Alanah Eriksen

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

Property health check: What's wrong with your home?

Heat, size, dampness: survey reveals the worst problems confronting homeowners, landlords and tenants.

Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan. Photo / APN
Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan. Photo / APN

Statistics New Zealand has taken the pulse of the country's homes in its nationwide New Zealand General Social Survey.

The year-long project asked 8500 Kiwis aged 15 and over what problems they had with their house or flat, choosing from the following list: It's too small; it's too hard to get to from the street; it's in poor condition; it's damp; it's too cold/difficult to keep warm; there are pests; and it's too expensive.

Herald property reporter Alanah Eriksen examined the three biggest problems:

15 per cent It's too cold/difficult to keep warm

People of prime working age are more likely to live in cold homes than students or retirees.

One in five, or 20 per cent, of people aged between 24 and 44 reported the problem, compared with 15 per cent of middle-aged people (aged 45 to 64), 13 per cent of young adults (aged 15 to 24), and 8 per cent of older adults (aged over 65).

The prime working age group was diverse and included people in full-time work, those starting families and people in rented housing, the study said.

"This group may face greater pressures because their outgoings are more and their expectations higher."

Income was not strongly associated with the problems.

A third (33 per cent) of Pacific people said their homes were too cold, compared with 21 per cent of Maori, 16 per cent of Asians and 14 per cent of Europeans.

Only a slightly higher percentage of those in the $30,000 or less income bracket reported a house that was too cold (19 per cent) than those in the $30,001 to $70,000 bracket (18 per cent). The higher income brackets - $70,001 to $100,000, and $100,000 plus - also reported the problem at 14 and 12 per cent respectively.

Renters, solo parents and Pacific and Maori people were also more likely to report cold homes.

One in four renters reported living in a cold house.

Twenty-one per cent of people in sole parent families and 16 per cent of people in "couple with children" families reported a cold house compared with 12 per cent of couples without children.

Three regional centres were compared - Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury - but the data may be skewed for Christchurch as it was collected several months before and after the September 2010 earthquake.

More Wellingtonians reported having cold homes - 19 per cent - compared with 16 per cent in Canterbury and 15 per cent in Auckland.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said residents in colder cities like Dunedin and Christchurch were more aware of the temperatures and were more likely to have central heating systems.

Aucklanders were more lax. 'We just don't seem to believe it gets cold in winter ... A central heating system in Auckland would be quite unusual.

"It would be quite a feature in a house.

"You go into old villas and they sometimes have fireplaces but that's kind of it when it comes to heating."

But consumer awareness was improving and people building their own homes were looking at heating options.

"Modern standards of insulation are growing but the nature of the housing stock is that it takes a long time to filter through."

11 per cent It's too small

Twenty-two per cent of Pacific people said their home was too small, reflecting the larger household sizes of the community - 20 per cent of Pacific people lived in homes with seven or more people, compared with 1 per cent of Europeans.

Seventeen per cent of Maori, 10 per cent of Asians and 10 per cent of Europeans said their homes were too small.

Ms O'Sullivan said the cost of housing and the increasing population in Auckland meant it was almost inevitable more people were cramming into homes.

But at the other end of the scale, an increasing number of older people were choosing to live independently, keeping their family homes after their children had left.

"Mum and Dad both want an office, and then they want a spare bedroom for the visitors ... they're happily living in their own homes into their 70s and 80s rather than consolidating."

More people of prime working age reported living in a house that was too small (17 per cent), compared with 10 per cent of young adults, 10 per cent of middle-aged people, and 3 per cent of older adults.

"It is not unexpected that older adults were less likely to say that their house was too small, given that many live alone or with a partner, rather than with children, and people's needs tend to decrease when they get older," the study said.

Just 10 per cent of those earning less than $30,000 reported their house was too small, compared with 13 per cent of those in the next two income brackets - $30,001 to $70,000 and $70,000 to $100,000. Nine per cent of those earning $100,000 or more said their house was too cold.

Renters were more likely to report that their homes were small, compared with owner-occupiers - 17 per cent versus 9 per cent.

Fifteen per cent of people in sole-parent families and 15 per cent of "couple with children" families said they lived in a house that was too small. In contrast, only half of that figure of families without children reported the same thing.

There was little difference between the three survey regions when it came to house size - 12 per cent of Wellingtonians and 12 per cent of Aucklanders said their home was too small, compared with 10 per cent of people living in Canterbury.

8 per cent It's too damp

Three times more renters reported their homes were too damp than owner-occupiers - 19 per cent versus 6 per cent.

Ms O'Sullivan said the figure was worrying and there was no requirement for landlords or property managers to meet standards when it came to dampness.

Most rental properties were of lower value and were more in need of maintenance "simply because once you've spent $2 million or $3 million on a house, the rental return is not that significant".

Fourteen per cent of people of prime working age said their home was too damp compared with 10 per cent of young adults, 9 per cent of middle-aged people and 3 per cent of older adults. Those earning less than $30,000 were more likely to report a damp home at 13 per cent, compared with 12 per cent of those earning $30,000 to $70,000, 9 per cent of those earning $70,000 to $100,000 and 7 per cent of those earning more than $100,000.

Seventeen per cent of Maori reported living in a house that was too damp, compared with 16 per cent of Pacific people, 10 per cent of Asians and 9 per cent of Europeans.

"The high proportion of Maori and Pacific people reporting cold, damp or small houses is likely due to lower material living standards of these ethnic groups in general, and their younger age structures compared with Europeans," the study said.

Sixteen per cent of people in sole-parent families and 10 per cent of people in "couple with children" families reported a damp house, compared with 7 per cent of couples without children.

There was little difference between the three survey regions - 11 per cent of Aucklanders and 11 per cent of Wellingtonians said their home was too damp, compared with 9 per cent of Cantabrians.

- NZ Herald

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