Home truths: Left with few options on the North Shore

By Andrew Laxon

The Herald is following three sets of house hunters struggling to buy a first home in Auckland. We take their circumstances to a panel of property experts; independent economist Shamubeel Eaqub, Quotable Value NZ national spokeswoman Andrea Rush and Home Owners and Buyers Association of New Zealand (Hobanz) president John Gray. Today Andrew Laxon catches up with our second house hunter and finds out what the experts think she should do.

The Herald's Home Truths series examines the causes of our growing housing unaffordability crisis and explores possible solutions. Follow the full series here.

Moving to the fringes of Auckland doesn't appeal to Cecile Bourgeois because she would spend so much extra time travelling to work.

The 39-year-old former Parisian moved to New Zealand seven years ago and teaches French at Western Springs College.

She wants to continue living on the North Shore, where she rents a $410-a-week two-bedroom flat in Hillcrest.

"I'm prepared to look at anywhere on the Shore as far as Glenfield. I'm not too keen on Albany, just because it's a bit far to commute to work.

"Out west, New Lynn's fine, Henderson, Te Atatu ... it's the same, the further I go, the longer it's going to take me to get to work."

She has also ruled out Ranui, Glen Eden and all of South Auckland - "I have lived in the south, I've taught in the south, I just don't like it."

But she is struggling to find anything in her $500,000 price range, which assumes she can secure a bank loan of about $450,000 based on her single $74,000 annual income.

She's keen to hear if our experts think she has a realistic chance of buying in Auckland.

"Maybe you can ask them if I'm too hopeful. Am I actually going to find something in the area that I like for my price or is it not time for me yet?"

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The experts' verdict

Unfortunately Cecile may be too optimistic, as her $48,000 deposit is only 10 per cent of the price she wants to buy for - well short of the 20 per cent deposit required by banks for most residential lending.

Shamubeel thinks a more realistic budget would be $300,000 to $350,000 but she would struggle to find even a freehold inner city apartment at this level.

Andrea suggests moving to the outskirts of West Auckland, such as Laingholm or even Huia, and taking in flatmates to pay the mortgage.

But all agree the most realistic option is leaving Auckland altogether.

"Unless she meets someone and then they can do something together, it's possibly a look outside of Auckland, if she could get an equivalently paid job in a high school," says Andrea.

"Look at Dunedin, the average value there is still in the $300,000s. You could still get a lovely house, beautiful city. Even up in Whangarei, she could still afford to buy something for $290,000."

Cecile responds

Cecile is still not sure whether she can get approval for a higher loan. She had discussions with a bank and a mortgage broker for $450,000 loans at low interest rates, which would give her weekly repayments slightly over $500 - about half her income but not unusual in today's Auckland market. However both offers have come to nothing and she can't find anything in her price range, which has now dropped back to about $450,000.

She has given up on the Shore and has signed up with several new building projects, including Axis Homes at Hobsonville Point. The development promises affordable homes at her new price limit but would-be buyers have to go into a ballot.

Meanwhile the experts' suggestions did not go down so well.

"Moving further out west, no. I don't want that. Taking a flatmate, no. It defeats the purpose. I'd rather just keep paying rent.

"Moving out of Auckland may be an option but not right now. It took me easily four years to actually have close friends. Kiwis are very nice but they're very close. So I don't feel ready to move to another city."

- NZ Herald

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