What Kids Want From A New Home

Parents might be after double garages and large living areas*, but plenty of hiding places and treehouses are at the top of children’s priorities for a new home.

*Or just a home under $1 million, am I right Aucklanders and Sydneysiders?

A new survey of under-10s has revealed youngsters’ priorities when it comes to property and, not all that surprisingly, a home’s proximity to good schools doesn’t feature on their wish lists.

Estate agent Chestertons surveyed 3,000 parents with children aged between 5 to 10 years who were looking for a new home.

Both parents and children were asked to list their top five must-haves for their new abode.


Kids house survey table

Personally, I’m leaning more towards the kids’ wish list. And unless there is one almighty property crash soon, it looks like a tree house might be all I can afford anyway.

The pint-sized property moguls were a little off the mark about the out-of-control housing market, with the average child thinking they could score a home for about $6,000. Bless.

Most of the children also hoped to own a home by the time they were 19. If only…

When quizzed on property-related terms, the youngsters had their own ideas about what it meant to climb the property ladder.

The majority of them believed the property ladder was a “ladder kept at home so people can reach high places”.

And 70 per cent of them thought house deeds meant “chores that needed doing around the house”.

Oh, to be young again. Good luck with your search kids!

Virtual Home Tour Revolution

Open homes – a necessary evil of house-hunters everywhere.

Rushing to make it there in the half-hour slot, taking off your shoes, signing the book, awkwardly shuffling past people up and down the stairs.

What if you could weed out all the houses that don’t even come close to what you’re looking for without having to go through all of that rigmarole?

Or in reverse, what if you could easily take a look at a property that you may have discounted and not bothered to go and see in person?

That’s where virtual home tours come in – putting a new spin on traditional home-viewing.

A recent article predicted Kiwi house-hunters may soon swap open homes for virtual reality.

Open2view is leading the way…

Open2view is already at the forefront of this technology with its 3D HomeView tours.

House-hunters can explore a property from every angle at their own pace on their computers, smartphones and tablets without having to physically step foot in the house.

HomeView uses 3D photography to capture and create interactive content with three different perspectives:

1. Walkthrough – navigate seamlessly from room to room and view it at any angle.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 3.51.52 PM

2. Dollhouse – zoom out to a 3D dollhouse view.

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3. Floor plan – see everything in its place from above.

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Granted there are no virtual reality headsets but I bet they play havoc with your hair…

Virtual reality may not replace open homes entirely, but our HomeView tours allow would-be buyers to see a house from perspectives they would never get in real life, so there’s no denying it has its place.

We’re all used to having most things instantly available at our fingertips these days – and now house hunting is no different!

Check out our current listings to explore a property at your own pace, from every angle, by taking your own 3D HomeView tour – just look for the HomeView icon.

Or contact Open2view’s teams in New Zealand and Australia today to find out more about 3D HomeView.

What do you think of the idea of house hunting via virtual reality? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

NZ Property: Summer sales keep rolling on……

O2V ID#335063

O2V ID#335063

Ahhh Summer… it’s been a good one so far. You can tell from all the glorious Summer scenes and vistas our Photographers have been capturing around the country…

Seriously…take a look at these…..

The good summer weather has been great for the sunbathing, but it’s done nothing to cool the heated housing market, particularly in Auckland.

Recent figures from REINZ show that the number of dwellings sold in January (4,841) was up 2.6% on January 2014 with the National median price of $426,000, up $24,000 from the same time in 2014. The national median price rose 6.0% in the 12 months to January 2015, while Auckland’s median price increased by 16.0%

“The continuing strong performance of Auckland prices is vexing commentators and policy makers alike, however the root cause of the problem remains a shortage of property available for sale” says Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) Chief Executive Helen O’Sullivan.

REINZ data shows that Auckland’s median price increased by 16% over the past 12 months, compared to just 1.8% for the rest of the country.

Backing that up are the latest figures from Barfoot & Thompson, where the all-time high pre-Christmas values held throughout January, with the average selling price of $757,319, was only $1572, or 0.2 percent lower than December’s all-time high price.

January sales figures of 859 properties is inline with the previous January figures over the past two years, however the total value of sales in January of $650,537,392 is up $97,822,014 from the same time in 2014.

