Property editor of the NZ Herald

Would you pay $100,000 for $2.5m house?

Stately home in leafy Auckland suburb sits on leasehold land with hefty annual fees.
For sale $100k, but there's a catch. Photo / Brett Phibbs
For sale $100k, but there's a catch. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A $2.5 million Auckland house offered up for only $100,000 had no takers when the sale concluded this week.

Ian Lillie has been trying to sell his leasehold house in Greenlane since September.

At first glance, it seems like a bargain: a stately 1940s bungalow-style five-bedroom house on almost a quarter of an acre, with a swimming pool and tennis court, in the heart of leafy One Tree Hill.

Then comes the catch: pay $92,500 leasehold fees annually for the next 21 years.

The 1052sq m property was being privately advertised by Lillie and the ad explained the unusual terms. If an annual $92,500 is unpalatable - that's $1.94m over 21 years - then $72,150 annually for seven years is an alternative. However the tradeoff is uncertainty: a new amount would be set in seven years' time and if Auckland property prices continue to skyrocket, it could be more than $100,000 a year after that.

Lillie said this week that he had been paying about $10,000 a year for the last 21 years to land owner Cornwall Park Trust Board.

"This has cost me nothing to stay here," he said, emphasising the lifestyle. But he also expressed concern about the future: "We have two options: sell, which is not an option, or walk away and I'll put money on it that I'll walk away."

The board's director Michael Ayrton said $92,500 was the highest leasehold bill on any of the 110 properties the board owned but the figure was set by independent valuers. "The ground rent is based on the current market value of the land, which has risen rapidly over recent years in Auckland.

"There is a natural life cycle in leases, where they are seen as less desirable around the time of renewal and then become progressively more attractive as lease ground rent payments often fall below surrounding market rentals.

"For example, until the recent review, ground rent had been around $150 per week for substantial Greenlane homes for the previous 21 years," Ayrton said.

Lillie had the option of not renewing his lease "or to surrender it during the lease term with the trust board's consent, but this is something we would always work with them to avoid."

Lillie bought the lease for $233,000 in 1991 and was surprised at the 825 per cent rise. "I didn't know it was going to go up this much".

His ad emphasised the positive: "In zone for Cornwall Park School and Remuera Intermediate, this is a great opportunity for those with a passion for lifestyle. This beautiful two-storey, 1940s, bungalow-style house is situated in one of Auckland's most prestigious streets. Excellent neighbourhood with a very short walk to Cornwall Park."

More than 14,000 page views drew not a single bidder in the sale, which closed on Wednesday.

- NZ Herald

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