Parting Shot: House buying? It’s a war zone out there


Walking around an open home last Saturday and there’s two 20-something women discussing what they’ll do with the built-in bedroom wardrobe.

“We will take the doors off so it’ll be more like shelves,” says one to the other. I can feel rage building.

Do they not realise they are at war? Do they not realise they are just two soldiers facing an army of brochure-wielding house hunters? How can they be so blase?

It’s the word ‘will’ that does me in. Not ‘could’, she said ‘will’ – like they’ve already bought the place.

This is a Sunshine Bay house priced at $549,000. It went on the market a week last Thursday and by the time the open home comes around there are three offers on the table. (It now appears to be back on the market - listed for $585,000)

We were there for about 15 minutes, juggling our toddler, and I reckon 30 people came through the door.

The realtor’s standing in the kitchen greeting everyone. He looks enlightened like Buddha, just one human-shaped ball of deep satisfaction and contentment. I half expect him to say ‘Namaste’.

So three offers, 30 people in 15 minutes, and these two are worried about wardrobe doors.

Worried about wardrobe doors in a house, I might add, that looks like it’s out of a magazine - all wooden floors and designer furniture.

The outside’s not too flash though. No real garden to speak of and there’s a reason why the open home’s from noon-2pm.

I’d bet money it’ll go for way over the asking price, but as it stands this is one of the cheapest existing three-bedroom houses on the market in Queenstown (it also has a one-bed sleepout).

In fact it appears to be one of the cheapest viable two-bedroom ones too - if you take out the holiday apartments that can see you paying $5000 to $15,000 a year in body corporate fees.

Generally at the moment you’ll find one or two townhouses under $500,000 and everything else over, unless you get lucky at an auction.

Even for people earning average professional salaries, there are not many ‘affordable’ houses available.

For any household bringing in less than the median national income of $68,600, it’s bleak.

Let’s run some numbers. On $550,000, the 20 per cent deposit is $110,000. You’d only be allowed to have just a 10 per cent deposit if the house was valued at $450,000 or under, says the government.

Let’s say you’re not fortunate enough to have generous parents or some other way to get the deposit together. 

If you can somehow save $20,000 a year while paying rent of $450 a week x 52 = $23,400, then it
takes five-and-a-half years to save a deposit. If you can find a house for $550,000, your mortgage at 5.5 per cent will be $575 a week. 

Then there’s insurance, rates, maintenance and the rest. That’s why Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust rates ‘affordable’ as $300,000 or less. Good luck finding one house in the resort for that. 

While we’re at the open home, a woman asks Buddha what the rental appraisal is. I can feel the rage again.

Finding a home, you’re not just fighting against other people looking for a home, it’s also investors. 

This is the problem. There just aren’t enough houses here.

Simple. Not enough to buy, not enough to rent.

So what’s the alternative?

You can build at Bridesdale Farm for about $450,000 if you’re quick - like, this weekend quick. Or you can wait until the next release of sections at Shotover Country, likely to be in mid-August.

Either way, you’re probably looking at over a year before you’d be in a house. And that’s still $450,000-plus - just not affordable for many in Queenstown, a third more expensive than the definition of

I have a few suggestions off the top of my head:

– Push through at least three special housing areas.

– Ring-fence at least a third of those houses and price accordingly for lower than median income households - no investors, KiwiSaver-only, means-tested people who will live in the properties for at least two years.

– Give the old Wakatipu High School site to NZSki and tourism firms on the condition they build worker apartments to ease the pressure on the rental market.

– Lobby the government (more) to increase the 10 per cent deposit threshold.