For full market reports including regional & rural statistics, visit the REINZ website.

Now, if we could just get back to working on that tan…..

O2V ID#333884

O2V ID#333884


Are there times when just one photo is a good idea?

cluttered bedroom

One can’t help but wonder if some vendors deliberately sabotage the home selling process.

We reckon having plenty of high quality photos is crucial to presenting your home at its best. But this article from Inman.com made us ask, is this true of every home?

I may be wrong about this, but there are times when having just one photo in the MLS listing may actually be in the client’s best interest.

I saw a house almost three months ago that had just come on the market. My relocating client from Maryland was very interested because the solo photo — of the front — was very attractive and the home was in an area that she liked.

Ok, so far so good. But what happened when Jeff the Author got to the house?

The listing agent was showing the home, per the seller’s instructions, and asked us to wait until the other party was done. No problem.

Very shortly after, no more than one minute — LITERALLY — the other party came back out. We knew immediately something was amiss.

Uh oh.

We walked into the house and it was immediately clear why there were no other photos taken. It looked like a war zone, with stuff piled everywhere in the kitchen, dining room, enclosed back porch and living room. Carpet was being pulled up in all the main rooms and, per the agent, was being replaced by the seller. We couldn’t see two of the three bedrooms, “because someone was sleeping in there” and the doors were locked. We may have spent two minutes in the house, max.

It was, in my client’s words, a total waste of time. She wryly commented that it was clear why there were no other photos online.

Perhaps it was that there was only one good photo that could possibly be listed!

I suspect this agent felt one photo was in her client’s best interest, since the front looked quite nice and it got people interested in touring the house. She probably figured someone would, perhaps, see the potential and overlook the disaster area once they were at the house and saw the neighborhood.

Well, according to Jeff, the house is still on the market – and in a sellers’ market, at that – two months after it was listed.

So was this a case of the fewer the photos, the better? That old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink” comes to mind. A decent house photo may pique a buyer’s curiosity enough to lure them in – but if the rest of the place is a shambles, good luck filling them with any enthusiasm. More likely, the buyer will be furious at the agent for wasting their precious time.

Buyers want to see themselves in the house, with their stuff in place of the vendor’s. If they can’t see anything but clutter, the buyer will be unable to declutter their mind long enough to envisage the house as their home.

So, agents and vendors of the world, there is really only one thing to do: get the place tidy, then get plenty of professional photos taken. Whoops, two things.

It can be hard to remove old possessions that hold happy memories, or even those-things-that-have-never-been-used-in-ten-years-but-you-never-know-when-they-might-just-come-in-handy.

In an earlier blog post on this topic we provided some ideas for overcoming that mental hurdle and clearing away the physical one. They are:

  1. Note all the things you plan to absolutely keep – furniture, antiques, children, etc.
  2. Divide the rest of your stuff into three piles: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, and ‘Maybe’.
  3. Throw out everything in the ‘No’ pile.
  4. Throw out everything in the ‘Maybe’ pile.

Is it worth just hiding it all in a closet? Not really – storage space in itself is a great selling point, so if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

Back to the original question: is having plenty of photos important? Assuming you’ve been good and tidied your room, then definitely.

Real estate is aspirational: people generally sell a house, then buy another, to improve their quality of life. As a vendor, you want people to look at your listing and see that buying your house will do this for them.

So help them see themselves in any room of the house by displaying photos of every room. You don’t need 20 shots of every room – an excessive number of photos will bore the viewer – but you need enough to get people thinking “you know, I can see myself living there – better call the agent and arrange a viewing time.”

So what next? If you’re unsure how many photos you need, head to the Open2view website and (as a rough guide) see how many photos houses similar to yours have listed. Then make sure your agent knows to contact us for the best real estate photos on the internet. We offer packages including photo tours of many sizes – your agent should be able to help you pick one. Finally, check out what else, of our vast range of services, can help you showcase your home at its best.

But in saying all that, if your house has features like this, no amount of photos will help.

living room with toilet

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:


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.


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.

October Property Report: house prices, LVR restrictions, Ireland, and proclamations galore

The Proclaimers

A couple of commentators take a close up look at our property market.

The fact that everybody has an opinion about the property market is both a blessing and a curse. It’s mostly a pain in the neck for me, who spends my days searching through the experts’ pronouncements for some common ground.

