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When you’re deciding where to live there are lots of things to consider. Some of it’s rational, but lots of it will be emotional. If you’re a couple buying together you’ll probably have differing priorities, so finding a middle ground can be a fantastic lesson in compromise. You’ll need to consider how you want to live and how long you’re planning to stay. Do you want to be close to friends and fun places to eat out? When it comes to commuting, how far is too far? If you have kids or are planning them, are the schools and community to your liking?
It really is true that it’s better to buy the worst house in a good street – and it’s not just because the value of your house will go up. You may not realise just how much impact your community can have on you – horrible neighbours can make life hell.
Amazing what a difference a bit of sun can do for even the most run-down property. Make sure you double-check the aspect of any house, so you know where it gets the sun and what rooms will be the warmest.
Get your sleuthing hat on so you know everything about the house before you buy. Talk to neighbours, run Google searches on the house, street and area, check at night for street lighting and noise. Questions to ask yourself are:
With leasehold you own the building but you don’t own the land. Banks will generally only lend up to 65% on leasehold property.
There are typically two types of leasehold. Church and Maori leasehold tends to be lower risk and better quality because they’ve been around longer and are more consistently priced. Commercial leasehold is riskier. Many of the inner city apartments that have developed recently have used low “honeymoon” lease costs that jump up as much as 100% at the next ground rent review date.
Your key considerations are how long it is until the next review and how much will they increase?
Leasehold can be really useful in some cases. It allows people to live in areas and in a quality of building they otherwise could not afford. The most important thing is making sure that it’s priced properly.
This is where you own the whole lot. Long-term, the value of your property will be in the land.
This was popular in the 70s and 80s as a cost effective way of subdividing properties. Essentially you own a share of the freehold title. The only thing to be aware of with cross-lease is that it may need sign-off from other owners before you can change the footprint of your house. Although uncommon, there could be other restrictions on the title that need to be checked out by your lawyer.
This form of ownership is common for apartments, townhouses and units. It is used to ascribe ownership within a development. You will have ownership of your unit and an undivided share in the ownership of common areas.
There will be Body Corporate fees associated with unit titles that pay for the upkeep of the common areas and services.
Usually has a roof, windows and a door. Like Playschool, only real life.
These are semi-attached and usually on a cross-lease or strata title. Banks are a little more nervous about town houses in larger developments so may restrict lending to 70%. They tend to be more favourable towards properties built in the 70s and less favourable towards anything built after 1985. Clearly, they don’t make them like they used to.
Apartments are increasingly popular with buyers because of the low entry prices, though they’re not viewed positively by lenders. This can make it much more difficult to get a mortgage on an apartment, but has also seen the price of apartments drop. Some banks are not lending on apartments at all, so it is worth talking to us first if you’re thinking of grabbing an inner city pad.
Apartments are a bit of a weird beast. Often banks won’t lend on the cheapest places at all because they’re too difficult to rent. For apartments like these, which tend to be less than 50sqm or leasehold, you’ll probably need a 40% deposit. Larger apartments with two or more bedrooms that are freehold will need 20%-30% deposit as long as you have a good stable income.
To really educate yourself on apartments, spend a night at a tired, old, cheap hotel (just take your own pillow). You’ll notice what happens to apartments that are cheaply made and not well maintained – it feels really run down, shared areas will be scruffy, views blocked by newer buildings and street noise will be very noticeable. Apartments with potential will be soundly built and mostly owner-occupied, with safe entry and exit from the building at night and great proximity to supermarkets, parks and transport.
Built with native timbers these were built pretty solid so last fairly well.
Things you should watch out for:
This period tended to have small windows and cramped living spaces to trap in heat. You’ll often find the layout in these places are at odds with modern living, so you’ll need to move walls around. That makes them expensive do ups.
Not only are houses in this era pretty fashionable at the moment, they’re made from enduring materials and are often positioned well for sun with great indoor-outdoor flow. Asbestos was widely used in the 1960s and 70s. Asbestos is safe if you just leave it alone (kind of like a pimple). Check whether or not internal ceilings are asbestos because some lenders will restrict lending to 80%. Asbestos ceiling can be removed by specialists for around $5k.
Insulation only became compulsory in 1979, so houses built before then might not have any. Brick and tile houses will be particularly cold and have issues with mould – look for it on south-facing walls.
This is the era of dodgy building practices and the infamous “leaky building”, so it pays to be careful.
Things to look out for:
New building codes fixed the dodgy practices of the previous decade. Enough said.
House prices are a hot topic at the moment. So, have a look at the latest REINZ data below to help you stay on top of what’s happening out there, or simply to impress at your next BBQ round-table discussion.
According to REINZ:
Latest REINZ stats show NZ house price increase largest in 53 months.
"February was a very buoyant month from a price perspective with median price rises the largest the country has seen in 53 months and record median prices for New Zealand, New Zealand excluding Auckland and 7 regions around the country. For two months in a row now we've seen every region in the country experience annual medial price increases, showing a continuation of the price growth we started to see just before Christmas. With strong demand across the country it's highly likely we'll see these price rises continue in March unless the economy takes a sudden hit from COVID-19." says Bindi Norwell, REINZ CEO.
National median house price: $640,000
Auckland median house price: $888,000
Median days to sell: 35
|Location||Median house price|
|Bay of Plenty||$670,000|
|NZ excl. Auckland||$550,000|
|New Zealand Total||$640,000|
Data sourced from REINZ.co.nz.
The REINZ House Price Index shows:
Here's how you can pay 40% less interest over the life of your mortgage and pay it off 10 years faster.
The thing to remember is that interest compounds. When you save money, this means you earn interest on the interest and so on. When you’re repaying a mortgage this works in reverse – the less you owe, the less interest you pay.
