do not trust the estate agent.

Building regulations now seem to be very strict. When we went to the solicitor to check the land deeds, he had detailed plans for the house going back to when it was first built in 1980, and showing all the new extensions along the way. Even alterations to the kitchen and the laundry floor were included! So I think we're going to have to read up what we can and can't do!

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living_in_new_zealand/housing_and_leaky_buildings.txt · Last modified: 2010/11/24 10:44 by art
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