Here’s what these proclaimers are saying about October:


Home buyers: from misery to… more misery

Realestate.co.nz is reporting a record high mean asking price of $482,063 – up 8% on October 2012. This was driven by three of the main centres – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – who all reached regional records.

Plenty of new listings to choose from also – 13,978 of them in fact, 27% up on September and, more significantly, 10% above October 2012. People must be snapping them up fast though; inventory levels remained constant at 24.2 weeks.

Meanwhile, QV figures show an 8.9% increase in property value over the past year. The main culprits, again, are Auckland and Canterbury – up 14.5% and 11.8% respectively. Other main centres are slower to rise, while “many of the provincial and rural areas have declined in value.”

Just yesterday, REINZ announced some more record-breaking data: their median house price jumped to $407,525, driven by regional highs in (surprise surprise) Auckland, Canterbury/Westland and Waikato/Bay of Plenty. Their Stratified Housing Price Index, which adjusts for outliers in the market, shows a 9.9% price rise over October 2012.

Looking just at Auckland, Barfoot & Thompson’s data, showing an average price rise of more than $5000, was “totally expected” in their view. Their 1203 properties sold in October was 8.9% above figures from October 2012.

More interesting is the drop in median price, down $10,000 to $590,000. This is, in part, due to the extra sales of properties worth under $500,000 – up 20.6% on September. But why? As Peter Thompson explains, this “may be an indication that a large number of first time home buyers committed to entering the housing market before the new rules took full effect.”


Lending restrictions: uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah-nah

Mr Thompson is referring, of course, to the loan to value ratio (LVR) restrictions that kicked in on 1 October. How have other commentators assessed its impact?

The most interesting findings come from First National Real Estate, whose research shows a 27% drop in first timers at open homes since 1 October.

REINZ also reckons we’re seeing its effects already, though their sales and price data shows little sign of a slowdown there.

Tony Alexander’s findings, from the fortnight ending 1 November, indicate a sharp downturn in home loan approvals from the previous year. He is unsure “how much is shock, and how quickly might things revert to a new normal?”

Westpac reports similar findings, but points out that this doesn’t count pre-approvals or those resorting to second-tier borrowers. We might, they say, see a slowdown in housing turnover and credit growth next month.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Herald reported a noticeable absence of first home buyers in Auckland’s under $600,000 market. Perhaps they’re looking at different data than Barfoot & Thompson.

Conversely, QV thinks it’s too early to address the impact of LVR caps, as evidenced by their press release titled “Too early to assess the impact of LVR caps.”

Overall, the evidence suggests the signs of a slowdown are already emerging. What the ‘new normal’ will look like still remains to be seen.


Ireland: We’re gonna be (if we’re not careful)

Last decade, for various reasons, Ireland went from roaring tiger to neutered Shorthair in the blink of a smiling eye. (Ooh, poetic.)

The New Zealand Initiative is studying the role housing played in this, and what lessons it holds for our own property market.

Their findings should serve as a warning to governments, central and local, who are planning to build more houses: don’t just build them all at the lower end of the affordability scale.

Ireland’s problems started when the dotcom boom brought a similar growth spurt in population. Then, all this stuff happened (emphasis added):

That influx met a housing supply that had hardly expanded at all in the low-growth decades.

The state’s response was slow in coming, but when it did it came in the form of “build, build, build”, with central government putting pressure on local government to ensure the delivery of thousands of housing units (does this sound familiar?) in short order.

The net effect was to fragment the market. On the low end there was surge in supply, which brought prices within reach of first home buyers, but it also sated demand for these units.

Homeowners in these low-end housing units, when they were ready to trade up, found it hard to sell. And the houses they wanted to buy in the next tier up were even more expensive than ever because development activity had only focused on the type of homes that could be constructed as quickly, and as easily, as possible.

The Irish were left with a simple choice: stay in the small housing they were in but didn’t like, or borrow more to buy the housing they wanted, a situation that has many parallels with New Zealand.

It all sounds eerily familiar indeed. We hope policy makers have studied the Emerald Isle and thought about how to avoid a similar doom.


Your line here

What do you make of all these findings? Will fewer first home buyers in the market have a long term effect on prices? Are we about to repeat the mistakes of our Celtic brethren? Share your thoughts below or over on our Facebook page.

