Summer is high season for the real estate market, when house-hunters are joined at open homes by people who simply like looking around others' properties for fun. Gill South has a nosy.
Admit it, many of us go to open homes when we have a spare afternoon, or want a nosy at the neighbour's place when they've never had the courtesy to invite us over. It has nothing to do with us seriously looking to buy a house - although I have heard of a case where a couple, not house hunting, just went along because they were with a friend and, within a week, had bought the place and rented out their own home. Obviously money was not a problem.
The reason I went along to some open homes recently was because I was looking for some interior design ideas and garden tips for our house, which had its big refurbishment five years ago and is looking a bit worn around the edges. And I love to see what confident people are doing with colour.
I thought I'd start with a house well out of my league, in Mt Eden. They know how to live in Mt Eden with their flash villas and big modern bits out the back. And the one I went to was a really good example of this.
I live in a bungalow and suffer distinct villa envy, though my husband doesn't join me.
He just sees all the problems associated with villas - draughty, expensive-to-replace windows - a bit like a pricey European car, which is gorgeous to be in but frightening when it comes to replacing parts.
What I really liked about this place was that they had embraced the fact that they had noisy boys and they had created a veritable playground in the back garden - there was a central tree with various planks running from branch to branch, and, in the corner, a trampoline. And they'd laid down that soft stuff on the ground that they put in all childrens' playgrounds now - so no lawn to mow. Nothing short of kid heaven, but also parent heaven. Very canny, I thought. I bet their children didn't spend much time actually in the house, lucky things.
I went to another villa, this time in Grey Lynn - and what a haven - if it was just the two of us, this would be the place for me. Again the gorgeous hallway running through the centre of the house, and the 3m-stud ceiling was painted in crimson and cream, which created the most decadent effect. Another lovely touch was a green, lockable, wrought iron door at the front, letting the breeze through on hot days but keeping the home secure. So smart.
Feeling the need for a reality check, more in my price range, I saw three places in my local area- one was a three-bedroom bungalow with some truly impressive garden boxes, what the agents descriptively called a "chef's garden". This could be next year's Christmas present to my husband - he dreams of a vege garden.
Another feature I noticed at this house was one of those high, oblong windows. It shows that the modern trend for this is nothing new at all. They were doing it willy-nilly in the 30s, it seems.
On a roll now, I go to the next home which, like mine, has four bedrooms and two bathrooms but because we have done the usual open-up-the-back trick, this place feels much more enclosed than ours. And the kitchens in both these places were tiny in comparison to our seemingly enormous one. I'm never going back to a small kitchen, life's too short.
The thing I liked most about this house is the divine marmalade cat that purred alluringly any time you went near her. Note to self, borrow a cat next time we go to sell our house. It certainly gives it a homely feel. I also liked the school bench in the hall, just near the entrance. I think I could almost squeeze one of those into what I have pretentiously started to call our "foyer".
For a bit of contrast I pop into a modern do-up on the way home and while the smell of new carpet is rather off-putting, the three-level townhouse does have something I like: a central stairwell, opening out to a second level, which has a kitchen and living rooms on either side of the stairs.
I could see the kids having movie night on the living space on one side of the stairs and grown-ups having civilised conversation on the other.
Going to open homes is no walk in the park. I'm shattered when I get home and take to my bed with the papers. There's no place like home.
* Look in the Weekend Herald's HeraldHomes magazine for houses to visit in your area.
* Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
* Make sure you schedule a cafe stop somewhere or you'll run out of steam.
* If you suffer from a guilty conscience from cluttering up people's homes when you're not a serious buyer, try and tag along with a friend who actually is house hunting.
* Take a notepad and pen, and write down things that strike you, otherwise you'll forget as soon as you leave, particularly if you're seeing a few homes.
* If you like a house or some of its features, see if you can find out the name of the owners' interior designer, or ask the agent if he or she knows the brands of items you like, such as wall colours, the kitchen design, or a modern bath.