Fundraising for CanTeen: Why this might be the most valuable house we’ve photographed

Here’s a fundraiser we can well and truly get behind.

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Cambridge Homes has built a property at 25 Oakwood Way, Papamoa with all profits from the auction to be donated to CanTeen New Zealand.

For those unaware, CanTeen is a charity that provides support to young New Zealanders aged 13-24 who are living with cancer as a patient, sibling or bereaved sibling.

CanTeen runs a range of programmes including camps, art workshops and regional and national programmes which support, develop and empower their members  to positively deal with grief as well as communicate their thoughts and feelings. They also provide palliative and funeral grants to families of those with terminal cancer.

The support they provide is immeasurable. Their funds, on the other hand, are finite. CanTeen doesn’t receive any direct government funding, so they rely heavily on the support from the public as well as their own fundraising efforts.

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Cambridge Homes decided to do something to help. And what better way to fundraise than by doing what they do best – build a house.

It’s a lovely house too. This three bedroom, two bathroom brick home is bright and roomy, close to Papamoa College and just a few blocks from the beach.

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That painting on the wall? It was created by Cambridge Homes’ Brian Schlegel’s daughter and depicts “new life”. Having lost a friend to cancer several years ago, says Brian, his daughter was determined to do what she could to help. This beautiful art piece is to be auctioned on the same day as the house.

We here at Open2view were very happy to do what we could to assist. Our man on the ground there, Alex Porteous, shot all the real estate photos and video for free.

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We are also doing our best to spread the word around and generate as much interest in the auction as possible. You can help too by sharing the below video, and this link to the property, with friends and family.

The auction will be held on site at 1pm this Friday, 3 May. Here’s to a great turnout – it could be the most valuable house you ever bought.

World Pinhole Photography Day: how you can take part

Bruce Forbes Bath House pinhole photo

From the 2012 World Pinhole Photography Day collection. Bruce Forbes took this photo of the old Rotorua Bath House using a pinhole camera made from an old paint tin.

Got a bunch of kids on your hands these school holidays? Here’s Open2view to the rescue: this Sunday, 28 April, is World Pinhole Photography Day and – as the name suggests – people all over the show will be building their own cameras out of whatever crafty ingredients they can find.

The official website encourages people to take part by taking “some time off from the increasingly technological world we live in and to participate in the simple act of making a pinhole photograph.” The site also has a (anticipatedly empty) gallery for the 2013 collection and photos from Pinhole days past.

Grownups, there seems to be two events in New Zealand this Sunday. There are some pinhole workshops being held in Wellington; meanwhile the Auckland workshop looks to be very almost full. But get in touch just in case – and best you do it now. Off you go.

For the kids, there are plenty of instructions on the web. The simple kiddy ones don’t actually produce photos – last thing you want to do is give your kids a whole lot of developing chemicals to play with – but they do help teach the principle of photography well.

Siobhan Costigan Bike pinhole photo

Proof that Pringles cameras can work. This shot of Courtenay Place, Wellington, was taken by Siobhan Costigan using her ‘Pringleflex’.

I decided to have a crack at making an actual working pinhole camera. It was a rather cruel way of reminding myself why arts and crafts was my worst school subject. But as a fan of photography, and Pringles chips, I decided to give it the old college primary school try anyway. So I did. Then I quickly wished I hadn’t.

In retrospect, a shoebox might have made for an easier functional camera. But to make a prototype, Pringles work deliciously well. Don’t take my word for it (seriously, don’t) – let these guys teach you now. Believe me, it’s easier that way.

Once you have the very model of a modern pinhole camera, you’re probably wondering how it works. It’s all about light, apparently. The image shows up in the camera inverted and reversed because of the way light bounces off the object and through the pinhole. So if you’ve done it right, when you look through the camera the image should show up on your wax paper upside down. How Stuff Works has a longer, potentially more accurate, answer. Frankly, though, I prefer the pretty diagram that even I can understand.

