Alanah Eriksen

Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's property reporter, and assistant chief reporter.

Finance guru looks south after cashing in on housing boom

He's the man who predicts whether house prices will rise or fall - so when he put his own home on the market, Bernard Hickey expected a good sale. Property reporter Alanah Eriksen asks the business commentator why he felt it was time to sell.

Bernard Hickey's Halifax Ave, Epsom, home reached $1,005,000 at auction. Photo / Richard Robinson
Bernard Hickey's Halifax Ave, Epsom, home reached $1,005,000 at auction. Photo / Richard Robinson

Bernard Hickey has been watching the property market closely for years.

So when Auckland house prices started skyrocketing past levels seen in the 2007 boom, he pounced.

The financial commentator has just sold his family's four-bedroom home in Epsom for more than $1 million, almost $400,000 more than he bought it for seven years ago.

The Halifax Ave weatherboard house, on an 850sq m section, sold for $1,005,000 in Barfoot & Thompson's packed Central Auckland auction rooms this week.

Bidding had started at $980,000, below the undisclosed reserve, but auctioneer Marian Tolich managed to push the only bidders up twice.

Mr Hickey was on the other end of the phone to the real estate agent and rejected the first two offers. There was only one group in the race, a middle-aged Asian couple.

Mr Hickey bought his home for $613,000 in 2005 with his wife, Lynn Grieveson. It had a council valuation of $990,000, which was set 16 months ago.

The couple are looking at moving to Wellington where one of their two daughters starts university next year.

"We could see it was a healthy market and we were likely to get a good price," Mr Hickey said.

"We've always kept an eye on the market, like a lot of people and we were seeing signs of improvement and we thought it made sense to sell. We're lucky our personal circumstances coincided with a rising market."

The differences in prices between the two cities were vast and they hoped to clear their mortgage debt, he said.

"We can sell our house in Auckland, get rid of our mortgage, and buy a similar house in Wellington, close to the city, a similar size and of similar quality.

"You can get like for like - so the same size and 10 minutes to town - for 30 to 40 per cent cheaper in Wellington than you can in Auckland."

He had heard of several people downgrading to reduce the size of their mortgage.

The couple have carried out extensive renovations on the home including painting inside and outside, a new roof, creating a fourth bedroom in the basement, insulating the floor and ceiling and paving the section.

But the market shouldn't be judged on the sale of one house alone, Mr Hickey said. Minutes before his home sold, a four-bedroom house in the same suburb, on St Andrews Rd, sold for $1,430,000. But minutes after, a four-bedroom home on nearby Onslow Ave failed to receive any bids.

"There are so many variables involved," Mr Hickey said

Epsom has seen an increase in the average price of 10.3 per cent in a year to $1,141,889. It is one of 11 New Zealand suburbs - all in Auckland - that have an average house price of more than $1 million.

Mr Hickey, contributor to financial website interest.co.nz, said he could not see signs of the market slowing down any time soon with what he called "a cocktail of drivers for prices", namely Auckland's lack of housing options, more migrants bringing in money and more corporate offices moving from Wellington to Auckland, bringing more people.


Hot property

Halifax Ave, Epsom

Sold for: $1,005,000

CV: $990,000

4 bed, 2 bath, 1920s weatherboard house

Floor: 123 square metres

Section: 850 square metres

- NZ Herald

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