University study finds two-thirds of people renting don’t think they’ll ever be able to afford to buy their own house

A life-time of renting is becoming a reality for many New Zealanders, a survey shows, as the need for large deposits and big mortgages block their way to home ownership.

A survey of 800 people by the Westpac-Massey University Fin-Ed Centre found two-thirds of those renting were not planning to buy a house.

More than 80 per cent said they could not raise a big enough deposit, and 63 per cent said they did not make enough to cover mortgage payments.

For 22 per cent, renting for life remained a possibility and of this group 6.1 per cent said they had a high expectation they would never buy a home.

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Jeff Stangl of Massey University's School of Economics and Finance said the survey also found tenants were dissatisfied about their situation.

Fewer than 20 per cent of respondents said renting was a positive experience.

Negative aspects cited included the lack of stability and security, interfering landlords and missed opportunity to build equity in a home.

"What struck me is that many people feel stuck renting," Dr Stangl said.

"They can't afford to buy, but they are also at the mercy of the landlords. They have no stability and don't feel like they can call the place they're living in 'home'."

But respondents also knew the risks of long-term renting.

"Renters are very concerned about getting on the property ladder - 90 per cent of the people we surveyed believed it would only become more difficult to purchase a home in the future.

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"A similar number recognised the disadvantages of arriving at retirement age with no equity in a home."

Institute of Economic Research principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub also wants a better deal for tenants.

He believes New Zealand has some of the most restrictive rules in the developed world for renters.

"New Zealand is strangely different in that we have made this almost special provision around renting of residential property versus other types of renting," he said.

Landlords have also put forward proposals for better terms for their tenants, particularly on longer leases giving more security of tenure.

Angela Maynard, of Auckland's Tenants Protection Association, said landlords' ability to evict tenants in 90 days without giving a reason meant "no tenant in New Zealand can ever make the house their home because there's always that hanging over them".

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Dr Stangl said the survey results showed some people had unrealistic expectations.

"I was surprised that 63 per cent of people believed they could save their deposit in one to five years," he said.

"In Auckland, particularly, that seems optimistic if you're saving a 20 per cent deposit on a $700,000 house."

Couple take first step on the ladder

Aucklander Tristan Lomberg is a tenant, but unlike many in the latest Westpac-Massey survey, he's a happy one.

That's because he and wife Jessica have already paid a deposit for a new house at Springpark in Mt Wellington so he feels fortunate to have a foot on the property ladder.

Their place is yet to be finished, but they hope to shift in next year, having last year paid a $46,000 deposit for a $460,000 three-bedroom north-facing terrace.

"We're locked into the market," he said.

For Mr Lomberg that means that although the place is yet to rise, he feels part of the Auckland housing scene and potentially has a more secure future than if the young couple had not decided to buy off the plans.