Pretty pinhole camera diagram

Screenshot from the pretty diagram that mostly sums it up.

Pinhole cameras are a fun way to teach the young ones about photography while keeping them busy for an hour or so. If your kids are anything like me, set aside half a day.

If you’re interested in making a working pinhole camera, complete with film paper and everything, ask Kodak or follow this Kidzworld (yes yes, a website for kids) recipe.

Join us next week where I find a small hole in my jersey and die in a horrible knitting accident.

For sale: one clever, beautiful, award winning home/studio

Open2view ID288906 - William Denny Ave 24A

There is much talk in Auckland at present about land supply and the housing shortage. If everyone took a leaf out of Liz Sharek’s book, however, these issues would quickly resolve themselves.

The UK-born artist (check out her work here) has lived in Westmere for the last eleven years in a home she and award-winning architect Andrew Lister designed back in 2001. Lister’s job, alongside Warren Adolph of Warren & Adolph Construction, was to build a house that fitted Liz’s character while simultaneously fitting into a 15 metre wide section. No mean feat.


Some glass rabbits out and about at Auckland Domain. Liz’s art ranges from the stunningly beautiful to the sublimely quirky.

And yet it works perfectly. The long, narrow 200 square metre house-slash-glass studio still feels incredibly roomy thanks to a combination of open plan living, a large deck, a skylight in the bathroom and bifold windows that open up onto the garden. For his work Lister received a New Zealand Architecture Award in 2003, and the house itself has graced the pages of many a magazine.

Liz has put the 12 year old house up for sale and Open2view were privileged to shoot the photographs. I asked Liz if she was feeling any sense of loss now she was moving on.

“Oh! Yes!” was her adamant response. “This is a pretty special place and a great community. But I’m ready for a new adventure and something has to give!”

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A recent House & Garden article talked of Liz’s plan to one day buy some land in Matakana and open her own ‘Huttenpalast’. Liz stayed at one in Berlin last year; she described it as “an indoors “glamping” [glamour camping] experience with caravans and huts as designer sleeping quarters all inside a vacuum cleaner factory.”

So is her dream about to come to fruition? Maybe by next summer, she says. “[There’s] no old vacuum cleaner factories in Matakana but part of the plan is to develop a homestay/B&B experience loosely based on this kind of thing which, I think, would go down a treat in New Zealand with our love of retro caravans and camping.” In the meantime Liz is looking forward to experiencing “some country living with more space to develop a garden, grow veggies, that kind of thing.”

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Making the most of space has clearly not been an issue for Liz in the past, as her unique house demonstrates. Liz says she could not have done it without Andrew Lister’s skills.

“It was his vision and interpretation of my brief which created this home and which changed very little over the build period. The way the property sits on this smallish inner city section and its use of the “borrowed landscape” to give visual space and light is genius.”

“Andrew has an exceptional eye for detail and the innovative use of materials and textures on the exterior; his use of glass and reflective surfaces throughout the house’s interior lends a lightness and complexity to the spaces and forms of the house.

“I just had the fun stuff to do like choosing the tapware and lighting!”

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In their award citation, the NZIA described the house as “an extraordinary synthesis in which architect and client seem to have drawn more from the other than each expected, creating an engaging whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”

She was so pleased with his work that Liz has enlisted him to design her new house. Like her old place, the Matakana home will reflect her offbeat artistic style.

“It sits beautifully on the land but has a very similar aesthetic,” she says. It will feature floor to ceiling glass windows looking down the valley in quite an austere shell, softened by the use of cedar cladding. “And as if to demonstrate her aptitude for utilising space, she adds that “The studio space/glamping spot is under the house as a self-contained unit.”

Her award-winning Westmere spot is available right now. Check out our other photos, and floor plans, on the Open2view website; if you’d like to see it in person there are open homes this Saturday and Sunday from 12-12.30pm. (UPDATE: There will be another open home on Sunday 28 April at 12pm) (UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: no there won’t – it’s been sold!) 

