Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: House prices heat up

Turns out kauri and matai make great woods to burn on Auckland's coldest day. Photo / Thinkstock
Turns out kauri and matai make great woods to burn on Auckland's coldest day. Photo / Thinkstock

Turns out kauri and matai make great woods to burn on Auckland's coldest day. I can feel people shudder with horror at the thought of burning such rare native woods, but where I live acres of the stuff are being ripped out of villas daily.

My neighbourhood has seen a frenzy of renovation fever. This belies the tough times we all know are out there and due to roll on in, covering affluence in a wet blanket of disbelief.

A thoughtful real estate agent recently did a mail drop in my street listing the recent sales of houses and the prices they went for. Turns out a renovated villa goes for $1.6 million and a derelict dump of a villa will set you back $800,000.

"Who's buying these places?" I asked my husband. "Who can afford it?"

"I don't know, why don't you knock on their doors and find out?"

Instead, I opted to snoop. I'm very good at snooping and used to do it a lot in my former life as a tabloid editor. It's not nearly as complicated as phone hacking or hiding in trees with a camera.

You just walk around a lot and use your eyes.

I was engaged in a snoop session on the day it snowed and I found free firewood. It would appear that the people who recently bought the $1.6 million houses were not at home during the day - no doubt working their yoga-sculpted rears off to pay their mortgage. Fortunately, there's always someone at home at the $800,000 houses. Not the owners, though. They are builders with large tools wrenching pieces of wood off the houses as they gut them - ready to be made over in pine and white paint so their new owners can live in what will look and feel like an enormous hotel room.

I'm sure a lot of my neighbours read the flier and felt smug, chuckling to themselves that they were lucky to buy before house prices went mad. This is the case for us but I just felt wild with worry for the debt these families were burdening themselves with.

So I spent the first snowfall in Auckland for 70-odd years reaching into a skip and extracting bits of wood to throw in my wood burner. I was walking, so could manage only a few broken floorboards as well as the dandelion leaves I was collecting for my hens, but was so impressed with the burning power that I later took the car up and grabbed more stumps of old pilings. I could have given it to the struggling $1 million-plus mortgage families, but they've all ripped out their fireplaces.

The result? Free heat and an old unrenovated villa with an average inside temperature of 18 degrees, compared to the four degrees outside for 72 hours.

"Who needs central heating?" the greenie in me boasted. "Burning all those fossil fuels."

"Instead, we're just burning the neighbourhood," said my daughter.

She was sulking because in a fit of online shopping I had bought her a laptop. It was very cheap, came from China and looked just like an iMac if they were pink and white. It was a dog. In fact, it was worse than a dog because dogs can process basic information, which this computer failed to do.

"Nonsense, it's fine," I said to her as she struggled to connect to the internet on it. "The world isn't all about iThis and iThat" I laughed, knowing full well that it was, with Apple becoming the largest company in the world this week.

"Piece of rubbish," I announced to my husband after my daughter had left for school and I had attempted to get it working.

"Perhaps you should throw it on the fire," he said helpfully.

- Herald on Sunday

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