What it boils down to is that small increases in your regular repayments will have a massive impact on your interest costs in the long run.
Talk to Squirrel about reviewing your mortgage and getting mortgage free faster
In the following example the borrower will save $141,000 in interest on their mortgage and reduce the loan term by 10 years simply by increasing their repayments by $450 per month.
|Payment amount (monthly)||$2,209||$2,659|
|Mortgage term (years)||30||20.5|
|Reduction in interest||36%|
A 0.50% rate decrease will reduce your term by 3.5 years and save $100,000 in interest.Talk to us about getting better rates
A mortgage is a big financial challenge. What a lot of people don’t realise is how important it is before you take one on, to take a look at what your life is expected to look like over the coming years, and plan your mortgage accordingly.
The good news is that mortgage products have become fairly flexible, as long as you plan around them properly. So if you’ve got plans to start a family and are reliant on two incomes, or dreaming of your OE in Spain for a year, we can help you figure out how to structure your mortgage around those plans.
We deal with lots of young professionals who are planning on starting a family, but whose large mortgage also means they rely on two incomes.
The key to starting a family is planning your finances in advance.
Provided you own more than 20% of your home, you can also put your mortgage onto interest-only for a while. This will reduce repayments to cover any shortfall.
You’ll get 12 weeks paid parental leave, and if your household is earning less than $80,000 while one of you is off work, you could be entitled to Working for Families benefits too.
With the right planning, you’ll be able to stress less about your finances so you spend your energy enjoying your new family.
We can help
Used properly, an equity release mortgage (ERM) can be fantastic for people who own property and are on a limited income.
With an ERM, you can borrow against the value of your property with no need to make repayments. The interest is added to the mortgage balance and the mortgage is repaid when you vacate the property and the home is sold.
A lifetime guarantee means you can stay in your home for the rest of your life, and a no negative equity guarantee stops the mortgage ever being more than the value of your home. In simple terms, you still own your home and no one can kick you out.
We can discuss whether or not an equity release mortgage is right for you as part of our retirement plan service.
Planning for your retirement can be tricky – it’s very difficult knowing how much you have to spend every year so that your savings last your whole life. Equity release can act as the insurance buffer for your retirement savings.
Knowing that you can access equity from your home (and that property prices appreciate) you can budget to spend your other investments in the short term. You’ll have more cash to have more fun, and then, if you live longer than you expect (always good news), you can fall back on the equity in your home.
Something else to consider if you want to grow your savings but still need regular access to your money could be Squirrel Money. Squirrel Money Investors get returns of around 8% p.a. which is paid out monthly instead of at the end of the term. There are 2, 3 and 5 year term options and we operate a reserve fund to help protect your hard earned money against Borrower default (provided the reserve fund has sufficient funds available).
This is when being silly or forgetful with your money can come back to haunt you. Your home loan won’t be fully approved until the bank has seen your bank statements. Dishonoured direct debits or going into unarranged overdraft can make you look like a risky prospect and you could be declined.
A number of first home buyers start their hunt looking at properties (and going to auctions) well above what they can afford. Eventually they get buyer fatigue and end up buying the first thing they can, which is never a great way of approaching it.
If a place seems too good to be true, it usually is. Do some basic checks yourself before getting an inspection – look under the floor for dampness or rot and look for repairs.
A building inspection will throw up structural issues with a house but will miss the small stuff. It pays to check that everything works – heated towel rails, spa pool, dishwasher, dryer, drains, electric door to hidden lair, hot water, central heating, fans, and oven.
You will have between $1,500 and $3,000 of upfront costs when buying property. Make sure you factor this in to your budget.
Banks will approve you for more than you can reasonably afford. It is important to have a realistic budget and to plan on higher interest rates. Putting your head in the sand simply creates problems later.
If you are going to have kids, travel overseas, go back to study, or join a hippie commune – work out what that means in advance. If you need insurance, we can help with that.
If you only pay the minimum you will not get ahead and your mortgage costs will increase when rates go up.
The lowest rate may be the cheapest option, but it might not protect you from any future rate increases, and may not be the best option for your lifestyle.
Once you have a mortgage it gets harder to repay other debts. Although a hire purchase might be interest-free (and you might absolutely need it for your kitchen) at some point it needs to be repaid and will then impact on how easy it is to live with your mortgage.
Grab a copy of our handy First Home Buyer's Guide here.
Auckland, New Zealand
Emma Wallace is an absolute superstar, she kept us informed, responded in a timely manner, and was super clear about what she needed from us and what we could expect from her. The most painless part of buying the house was dealing with SquirrelC
Christchurch, New Zealand
Thanks Eleanor for the help with our mortgage for new property down in CHCH. Eleanor was great when we secured our first home in Auckland, and had another great result when we sold up and moved to Christchurch using Squirrel again.S
Christchurch, New Zealand
I was referred from my partner who saw an ad for squirrel, the best advice ever. Absolutely no hassle from Jess and she also got me a better Rate!!D
Auckland, New Zealand
Brad was fantastic, really responsive and answered all of our many questions despite our situation changing regularly. Thanks for all your help!B
Eleanor was fantastic, very patient and extremely helpful. I will definitely recommend her as a first point of contact for anyone I know that is looking at getting a Mortgage, and will be back in touch with her next time I am looking at purchasing.P
Brad Luiten was fantastic to deal with. Pretty well beat the odds of us not getting a home, so we're wrapped with the outcome.P
Very professional and personal service from Emma. Listened to and understood my specific needs to tailor a suitable offering to help me achieve my goals. Always willing to help and provide advice. Much appreciated.C
The service provided by Sunil was awesome and professional at the same time. He knows what he is doing and he made sure the it benefitted the client. Just superb.I