Get in quick – it is a stunning, yet very practical, work of art.

March Property Report: All the leaves are brown/And the skies are… still blue

Autumn leaves Open2view

Autumn is here at last, as this photo by Open2view South Taranaki’s Michelle Hoffmans shows. 

Though our days are getting cooler, and my ability to type thus severely hampered, it’s still sunny days in the real estate market.

I will write this quickly, operating on the theory that fast typing will create friction, in turn warming up my cold dead hands.’s NZ Property Report for March shows the median asking price has moved just 0.3 percent in a month, while listings are down 3%.

The changes are more pronounced when comparing March with the same time in 2012. The average asking price is up 4% over this period while listings are down by the same percentage. Inventory, at 27 weeks, is 20% lower than the year before. In short – good news for sellers, not so great for buyers.

Quotable Value’s statistics further back this up. Auckland house prices are up by 11% over last April. Southside of Bombay, Christchurch is up 7.8% while Hamilton and New Plymouth recorded rises of more than 4%. Only Whangarei saw a decline, with house prices there down 1.8%.

Perhaps the most important trend to note from QV’s findings is this: some buyers are getting a little sick and tired of the high prices. Research Director Jonno Ingerson reports that the rate of price increases has slowed in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin.

With prices being high, buyers are increasingly considering telling sellers where to go. Many prospective sellers are also holding on to their homes for now as the Auckland Council’s draft unitary plan threatens to play merry havoc with house values.

Autumn photo Open2view house

The local cattle populace don’t look too impressed with the changing of the leaves. Check out more of Nalene Morton’s photos of this Levin property here.

QV also came out last week with another set of very interesting data. Those asking prices mentioned earlier? In most cases, forget about it.

Going through last year’s sales data, QV found that just 17.2% of sales were for above the seller’s asking price. A mere 6.2% sold for exactly what was asked, leaving a whopping 76.2% of houses selling for less than what the seller wanted.

Take the average asking price in Auckland of $610,628 last month. On the North Shore you can expect to get pretty close to the asking price, unless you’re one of the lucky 30% who sell for above that. In Papakura, on the other hand, prepare to settle for around 4.5% less. The entire article and accompanying tables are well worth a read.

Meanwhile, as this was being written, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand released its own March figures.

What stuck out most were the announcements that the median house price hit $400,000 for the first time ever, and that March saw the highest number of houses sold in a month – 8128 – since May 2007, at the peak of the last housing boom. Auckland and Canterbury/Westland reached new records of $562,000 and $359,000 respectively.

What stuck out a close second were the comments by Chief Executive Helen O’Sullivan that sounded like a not-so-subtle message to the Reserve Bank. With Governor Wheeler and Bill English looking for tools to curb house prices, O’Sullivan was at pains to point out the stark differences between Auckland/Canterbury and the rest of New Zealand:

“There’s a real danger that the Auckland housing market is mistaken for the New Zealand housing market, and that regulatory decisions will be made on the assumption that conditions in Auckland and Canterbury are replicated across the rest of the country.”

“Supply shortages in Auckland and Christchurch continue to be the main factor in those two markets, resulting in double digit price increases and new record prices, while the number of days to sell reaches near record lows. Across the rest of the country while activity is picking up, price gains are far more modest. To illustrate this, five regions, representing 24% of sales in March recorded annual price increases of less than 1.0%.”

Guess what? She’s right. It would be silly to assume that what’s happening in Auckland and Canterbury is also going on elsewhere. It is, as we’ve always said, a two-speed real estate market. Blunt tools like loan to value ratios that might work in one area could do real damage to the property market elsewhere.

So with so much data and so many differing opinions, how can you decide what to do? Here’s one more link that might ease your real estate headache a little.

