Photos: Christmas lights up New Zealand

We may not get a lot of snow at Christmas, but one trait New Zealanders share with the rest of the world is our love for Christmas displays.

Below are a few snapped by our Open2view team. Click on any thumbnail to get the slideshow started.

To all those who have erected displays, we’d like to thank you for bringing a whole lot of joy to our communities, and for taking our minds off unpleasant things like last-minute present shopping, and involuntary games of ‘sardines’ at the mall.

And to everyone, Open2view wishes you a very happy Christmas and fantastic New Year. Talk again in January.

November property report: it’s not the end of the world; a defence of home buyers, and much more

Mayan Calendar

December 2012 has arrived and, with it, warnings of impending Armageddon. Yes, some real estate commentators are doing their best Mayan impressions as they beat the drums of doom ever louder.

We are pleased to announce to homebuyers and sellers that, while the property market in Auckland is still hot, the world is not about to end.


House prices and inventory: Apocalypse nowt yet

November’s NZ Property Report from suggests there is no flood of properties on the horizon.

Listings were up slightly on last November, and a whole lot on October, but it was still no match for buyer demand. The end result: inventory levels nationwide have dropped to 28.7 weeks – its lowest point in five years. The pool in Auckland is especially shallow with a new low of 15.5 weeks.

Some good news for buyers however: the mean asking price dropped in Auckland (by 2.5%), Wellington (4.2%) and Christchurch (2%). Overall the nationwide mean rose by just 0.2%. Auckland flies well above the average at $596,759, which reinforces what we’ve been saying for a long time – it’s a two-speed property market.


Auckland and the rest: galactic misalignment

QV’s Property Report liftout, in last Monday’s New Zealand Herald, is further proof that the market outside Auckland is not about to explode.

Median sales prices in the third quarter of 2012 in the North Island show increases in eight of the 17 regions – four of those are in the Auckland area – while another eight have dropped. One of those is Manukau City, which is down 5.6 percent compared to the second quarter. Tauranga remained unchanged.

But the market’s now hotter than it was in during the peak, some claim. This nifty excel-created graph (click for a closer look) says it all about that:

 Median house prices compared to 2007

Yes, nationwide values are up 1.1% on 2007, but one look at the graph makes it pretty obvious where the upward pressure is happening.

REINZ statistics out today show 40% of real estate activity last month occurred in the Auckland region, with a median price 40% above the nationwide level. Other than Auckland, Otago and Wellington are the only regions above this line.

Might other provinces feel some trickle down? Said Bruce Norris in the Herald: “in the last boom, investors took their money to the provinces when Auckland began to get out of reach… [but] there are no signs in 2012 of a similar pattern.” Perhaps investors haven’t had quite their fill of Auckland just yet.

Another difference between the boom period and now is the number of houses being sold. In 2007 over 10,000 houses were being bought every month; today we’re seeing around 6000 sold, which is still better than the roughly 3000 each month in the dark period that was 2008.


Interest rates: down for the Long Count

We feel homebuyers need some defending. The Auckland problems are an issue of supply, not demand.

Our floating rates of around 5.7 percent compare most favourably to the double figures buyers were paying just four years ago. Would it not be the rational thing to do, when presented with such a deal, to at least look at buying a home? If banks are fighting for your love, why wouldn’t you enjoy the attention and the resulting great deal?

Loan to Value Ratio limits, as raised by others, would punish first home buyers for something that is clearly not their fault. Philip Macalister in last Sunday’s Herald agrees.

The inevitable rise in interest rates will dampen the Auckland market eventually. When, and by how much, remains to be seen. The Reserve Bank Governor has to reconcile housing inflation in Auckland and the lack of life in the rest of the economy.

Graeme Wheeler kept the Official Cash Rate at 2.5% last week, but included in the December policy statement was this possible hint of a warning:

“Higher house price inflation and increased household expenditure would likely lead to higher inflationary pressures than is currently projected… All else equal, such a development could necessitate a higher OCR.”

Most economists suspect the OCR will stay where it is for at least a year, but it’s clearly Auckland’s housing inflation has not gone unnoticed by the powers that be. We will be watching Dr Wheeler very closely for any blink, head movement, muscle spasm, or anything else that might indicate a looming OCR change.


A calendar you can trust

Open2view calendar

We take hundreds of thousands of photos every year here at Open2view. Each December we take a dozen of our favourites and make them into a house-shaped desk calendar.

Unlike the Mayan calendar, our one actually makes it all the way to New Year’s Eve – and right now we’re giving away 31 of them. If you live in New Zealand, send an email to with your name and address by Monday, and you’re in the draw.

