I’m not sure what made me think I could get on the property ladder in New Zealand. Maybe it was my baby boomer parents? Maybe it’s the delusion of the kiwi dream?We have a tendency to be nauseatingly egalitarian at the best times, that old capitalist mantra and kiwi can do attitude. ‘Muck in you can make it!’. Now before you choke on your avocado toast* or throw it in my general direction I have to admit its a pretty tantalising theory. I’ll share my parents story as an example because they were smart or were they?
They bought a 3 bedroom weatherboard house sitting on an acre in South Auckland for the 1980s equivilant of about a quarter of my annual salary. My dad was builder. He knew the property had potential and set out building a monster of a house on the rear section. 4 Bedrooms, double garage, a rumpus room – that was actually a thing back then, a rumpus room. Basically a place where you could lock kids away and they would entertain themselves. The problem was my dad suffered from delusions of grandeur and so ensued chaos. Try has he might have he was trying to give us everything he didn’t have growing up which was not very much at all. He grew up on the East Coast farm, the youngest of 13 and I swear after meeting my grandma a few times, I think they had so many kids because it meant free farm labour. My dad was great craftsman but was not good with relationships or money. I’ll save the full story for another day but in essence he bounced and left my mum with an unfinished house and a tonne of debt.
It all came right in the end but only because my mum learnt quickly how to work money. A girl boss and a single mother to boot. I can remember the amount of ham steaks with canned pineapple we ate while my mother worked to the bone trying to save both houses. Any other sane person would have cashed up and downsized but she refused flee from the nest egg. Seeing her work that hard to save the roof over our head and complete the build my father started made me shit scared of ever owning my own property. There it is, my “Tony Robbins” moment. (Please put the avocado toast down!) So when Jack and I started planning our own search there was plenty for me to be worried about.
We had sold up Jacks apartment in Edinburgh last year thinking we were coming back with a decent deposit. We shared a dream of owning our own property, of living our lifestyle dream free from overbearing landlords and paying rent. But after seeing house prices sky rocket in New Zealand, the average house price soaring to over 600k, 1 million if you are lucky enough to live in Auckland, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We had a budget and knew that meant buying anywhere in or around Wellington, where we have lived for the last 5 years, was out of the question. So what were our options? Quite possibly the most remote place in New Zealand.
We planned a trip down the West Coast and viewed about 8 properties in a week. We carved our campervan through the alpine mountains, camping beside lakes and waking up with ice on the windows and there was plenty of time to explore. We walked part of the Croesus track, explored the West Coast lakes and beaches and discovered some of the old mining history. Inbetween all that adventure we saw some properties. Some were good, some were terrible, some had an incredible history but after a week of searching none were quite right.
We came back to Wellington wondering if owning property will ever happen for us, if we too will ever enjoy a slice of paradise in Aoteroa. As frustrating as our situation is the best thing about this search is the opportunity to have adventures while we are at it. We spent countless nights watching the sun sink into the alpine mountains and into West Coast ocean. We passed through hard-nosed mining towns with anti 1080 placards. We watched long fin eels loop around each other in crystal clear lakes, fantails flitting, kereru beating their wings and kaka’s screeching overhead. Ground ferns brushed against our legs and left a fresh dew on our skin. I cannot explain how priceless these moments are and how much I love that they are shared with Jack. There is much to be grateful for and perhaps the journey to the goal is what matters the most.
*For content on all things avocado toast https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/15/australian-millionaire-millennials-avocado-toast-house