Properazzi Property Dashboard

Longtime property commentator Alistair Helm of Properazzi has developed the Property Dashboard, which takes all that data from and REINZ, decides whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, and presents it in a pretty, simple and pretty simple manner.

Best of all, Alistair calculates it by region as well as nationally. There’s no doubt Auckland skews the national data so it’s important to see how different things are in, for example, Gisborne, where the needle points all the way to the other side.

What the Dashboard, and all those other reports prove, is the property market isn’t black and white by any stretch. Look closely and you’ll find shades of grey (and perhaps red, and yellow, and brown).

The big question is: if the Auckland market is in need of correction, as some worry about, will it do so sharply, or will it just float down gently in a tequisous fashion?

Fire safety campaign: a wrap up, and some important links

We’re nearing the end of the final, climatic week of our fire safety campaign, so it’s time to wrap everything up into one neat little package.

If you’re new, here’s what we’ve done so far:

So what’s the deal with our smoke alarm giveaway? Where we explain why we chose Cavius’ smoke detectors to give away as prizes. Over these past four weeks we’ve given away 36 with just four to go. Entries close Thursday 5pm; if you haven’t entered yet, just head to our Facebook page.

Fire safety in the home: Four key ingredients What four products/gizmos do you need to have in your house to minimise the risk, and effects, of a house fire? Click the link and all will be revealed.

Balloons Over Waikato gets a Chief response Not a great deal of fire safety information here, but rather an interesting interview with the pilot of a hot air balloon tribute to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 11 September, 2001. This was one of the star attractions at this year’s Balloons Over Waikato.

We’ll use this last post to alert you to a few more, very important, fire safety links worth reading.

Make your own escape plan

The Fire Service website has a feature where you can design and print off an escape plan for your home or office. It’s nice and easy to use: draw a map of your place, put in the walls, furniture, doors and windows, and use the arrows to point out the best escape points.

Here’s one I’ve done for my office:

Fire escape plan office

And here’s one I’ve done for Big Ted and Jemima et al:

Escape plan for Play School

Come on guys, get Firewise


You know the jingle, now check out the official website. Get Firewise contains a whole swag of free stuff for teachers, from pre-school to secondary, to help educate students about fire safety.

The website itself focuses mostly on the Year 1 and 2 programme. Topics include how to call 111, handing matches and lighters to adults, and what sound a fire alarm makes. Sounds simplistic, perhaps, but think back to when you were five and six – would you know what to do if you found a lighter on the floor, or if your toaster caught alight?

Fire Awareness and Intervention Programme (FAIP)

If you know children who have difficulty answering the above questions, this programme might be for them. FAIP is designed for people under 18 who have tendencies to inappropriately light fires.

This usually voluntary programme is delivered in the home by a trained firefighter over the course of several weeks, and it has a massive 98 percent success rate.

The last publicly available statistics on youth fire-lighting are from 2008 and they are, frankly, a little confusing. What is clear, however, is there are enough such incidents to keep the programme busy.

If you know of someone who would benefit from the programme you can download the referral form here. It’s effective, and it’s free.

Cavius Smoke Detectors

Cavius smoke alarm in hand

We gotta put in one more good word for these guys.

Cavius’ world’s smallest photoelectric smoke detectors are fantastic if you’re sick of false alarms, tired of paying for new batteries every year or you’re after an alarm that isn’t a complete eyesore.

Check out their website for more information on the detector and details of where you can buy some of your own. Thanks Cavius, especially Peter and Steve, for your support.

One more reason to take notice

Fire in Hamilton after

This recent Hamilton fire is, alas, a prime example of what we’re trying to help stamp out, as these excerpts illustrate:

A lighter left handy for child’s play sparked a fire that ripped into a Hamilton family home today and damaged the entire building.

No smoke detectors were installed and it is understood a four-year-old raised the alarm.

…”All she said she saw was a little flame on a blanket and she went to the bathroom to get a bucket of water to put it out,” Mr Aldridge said.

”By the time she got back it was up in flames. It happened that quick.”