September Property Report: banks vs first home buyers, Reserve Bank vs Parliament, and supply vs demand

Cover pic 230913

One of our favourite houses from the past month, this quirky 311m2 Christchurch property is up for auction in a couple weeks. Check it out here.


The US Government may have shut down, but at Open2view we’re working hard through the always busy spring. With the warmer weather always comes an increase in houses to photograph, video, the works.

The big real estate news this month though has been the new lending restrictions for those with less than 20% saved. Has this put a dampener on the property market? Let’s find out.


The stats

According to realestate.co.nz’s NZ Property Report, the nationwide mean asking price is up 0.7% to a record $466,526. While Auckland prices dropped 0.8% the other regions picked up the slack, with Canterbury prices up by 3.2%, Waikato 3.9%, and Marlborough jumping a massive 18.6%.

It may be that buyers were getting in early to avoid the lending restrictions. If so, October’s figures could be much different.

Meanwhile, 11,000 new listings last month represents 2.7% more than August, a 1.4% drop on last September, and a 12-month total just 0.2% above the previous 12-month period. Still, then, a seller’s market.


Speaking of housing supply

Another problem with loan to value ratio restrictions:

The Master Builders Association Chief Executive, Warwick Quinn, told Bernard Hickey that builders are seeing big drop offs in new home orders in light of the new lending rules.

The MBA estimates about 15% of new homes are built for first home owners; the Reserve Bank reckons the figure is closer to 10%. Either way, if this drop off continues, that’s a lot of new homes that won’t be built.

Exemptions are often awful things to have in public policy; it’s amazing how many people can crawl through even the smallest of loopholes. But, should the Reserve Bank ever look to tweak things, they could do worse than exempting buyers who are adding to the supply of houses.


Speaking of the LVR changes

How are you all coping with the changes so far? Have you been affected, be it by this or ASB’s cancelling of low equity preapprovals?

Borrowers have every right to be mad at ASB’s announcement. Their lending has been very heavily to the under 20% bracket, so they were always going to be affected most by the new lending restrictions. Still,







Still, not all is lost for first home buyers. If lending restrictions keep interest rates and prices down for longer, that’s good news for buyers of all kinds.


Speaking of first home buyers

And it seems the Government has something up its sleeve: a plan to sell around 400 former state houses to lower-income earners in the provinces. And buyers will be subsidised up to $20,000 for the privilege.

Says the Minister:

“FirstHome will help modest income earners in provincial New Zealand buy their first home by gifting them a 10 per cent deposit and giving them priority to purchase surplus vacant state houses no longer needed by Housing New Zealand,” Dr Smith says.

“They’ll face strict conditions, including earning no more than the average income and have to own and live in the house for at least three years.

If you earn under $53,000 (or $80,600 for two or more people), this could be the deal for you. You’ll also be eligible for other assistance through KiwiSaver and the Welcome Home Loan.

The timing of the announcement is not coincidental. The Government has been public about their desire to have first home buyers excluded from the LVR changes but didn’t get their way; this policy will soften the blow for some.


Think you can tell the Reserve Bank what to do?

Some politicians have been promising to boss the Reserve Bank around on housing should they get into power.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. The Reserve Bank Act 1989 gave the Bank one goal – price stability. Governments and Governors can set targets, such as a range of acceptable inflation, but other than that how these targets are achieved is entirely up to the Reserve Bank.

There is one clause that could perhaps be used to override this by future governments. If we may sound academic for a moment… Graham and Smith (2012) pointed out that section 12 enables the government to substitute one policy objective (i.e. price stability) for another for up to 12 months. This is, they explain, “designed to allow the temporary imposition of a new objective, but to otherwise keep the same relationship between the Governor and the Minister with respect to the implementation of policy as in more normal times.”

David Cunliffe made a possible allusion to this – the “oi, look at this” clause as he described it – on Firstline this morning. So can it be used to exempt first home buyers from lending restrictions? Possibly. Will it? We may find out sometime.


Your thoughts

Is FirstHome the ideal way around lending restrictions? Does the Reserve Bank have too much power for your liking? What will become of house prices in the next year or two? Have your say below or on our Facebook page.