The property ladder: two new sites to help your climb

Once upon a time, climbing the property ladder was a fairly smooth, straightforward, and happy process. A bit like this:

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But lately, thanks to big price rises and new lending rules, it’s more akin to this:

Undertaker ladder

The climb to your dream home can be, if not done right, fraught with danger. For some, lending restrictions and too high prices could mean not stepping foot on the ladder at all.

Wise counsel can help find a way forward. Saving a 20 percent deposit may take a while but can be done. And if your preferred suburb rises out of reach while you’re saving, then look further afield (as an earlier post of ours suggested).

Two recently launched initiatives can provide assistance here:

Hidden Gems

Westpac, last week, released their Hidden Gems report. This document looks at the fastest growing suburbs in seven cities (though, curiously, not Christchurch) and suggests cheaper alternatives.

These suburbs are popular because of their location and amenities; Westpac’s message is that you can have just as happy a life if you pick a cheaper, neighbouring suburb instead.

Take Ponsonby, for instance. This was once a rough, rundown place and its cheap rents attracted a rather “colourful” crowd in the 1970s. Nowadays, with a median house price of $1,244,000, it could never be accused of being low rent – nor having low rents.

So first timers spilled over next door into Grey Lynn, which now has a median price of $1,020,734. Neighbouring Kingsland ($857,500) was next to receive the Ponsonby treatment. Now even Mt Albert ($735,000) is proving a tough sell to first time buyers. But not to despair – there’s always New Windsor ($590,000) on their border, just above the Auckland regional median price.

All these suburbs show up in the Hidden Gems tables as substitutes for one another. That’s one plus of this report – it caters to buyers on all rungs of the ladder. First home buyers should read this report differently to the rest; look for the cheaper suburbs overall, and taper your expectations in those directions. The maps accompanying the Auckland and Wellington tables will help.

The fields showing how much faster you could be debt free, by buying next door, are great in that they explicitly identify the consequences of your actions. They’re also only a very rough guide, based on medians, and can quickly fall out of date. It is also well worth remembering there can be huge variations in price within suburbs.

As long as you keep these caveats in mind, it’s a document well worth studying before you start your house hunt.

Hometopia

Owned by Barbican Publishing, Hometopia is another new website designed to help find the absolute right location for you.

It beats Hidden Gems convincingly in that it focuses heavily on non-price factors. Their Suburb Sleuth lets you weigh up your favourite home style, preferred environment, desired neighbourinos, access to shopping and good schools, and something called the ‘Hip Factor’. You decide what factors are most important, and Hometopia will find the suburb right for you.

First home buyers will like being able to search by average price, though if price is your only concern you’ll have to change all other criteria to ‘slightly important’. A wee bit labour intensive.

Other services provided include various professional directories, a sellers’ toolkit, and a blog (which is pretty good I guess).

Much of the website is Auckland-focused, though the directories also have contacts for traders and the like in Wellington and Christchurch. If the Suburb Sleuth expands out to those cities also, it is bound to take off nationwide. As it is, it provides heaps of information on each Auckland suburb and lets you compare suburbs right across the city – not just next door.

You could play on this site for hours if you had no deadlines to meet.

Between both sites – followed by, of course, our own rather superb website – you may find the climb up the property ladder might be a lot smoother, and maybe even a bit fun.

Have you checked out these sites? What’s your opinion? Give us your review below or on our Facebook page.

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