Alanah Eriksen

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

Aucklanders in exodus to Hamilton

Carlos and Annabel Barbosa with 2-year-old Greta at their Mystery Creek home.  Photo / Christine Cornege
Carlos and Annabel Barbosa with 2-year-old Greta at their Mystery Creek home. Photo / Christine Cornege

Aucklanders are looking as far away as Hamilton to buy homes as more people find themselves squeezed out of their local real estate market.

Hamilton real estate agents say there has been a surge in inquiries about properties in their market where the average house price is $347,406.

Other real estate commentators say some are even choosing to make the 90-minute commute over the Bombay Hills while maintaining their lifestyle in the Waikato.

In Auckland, the average house price is $628,205 but that will not buy much for those wanting more than an apartment or a unit in the inner city suburbs.

Sue Hall, of Hamilton's Ray White, said there was increased interest in the local market from Aucklanders with a "huge influx" making inquiries and many taking the trip south for a look.

She said $600,000 could buy a modern four bedroom home with a decent section, two living areas, two bathrooms and a garage with enough room for three cars.

"It's been quite recent, I would say there's been a huge influx in the past two months. A lot of investors are not getting the return up there so they're coming down here.

"There has also been interest from Christchurch buyers with many looking to spend their insurance payouts in Hamilton.

"A lot don't want to go to Wellington because of the earthquake risk and Auckland because it's just so unaffordable."

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said there was a small trend of Aucklanders buying in Hamilton and commuting.

Property commentator Alistair Helm said it was normal that higher prices in Auckland were forcing some people to look out of the city centre and beyond. Commuting from Hamilton to Auckland didn't make sense until a high-speed train was established linking the two cities but some buyers may be pre-empting things "and saying it's going to happen one day so why don't we jump the gun and buy a house now".

"There's no doubt Hamilton is growing and as a constant of that employment is growing."

Jeremy O'Rourke, managing director of Lodge Real Estate, said Aucklanders previously zeroed in on Hamilton real estate when the market neared its peak between 2005 and 2007 and interest rates were about 10 per cent.

"It's not that we are awash with Auckland buyers but we keep bumping into people who are making this transition into our market because Auckland has become too expensive and complicated."

Among those to make the move were the Hooker family who were cramped in their old Grey Lynn villa but now live on a Hamilton lifestyle block, which has a 10m salt water pool in the backyard.

Carl Hooker, 37, and his wife, 32, decided to hunt slightly further afield than Auckland while looking for a bigger home for themselves and their three boys .

For a similar price, they were able to swap their 100-year-old villa on a small section for a three-year-old mansion on 5.786 hectares.

The couple both still work in Auckland, splitting the weekly commute.

GOODBYE GRIDLOCK, HELLO AFFORDABLE HOUSE PRICES

They miss Auckland's cafe culture, restaurants and big events but have gladly waved goodbye to gridlocked roads and unaffordable homes.

Annabel and Carlos Barbosa left Auckland for the Waikato in 2007 and have "no yearning" to return.

The couple, now in their early 30s, were living in Grey Lynn and had about $350,000 to spend on a home, but found their money could only get them a look-in "out west". They searched elsewhere and settled in Leamington, near Cambridge.

"We found a house in Leamington we fell in love with and it was affordable. It was the only place we looked at and we bought it straight away," Mrs Barbosa said.

"It was three bedrooms on a quarter-acre section and we put in really lovely gardens and vege gardens."

Mrs Barbosa freelances in public relations while her husband Carlos works in the travel industry.

The couple recently moved into a home at Mystery Creek that they built to their own specifications for "far less" than the average $600,000 that Aucklanders pay for homes.

The house sits on a semi-rural half-hectare section, has four bedrooms, double glazed windows and is a 15-minute drive to Hamilton's CBD.

Since moving south the couple have had a daughter, 2-year-old Greta, and are expecting a son in October.

They say raising their children outside a big city is important to them, both having grown up out of Auckland.

Mrs Barbosa says there are certain things she misses about Auckland but Hamilton is closer to beaches in Raglan, the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty and to the skifields Whakapapa and Turoa.

"I think the only thing is you have to be prepared that if you want to attend some of those amazing [events] you have to head back to Auckland and jump in your car, and Hamilton does need to improve its cafe scene.

"You need to be prepared that you won't have everything on tap or on offer like you do in Auckland but the benefits far outweigh it, like having to lug through the traffic ...

"I really like that lack of pretentiousness. People worry about the important things down here, not about what car you drive or where you've been, that sort of stuff - it's a nice and relaxed lifestyle and we have no yearning to go back."

COMPARING COSTS

The total Auckland region has an average house price of $628,205.

In Ponsonby this will get you a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment, 100sq m, land area 0, 2 secure car parks. Chattels include carpeting, window dressings, burglar alarm, dishwasher and two air conditioning units. Current rent: $560pw.

$629,000 in Hamilton buys:

4 bedrooms, 2 bathroom house, 242sq m, land area 626sq m, double glazing, heat pumps, double garage, 10mins drive to CBD.

- NZ Herald

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