So what do you think – is Auckland a growing bubble that will doom us all? Or is this about as likely to hurt us as the Y2K bug? Share your prophecies in the comments or on Facebook.

Live like a leader: the story, and sale, of Hill Haven

We get to photograph many interesting houses here at Open2view. No one will object, I’m sure, if I say this place especially stood out.

House at 66 Harbour View road, Northland, Wellington, purchased by the Government for the use of the Prime Minister in 1939. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-C-028332-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

House at 66 Harbour View road, Northland, Wellington, purchased by the Government for the use of the Prime Minister in 1939. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-C-028332-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Known as Hill Haven, 66 Harbour View Road, Wellington was home to two of our most well loved prime ministers – Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser.

A very quick political lesson: Savage was the first leader of the First Labour Government, which won office in 1935, and he helped design what is known as the ‘welfare state’. Peter Fraser was his deputy and Minister of Education, and following Savage’s death he was PM for the next decade.

Michael Joseph Savage

Michael Joseph Savage

The history of Hill Haven itself is even more interesting. The eight room Victorian style villa, designed by prominent architect Frederick de Jersey Clere, was built from native timbers in 1909. English-born de Jersey Clere (1856-1952) was responsible for creating many of our important buildings. Wellington’s AMP building still stands today, as do 85 of the more than 100 churches he designed.

Prior to 1939 Hill Haven belonged to one F.W. Manton. Manton was the President of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, but records show he was much more besides.

In 1908, Manton embarked on a journey of Hobbit-like proportions. For ten days he treked and sailed from Napier to Auckland, via Wairoa, Te Kepo and Katikati. Due to bad luck and forgetfulness, some of Manton’s 250 miles of walking was done in thunderstorms and without food. This intrepid adventure earned him, in the Poverty Bay Heraldthe mood-encompassing headline ‘A Long Tramp.’

It might be that he was better off staying in the Ureweras. In 1917, under the equally flowery heading ‘Accident to Mr. F. W. Manton’, the Evening Post reported:

“Mr Manton… was working on his property at Harbour View-road, Kelburn. He was on a slope, and had occasion to cut some gorse with an axe. While doing so something flew up, hit him on the head, and, it is presumed, rendered him unconscious. He fell to the ground, rolled down the slope, and then dropped over a cliff on to the road, the final fall being one of twenty to thirty feet.”

Needless to say, thanks to pioneers like Mr Manton, the land is gorse free and completely safe now. Manton was made of sterner stuff than most; he suffered merely a broken collarbone and injured hip, from which he recovered and lived a full life. Until he died.

At this point, the New Zealand Government saw a house fit for a king – or, failing that, a prime minister. The Crown purchased Hill Haven in 1939 and Mickey Savage promptly took up residence. His stay was short-lived; Savage was suffering from cancer at the time and he passed away, at home, on the morning of 27 March 1940.

1939 Evening Post article on Hill Haven

The Evening Post’s 1939 article on the Hill Haven purchase, courtesy of The National Library.

Peter Fraser was Hill Haven’s next occupant. New Zealand History suggests the new prime minister was “entranced by ‘one of the most beautiful views in the world’”. In between heading our war effort, and helping establish the United Nations, Fraser would rest his weary head back here.

Sidney Holland, who defeated Fraser in 1949, found the view less alluring and decided to live in Thorndon. This might, one speculates, have been due to the Thorndon air being “sodden with the smell of hops and malt from the brewery up the street”.

Hill Haven harbour view

The view from Hill Haven today. Peter Fraser would approve.

After 1949, like many a humbled politician, Hill Haven kept its head down and enjoyed the quiet life. Then, much like the New Zealand economy, it experienced some major renovations in the 1980s.

According to Saturday’s Dominion Post (article unavailable online) these changes included “drive-on access [and] a double garage with internal access to complement the double garage on the street.” Probably not a huge priority in 1909.

This work was designed by the awesomely-named Cranko Architects – check it out on their online portfolio.

Which brings us to 2012. Hill Haven has, for 103 years and counting, played host to all kinds of VIPs – be it former statesmen, or happy families. It has all the character of the early 1900s, is equipped for 21st Century living, and retains all its remarkable history from in between.

For the first time in over twenty years Hill Haven is for sale. Check out all the photos and floorplans on the Open2view website – maybe you’ll be tempted to write the next chapter of its colourful story.

Special thanks to The National Library, Open2view photographer Grant Down and floor plan designer Peter Burtonwood.

Hill Haven 2012 Open2view