A small fire can take hold so very quickly. Smoke detectors could have alerted the family – who were outside at the time – sooner. If the four year old had panicked, or the fire had started while people were asleep, who knows how bad the outcome might have been.

If you do nothing else, please buy and install smoke detectors. If you’re serious about both fire safety and avoiding false alarms, buy the photoelectric kind – the Fire Service recommends them and so do we.

We’ve heard, over the past four weeks, plenty of anecdotes from readers and Facebook followers about friends and families who either had lucky escapes or lost everything due to lack of preparation.

At Open2view we spend most of our working week inside your homes, so home safety is something we all care greatly about. We certainly hope you enjoyed this series of articles and learned a few new tricks. And if not, this song shall serve as punishment:

Balloons Over Waikato gets a Chief response

Chief Responder ove Waikato

Open2view’s Emi Lardone snapped some photos of the Chief Responder during the festival’s first event, the Hamilton City Ascension. Click on each image for a larger view.

Balloons Over Waikato 2013 has officially lifted off. This, the nation’s biggest and most colourful hot air ballooning festival, runs until this Sunday and features school visits, tethered rides, plenty of flights and a fireworks display.

One assumes the balloons will be on the ground during the latter.

Arguably the most interesting balloon of the lot comes from Glen Falls in New York State. ‘Chief Responder’ is the Monahan brothers’ tribute to those New York City firefighters who lost their lives on 11 September 2001.


Chief Responder in full flight over the US.

When the balloon was purchased from Brazil it came with a regular Fire Chief badge on the fireman’s hat. New owners Todd Monahan and his twin brother Scott replaced it with something more poignant: an image of New York firefighters righting an American flag in rubble, with the Twin Towers standing tall in the background. The balloon carries the ID number 343 – the number of firefighters who died that day.

Todd, balloon pilot and owner of Monahan Airways, explained to Open2view via email why he created this giant floating tribute.

“Being from New York was one of the biggest reasons; we all remember where we were that day and time,” he says.

Todd was studying four and a half hours down the road at the State University of New York when the planes hit.

“I was walking out of my class at SUNY Oswego and heard everyone talking about it. I thought people were mistaken so I ran back to my dorm room, where my roommates had it on three different TVs, and couldn’t believe what was happening before my eyes. I was glued to the television for the next couple of days amazed something like this could actually happen.”

Chief Responder grey Hamilton sky

The reaction from firefighters, be they from New York or elsewhere, has been “absolutely amazing. We see New York Firefighters all over the world who admire this particular balloon. The feeling we get when we are able to talk with them puts goose bumps on our arms.”

On one occasion, in New Mexico, a spectator walked up and removed the pilot’s cap – only to replace it with his own, an official New York Fire Department hat.

Todd’s love affair with hot air balloons formed during his youth, when he could often be seen on his bike trying to chase them down. Shortly after graduating he decided to follow his dream and become a full time balloon pilot.

His training “took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, site of the world’s largest balloon festival. My twin brother and I started attending festivals all around the world and thought it would be neat to buy a special shape balloon together.” This was when the Monahans bought Clown-N-Around, which came here for the 2011 festival.

Monahan Airways’ fleet of novelty-shaped balloons always gets a big reaction from audiences, which is why Todd prefers them to their oval counterparts. “The novelty never wears off,” he says, “because there is a special roar with every crowd.”

Balloons over Waikato

Pursuing a career that satisfies one’s adrenalin rush truly is living the dream life. That Todd gets to pay tribute to his heroes in the process is a definite bonus.

Chief Responder, he says, “symbolises so much more than flying for fun in a special shape balloon. This represents all the lives that were lost on that day.”

In full flight, the balloon is an amazing and uplifting sight.

Balloons Over Waikato runs from now until Sunday 7 April. Check out their website and Facebook page for the programme and updates. And if you wish to track the balloons without using your bike, follow their progress online via Smartrak.