Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Young family buy boat after being locked out of Auckland property market

Early next year, hopefully, Ruth, Andrew and Dot Mitchener will leave their Auckland suburb and make a new home on a 9.2m long and 3.5m wide Lotus 9.2 sailboat.

It'll be smaller than their two-bedroom rental home in Ellerslie, yes. But it'll be all theirs.

A big factor in the couple's decision to make a boat a home of their own, with 19-month-old daughter Dot, was their inability to build their own home in Auckland's red hot property market, Andrew Mitchener said.

"We realised we were kind of priced out of the property market for the foreseeable future. So we took our savings and blew it on a boat."

Obi 3 - the couple are still thinking of a new name for their boat - was bought six weeks ago for $44,000.

The couple hope to make their new home in Westhaven Marina, once they finish $15,000 to $16,000 worth of renovations and secure a berth.

He's an architectural designer and his wife is an industrial designer so they had wanted to build their own home, Mitchener said.

But the bank said no.

The couple, who are in their 30s, could have moved to Wellington, or bought an apartment. But they also had a yearning to "try something new", he said.

"We're trying to be proactive and positive. When you are priced out of the market and your options are so limited [with this] you feel like you're in a bit of control."

Their new home would broaden the family's horizons as they planned to take it off-shore in time. They would take baby steps in their ocean-exploration, starting with the Hauraki Gulf and then going further north once they feel more confident.

It would also be a "little design project for us", with its size an advantage, Mitchener said.

"It's a great thing to have restricted parameters, because it forces you to be innovative."

They were preparing themselves for the psychological impact of living in a much smaller space by no longer using their lounge, he said.

It was also about changing mindsets on space.

"We think of it as two-storey, with the deck above. And it's got heaps of outdoor area, when the horizon is your boundary."

It is not clear if others are also turning boats into homes because they can't afford to buy a house in Auckland.

Bridgette Boyce-Bacon owns recreational boat importing business FFF Imports with husband Phil and said a young couple unable to buy a home had considered buying one
of their boats as a home. The vessel, named Charlie, is for sale for just under $500,000, but the couple had not been able to secure finance.

"We are coming across it more and as house prices go up it's going to become more common."

Charlie is among vessels at that will be on show at the Auckland On Water Boat Show, which begins on September 29 and runs for four days in downtown Auckland.

The interior of Charlie, a liveaboard boat on sale and on show at the Auckland on Water Boat Show next month. Photo / Supplied.
The interior of Charlie, a liveaboard boat on sale and on show at the Auckland on Water Boat Show next month. Photo / Supplied.

Jimmy Buffit Yacht Brokers broker Kyle Jacobs said there had been an increase in inquiries about large volume boats that could be used as homes.

"Last week we had a new listing for a $300,000 launch that sold within 24 hours. That shows the demand is there."

But he did not ask buyers about their motivations, so did not know if purchasers were influenced by Auckland house prices.

"It is cheap accommodation and a lot of people see it as accommodation and as a recreation option."

Prices for house-style boats ranged from $300,000 to multi-millions, he said.

New Zealand Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield was also not aware of desperate househunters buying boats instead of homes.

There were some large expenses that came from living aboard boats, with fees for a 12m berth ranging from $600-$700 a month across Auckland marinas.

"There's a shortage of marina berths . . . just like Auckland house prices the fees are going up."

Marinas also added a surcharge for live-aboards, he said.

New Zealand Property Investors' Federation executive officer Andrew King said buying a boat instead of a home would be cheaper in the short-term and could be a good option for some people.

But buying a land-based home was likely to net a bigger financial return long-term. Gains came from the value of land increasing, and there was no land beneath a boat.

The Mitcheners' journey can be followed via their Instagram @mitchener.nz

- NZ Herald

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