Those leafy central suburbs of Auckland get a lot of press. You know the ones; jam-packed with villas, character homes, swanky new townhouses and apartments. But let's face it, sale prices for an average-size three-bedroom home are often well in excess of $500,000 (that's half a million dollars!!!). The reality is those suburbs are just not an affordable option for many people on an average income, especially those just stepping into the market.
No need to despair as there are many thriving green suburbs beyond central Auckland that offer more affordable options for home buyers. Many offer properties with character features and/or spacious backyards where kids can run around. The latter is something you will increasingly struggle to find in the central areas. Add good schools and great community facilities to this and it makes suburbs further out a good option to consider.
So, what do I mean by affordable? My own quick definition is that a working couple, with a bit of a deposit, who are currently paying rent on a three-bedroom house, could find a property with weekly mortgage payments only a little more than they pay in rent. (Although there are other costs of home ownership, such as council rates and insurance, which you need to include in your budgeting.) There are also potential future benefits you may receive from capital gains in your property. This could occur through a rise in values that outpace general inflation. So, let's call it a cost/benefit trade-off.
This equation unfortunately won't necessarily work if you try to buy where you are currently renting.
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An observation from my years of valuing is that many people recognise they can't afford to buy in that nice suburb where they rent. In reality, they know that buying a house there is out of their financial bounds, for the present at least. But if they're willing to consider suburbs slightly further out, values are often more affordable and offer the opportunity for current rent to equal mortgage payments.
An example of this might be if you currently rent a three-bedroom home in Sandringham or Kingsland for between $550 to $600 per week (average rentals according the Department of Building and Housing), you can afford a $400,000 mortgage spread over 25-30 years. Now, that money can get you a modest two or three-bedroom home in Avondale. Avondale is a little like Onehunga 10 to 15 years ago, it is going through a regenerative phase, and it has streets with leafy trees. Other suburbs that offer similar value include New Lynn, New Windsor, Mt Roskill, and Mt Wellington. These are all suburbs that have seen many older homes upgraded in recent times, so the general look and feel of these areas has been given a lift.
Some of the other areas originally developed for state housing in the 1940s to 1960s are good options. Many of those homes offer timber joinery, floors that polish up beautifully, no chance of weather-tightness issues, and they're likely to come with a spacious yard.
And the charm with many of these homes is how easy they are to add on to when you can afford to do so. The homes are generally well-placed on the site and renovations give them a new life as well as a modern edge. Regular trains have increased the popularity of suburbs such as Avondale, New Lynn, Ellerslie, and Glen Innes/ Panmure.
Likewise, I believe Mt Wellington has gained in popularity due to Sylvia Park. The extension and southern connection of the South-Western Motorway has also increased accessibility between the central and south regions. Roading projects are on-going in Auckland, and can change the character or accessibility of an area, as can the development of shopping centres or the opening of new schools, as we have observed in the Flat Bush area. Obviously, rents decrease as the proximity to the central city decreases, and so do property values.
So, if I'm not talking about your city or location, I would still consider that a similar rent/value equation, to the above, exists in and around your area. There are many affordable housing options if you are flexible. No doubt it is easier if you're a couple with a double income. If you're a single earner, there are some smaller housing options (units and apartments) that may also make that rent versus mortgage equation work.