Kerre McIvor: Caught by apartment of dreams

Apartment living has many advantages for empty nesters. Photo / 123rf
Apartment living has many advantages for empty nesters. Photo / 123rf

Last Sunday afternoon, I was on fire. I was at a Ponsonby bar with the husband and good friends, celebrating the purchase of our dream apartment.

We have been going through the empty nester phase. My daughter is married and living overseas and we don't need a cottage, a backyard and all the upkeep that entails.

The house was perfect while Kate was growing up but the Irishman and I don't need all that space. We aren't gardeners and nor are we handy and houses require maintenance - especially old ones.

We've been talking for ages about buying a smaller place. Something we can lock and leave should we want to travel or take long weekends. When a house in our street sold for $3 million, we started getting excited.

Our Grey Lynn street is mostly cottages, not even villas. When we bought 18-odd years ago, it was a shabby, down-at heel-area, which suited us just fine. And even though it has become slightly gentrified, our street still has a rumpled look to it.

The $3m was preposterous for a home in this area. But somebody paid that sum at auction - and that's when we became infected with the Auckland Housing Fever.

Imagine, we said to ourselves, if we, too, could sell our house for that amount. We could buy a beautiful apartment and still be mortgage-free. There might even be money left in the bank!

And so we started looking at flash apartments. Some just built and some still in the planning stage.

I was amazed the Irishman was willing to give up his home and his castle but in fact he led the charge. He loved the views and the high studs in the apartments we went through and the fact we'd have to pare down our belongings to the bare minimum.

He loved the security and privacy of apartments and so, just like thousands of other baby boomers, we began doing the rounds of open homes - or in our case, open apartments.

We saw only three before we found the one of our dreams. It hasn't been built - it's still 18 months from completion - but, oh, we loved it. Three bedrooms. Amazing views across the city. A beautiful spacious deck. A scullery. A kitchen mixer.

We paid our deposit on the spot and were sent away with a glossy brochure and made an arrangement to see our lawyer. We were in fine spirits last Sunday - intoxicated with a combination of good champagne and the knowledge our new life was just 18 months away.

The next day was a different story. The scales fell off my eyes as I looked around our house. What if we didn't get the price we wanted for our cottage? What if the housing market stalls or drops in the next 18 months? It's unlikely - but at this stage of our lives, do we really want to risk everything when we didn't even need to sell our home?

We were caught up in the housing hysteria. Hurry. Buy now or else you'll miss out. Everybody else is selling up and buying apartments - there'll be none left if you procrastinate.

It wasn't the agent putting pressure on us - it was the Auckland Housing Fever.

We fell for the hype and madness and the buy-now-and-make-a-killing mentality that's prevailing.

And that's not who we are. We have always been cautious. We come from working class backgrounds and paying off the mortgage has always been more of a priority than taking risks and buying more property or a more lavish home.

It was fun while it lasted. And who knows? We might still be able to buy an apartment in that complex - although it probably won't be the one with the scullery and the kitchen mixer. But given I don't even know what a kitchen mixer is, I'll probably get by without one.

Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB, weekdays, noon-4pm

- NZ Herald

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