First-home buyers say they are being shut out of the Auckland property market as prices skyrocket. Herald property reporter Alanah Eriksen investigates where house-hunters can still buy for under $500,000

George and Melinda Rossolatos can't see why first-home buyers wouldn't consider moving to Onehunga.

The couple have lived in their Alfred St home for 15 years and are finally ready to upgrade.

The three bedroom 1860s weatherboard cottage has a council valuation of $450,000 - almost $100,000 below the current average house price for Auckland and much less than the skyrocketing inner suburbs.

First-time buyers have complained of feeling shut out of the Auckland property market as prices skyrocket but real estate agents are adamant they can still get value for money.


Using the website, which has listings from all the major real estate companies, the Herald searched for standalone three bedroom homes on freehold sections with an asking price under $500,000.

There were hundreds listed that fitted that criteria yesterday, with the majority in South Auckland but a few scattered on the central city fringe.

Some were touted as "do-ups" while others had already had extensive renovations carried out.

There were 13 listed in Auckland city, and a further 17 on Waiheke Island alone.

They were all situated as far out as Mt Albert in the west of the city, around to Onehunga and Mt Wellington further south and across to Glen Innes in the east.

The cheapest home was a $309,000, 1970s duplex on Mataroa Rd in Mt Wellington.

Just under the $500,000 mark was a place for $499,000 on Castlewood Grove in Blockhouse Bay on a 962sq m site.

There were up to 150 homes in West Auckland.

There were about 15 homes listed on the North Shore, with many in the suburbs of Birkdale and Beach Haven and several more in Glenfield, with a handful on Manuka Rd. The Herald revealed last week that with 45 sales and a median sales price of $424,500, the street had had more sales than any other street in Auckland.

South Auckland has the biggest choice and the most affordable, with more than 600 homes in Manukau, Papakura, and Franklin.

The Rossolatos say Onehunga has been the perfect "starter area".

"It is so central here, it's just amazing," Mrs Rossolatos said.

"It takes 15 minutes to get into town, either way it doesn't matter which way you need to go, if you need to go out south, or west.

"It's a seven-minute walk to the train station."

The couple are hoping to move to Epsom to be closer to their 6-year-old daughter Audrey's school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School in Epsom.

Over the years the couple have made their home their own, putting in a new bathroom and kitchen, creating a third bedroom, polishing the floors, laying decking outside and installing the garage.

"It's taken us 15 years to do it all," Mrs Rossolatos said.

"A whole lot of love and effort has gone into it and it's ready for someone else to enjoy.

"There's not a lot they have to do to it really. It's looking pretty spic and span.

"Usually when you live in a place you think: 'Oh gosh, there's always something to do'."

Ray White real estate agent Rohan Thompson said people were starting to look further than the popular inner city suburbs like Onehunga.

"It's got the character, people are liking the older homes. And there's still the ability to do some work if people want to, to renovate.

"It's pretty handy to the airport as well as the city and motorways."

"It's the character ones that are getting the enquiries at the moment because people know they've been around, they're sturdy, they've stood the test of time," he said.

And it's affordable ... it's very much an entry-level area and people can use it as a stepping stone."

Affordable homes for Hobsonville

Aucklanders on the average wage are being offered the opportunity to buy a new home priced between about $400,000 and $485,000 at Hobsonville Point.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley yesterday announced plans for between 500 and 600 houses priced below $485,000 - about 20 per cent of the 2500 to 3000 new properties on the former Hobsonville air base.

"This will add to Auckland's housing supply and demonstrate innovative commercial market-based solutions in the affordable housing market elsewhere in New Zealand," Mr Heatley said.

Criteria to qualify for the "affordable" homes is still being determined, but Mr Heatley said they were aimed at people earning the average Auckland wage of $44,876.

The announcement was made ahead of Labour's conference in Auckland this weekend where leader David Shearer is tipped to make a big announcement on housing.

Mr Heatley said the decisions about Hobsonville were taken by Cabinet some months ago and it was decided to make the announcement this week.

The decision to set a quota of affordable houses at Hobsonville follows the Government's cancellation in May of an affordable housing scheme, Gateway, that allowed families to buy a house on Crown land by paying up front for the house only, with payment for the land deferred for 10 years.

The scheme provided only 24 houses, including 17 at Hobsonville.

During the 2006 election campaign, Prime Minister and local Helensville MP John Key declared that plans by Housing New Zealand for 500 "affordable" self-owned homes and 500 state rentals at Hobson-ville would be "economic vandal-ism" and would be wiped under National.

Mr Heatley said the latest plan for affordable housing at Hobsonville would not involve taxpayer or ratepayer subsidy.

Chris Aiken, chief executive of the Hobsonville Land Company, a subsidiary of Housing New Zealand, said the 20 per cent of affordable homes would require innovation in design and building techniques and would be spread throughout the development with mid-priced and upper-end priced homes.

Ten per cent of the houses would be sold for less than $400,000, 5 per cent between $400,000 and $450,000 and 5 per cent between $450,000 and $485,000.

Labour's housing spokeswoman Annette King called the measures a tepid response to affordability when a nationwide strategy was needed.

The Green's housing spokeswoman Holly Walker said the small number of "expensive" houses were out of reach for most New Zealand families.