Houses: what your money buys
By EMMA PAGE - Sunday Star Times
Last updated 08:23 24/01/2010

House prices have hit a record high, eclipsing the boom-time peak and indicating that although the number of houses for sale is down, demand is strong. But what do you get for your money?

New Real Estate Institute figures shows that last month the national median house price hit $360,000, well up on the December 2008 median of $328,500.

To illustrate exactly what the new median price could buy you, the Sunday Star-Times went around the country looking for houses on the market for $360,000.

In the five featured regions, chosen because they represented high-, low- and middle-range housing prices, results varied from a two-bedroom apartment in downtown Auckland to a four-bedroom, two bathroom house on almost a quarter-acre in Invercargill.

Agents in the major centres also painted very different pictures of what $360,000 could net. A three-bedroom family home with a garage and a decent section was still a reality in Wellington and Christchurch in suburbs relatively close to the city centre. But the outlook with $360,000 was bleaker in Auckland with buyers having to consider outer suburbs.

In the City of Sails, where the median house price is $470,000, online searches in desirable suburbs such as Remuera, Herne Bay or Mt Eden returned either no results or very simple units or apartments. The inner city provided a wider range of options.

REINZ Auckland spokeswoman Glorianne Campbell said although $360,000 would secure something small in the central city, buyers who were prepared to go to the fringe suburbs such as Henderson, Mangere, Otahuhu or Ranui could secure a three-bedroom home.

In the capital, Wellington Harcourts sales manager Antonia Brown said $360,000 would hook "a nice little first home" in suburbs relatively close to the city such as the south end of Karori and Johnsonville, whereas in the inner city it buys a two-bedroom apartment. Properties around the $360,000 mark (less than the $400,000 median for the city) represented a "very active end of the market".

There was a range of three-bedroom, solid homes available for $360,000 in Christchurch. Harcourts Papanui director John McFadden said so far this month his company had sold 10 properties in that price bracket with another 14 under offer.

The Christchurch median was $347,250 so $360,000 could secure a good permanent material, three-bedroom home in suburbs such as St Albans, Avonhead, Belfast, Bryndwr and Burnside – including a decent-sized section.

Away from the main centres things looked instantly brighter. In the Hawke's Bay, agent Simon Tremain said buyers spending around $360,000 were usually buying their second home and that price could net a tidy, character property on a large section.

In Invercargill, Professionals general manager Jon Irving said $360,000 represented the upper-middle of the market and would secure a three- or four-bedroom home with a garage and good-sized section in a popular area.

But the picture changed slightly when buyers were trying to stretch their $360,000 to the coastal holiday market. In the Coromandel that could buy a caravan on a piece of land. At popular surf beach Whangamata, agent Steve Morrison had a "classic old" two-bedroom bach for sale at $359,000, with a basic kitchen and bathroom.

WHAT $360,000 BUYS YOU

KELSTON, WEST AUCKLAND

Asking price: $359,000

Description: Three-bedroom, one bathroom, 913m2 section

Waitakere median: $385,000

Comment: Charming family home set on fully fenced level section with indoor-outdoor flow and private garden with double garage.

CENTRAL AUCKLAND

Sold for: $360,000

Description: Two-bedroom, one bathroom, 57m2 apartment with a carpark

Auckland City median: $520,000

Comment: Spacious two-bedroom apartment on Albert St. Gym on site, 23rd floor with city and harbour views.

WHANGAMATA

Asking price: $359,000

Description: Two-bedroom, one bathroom holiday bach on a 407m2 section

Thames-Coromandel median: n/a

Comment: Entry-level holiday home, walking distance from the beach.

HASTINGS

Negotiation range: $355,000-$365,000

Description: Four-bedroom, two bathroom, large garage on full section

Hastings City median: $306,500

Comment: Beautifully refurbished 1930s' home, large garage could be turned into outside room or studio. Near Cornwall Park.

INVERCARGILL

Asking price: $357,000

Description: Four double bedroom plus office on 966m2 section

Invercargill median: $189,025

Comment: Immaculately presented family home on large section with double garage and open plan kitchen, dining, living area and heat pump.

From here.