With home ownership a challenge for many kiwi families, Yvonne Walus looks at some options and alternatives.
The shorts of this article:
- Building a good relationship with your landlord
- Renting for the longterm
- Positives and negatives of home ownership
- Pro tips
- Real life story of home co-ownership
Read on to learn how…
How important is it to own your home? According to Sam Stubbs, the founder of investment manager Simplicity, “In New Zealand, buying a house, and paying down the mortgage as fast as you can, is the most reliable way to get financially comfortable.” However, this may not be an option for all Kiwi families. According to Stats NZ, the average age of people buying their first home in 2022 was 35. Census data shows that in 2018, only 65% of households lived in a house they owned, as opposed to the peak in the 1990s at 73.8% of households.
Buying a house can offer several benefits, including the potential for long-term financial growth, as well as the freedom to improve and adapt the property to suit your needs. It can also provide a sense of permanency and achievement. On the other hand, owning the house you live in comes with responsibilities and costs, such as mortgage payments, property taxes, repairs, and house insurance. It all comes down to your individual circumstances and preferences.
BUILDING BRIDGES, NOT BARRIERS, FOR RENTERS AND LANDLORDS
Although the media is full of examples of destructive tenants and unfair landlords, renting is the new normal for many young families. This demographic is highly valued by landlords because of the loyalty and reliability family tenants offer, so if you find a reasonable landlord, you can work together to make your renting experience more harmonious.
Here are some things you can do to build a good relationship with your landlord or property manager:
- Pay rent on time.
- Maintain open and respectful communication (preferably in writing so that you have a record).
- Report maintenance issues as soon as possible before they become bigger problems.
- Treat the house like you would your own (keep it clean, tidy, and free from damage).
- Respect any rules regarding pets or smoking.
- Be a considerate neighbour.
- Remember to read the lease agreement before signing it. Understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, including rules regarding repairs, maintenance, and any restrictions on the property. Don’t be afraid to negotiate any points you consider unreasonable – it’s better to walk away than be stuck with a bad contract.
A NEW MODEL: RENTING FOR THE LONG-TERM
Even if you have a good relationship with your landlord, the problem with many rentals is that contracts are relatively short-term, often renewing annually. This doesn’t offer enough stability to families who would like to live at the same address for many decades, making friends and connections within the community. Simplicity Living is attempting to provide alternative and attractive options to renters by building long-term rental housing complexes, a model that has proved highly successful in Europe. As the Simplicity Living team says, “We’re not developers or agents, we’re landlords. We build, rent, and maintain our homes.”
Simplicity Living is putting dignity back into renting. They offer homes that are pet-friendly, warm and dry, with EV charging stations, and close to public transport and shops. The idea is that residents are part of a community, and can stay as long as they like. Best of all, the rent is inflation-indexed and intentionally set to remain below market levels for the local area.
HOME OWNERSHIP PROS AND CONS
- Building equity: As a homeowner, you build equity in the property over time, which can be a valuable asset for the future
- Control: In your own house, you have the freedom to make changes and renovations
- Long-term gain: You can potentially benefit from appreciation in property value over time
- Stability: If you live in your own home, you’re not subject to rent increases or termination at the end of your lease period.
- Higher upfront costs: Buying a home typically requires paying for assessments, LIM, deposit, legal fees, banking fees, etc
- Repair costs: As the owner, you are responsible for maintenance and repairs, which can cost time and money.
- Potential financial variability: The value of a house can fluctuate depending on market conditions.
- Lack of mobility: Owning a house may make it slower and more cumbersome to move to a new location.
- Give your kids a head start. “The big hurdle is getting a big enough deposit. One of the best things you can do as a parent or grandparent is to enrol children into KiwiSaver early.” ~ Sam Stubbs, MD Simplicity
- Many people buy a home as it gives them a financial buffer for the future. For those of us who can’t afford it, or choose not to, we can still build a nest egg. For example the money that we don’t have to spend on maintenance and renovations, we can put in a savings account or a term deposit, or invest in the share market or in managed funds.
- Consider co-ownership with friends or family.
- Use the bank of mum and dad if needed/possible, but draw up a proper legal agreement.
- Buy a house in need of renovation, provided it’s a bargain, and be prepared to put in some hard work.
- Try to pick a location that’s up-and-coming, where property is likely to appreciate in value. Research any planned or proposed developments in the area, such as city council plans, new infrastructure projects, commercial developments, or zoning changes. These can significantly impact property values.
- Get creative: Buy a house with a spare bedroom to host a boarder/flatmate for extra income, or a smaller house to extend later.
Case Study | A Real Life Story of Home Co-Ownership
Sasha and Mike got married in their late twenties. By then, they had been earning decent money while flatting frugally and saving for over five years. However, their nest egg wasn’t enough for a deposit on a property they liked (freehold, close to public transport, with a computer room for gaming), so they asked Sasha’s brother and his partner to get in on the deal. Between the four of them they could afford a house that ticked all the boxes. A few years later each couple had a baby, and the computer room became a nursery. Sasha is now expecting their second child, and they are considering two options: Either one of the couples buys the other one out, or they purchase a bigger house together and rent out the current one.
Simplicity is a low-fee, nonprofit KiwiSaver provider (owned by the Simplicity Foundation), committed to making everyday Kiwis richer and smarter with money.
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