Where the grass is greener

By Rebecca Macfie In Current Affairs

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Ken Kilkenny and Karen Guise with Tari and Finn at their Tauranga home. Photo/David White

Secondary school teachers Karen Guise (42) and husband Ken Kilkenny (43) quit Auckland in January this year, convinced they could get more bang for their housing buck elsewhere.

The couple each owned a modest two-bedroom unit – one in Te Atatu and the other in Avondale – and were living in a rental in Ellerslie. With their toddler Finn in tow and baby Tari on the way, they wanted to buy a three-bedroom place with a bit of lawn for the children to play.

“But we knew that if we wanted to live in Ellerslie or within range of the central city, we just couldn’t afford the kind of place we wanted. We were looking at having to pay $800,000 to $1 million. We’re not on corporate wages and we just weren’t going to be able to afford that.”

As teachers, they are paid the same salaries regardless of which region they are working in, so it was a logical step to pack up and head for Tauranga, where they were able to buy a 70-year-old four-bedroom house in Welcome Bay. Ken got a job at Papamoa College and Karen, who is on maternity leave, is planning to find a job at one of the city’s schools next year.

“We love it here, and a big part of that is the fact that we’ve been able to find this home, where we’ve got a garden and can grow a few vegetables, we’ve got a view of the sea and access to the water. I want to go back to work, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to go back full-time to pay the mortgage.”

Christa and Brad Inglis-Topp also chose to opt out of the overpriced Auckland property market – two months ago they shifted to Invercargill. The two property developers say Invercargill land prices are a fraction of Auckland’s. What’s more, the Invercargill City Council doesn’t charge developer contributions for parks and reserves, which in Auckland can amount to $20,000-80,000 per section.

They have already bought a 1300sq m block of land – they don’t want to disclose the price but say an equivalent section in Auckland would cost at least 20 times as much. They have subdivided the Invercargill property into four sections on which they will develop two-bedroom kitset homes targeted at retirees. They’ve also bought a 150sq m heritage home on a 1100sq m section. It cost $80,000 and they expect to spend about $90,000 doing it up.

Invercargill presents “the perfect opportunity”, Christa says – not only for business, but also for lifestyle. “You can go out for a drink with friends and the price of a taxi home is a sixth of what it is in Auckland.”

For the full story on New Zealand’s surging property market, read this week’s Listener cover story by Rebecca Macfie: Big bang theoriesSubscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content

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