Community Magazine

The Truth About Flat Hunting in Auckland

By Eemusings @eemusings
house hunting in auckland

By: Andy Arthur

If there’s one thing we took away from our various American hosts, it’s that you guys enjoy an insanely high standard of housing.  Your bathroom is straight out of the 70s, you say? Oh, please, spend a day a flat hunting in Auckland and you’ll realize how good you have it…

When we left, the state of property here was insane. Six months on, the market is even crazier, and there are no signs of the housing shortage abating or of any political action being taken to fix it. Yes, Mum, there’s nothing more I’d like than to buy a place of our very own, but even a standard house in humble suburbs like the one I grew up in are well over the $500,000 mark.

We’re looking for a cheap rental so we can save up for a down payment. Somewhere that won’t kill us financially – or physically. One place we looked at … well, I wouldn’t let an animal live there. Dank, filthy and creeping with mold in every room. All the other people there to look at it seemed to be new immigrants, and I worry for whoever winds up renting it. My mother has taken it upon herself to help us look through listings, and it’s cute to hear her keep muttering “If I was a landlord, I’d fix this up and …..”

We could flat with others, saving money and also getting to live in a nicer place as a result (as long as I’m not head of the house; I had that responsibility before and will never do it again). If we had our own bathroom, I think I could probably handle it. We’ve even looked at a couple of shared houses.

T isn’t so keen, however, and so we focused mainly on rental properties. Ideally:

  • around $300 a week (or less)
  • in an area where it’s easy for me to get to work (I work in the suburbs, not the CBD, so this makes things trickier, as we are a one-car household)
  • not visibly mouldy (it’s a little sad that this has to be said)
  • with a full kitchen (oven and stove, not just a hotplate)
  • mixer taps (my pet peeve is separate hot and cold faucet; I want to be able to wash my hands without either burning or freezing them)
  • off-street parking (garage would be a dream)

Beggars can’t be choosers, of course, so I was open to compromise. (And all going to plan, today we sign on the line for a tiny but very nice place, which is very affordable and includes whiteware – but has only two cooking hobs and no oven. Lots of stovetop cooking for us, then…)

But as well as being a beggar, I am also a blogger, and predisposed to ranting about things that get my goat. Here are three things that completely blow about flat hunting in Auckland.

If you don’t have a somewhat flexible job, you are shit outta luck

Agents don’t give a flying f*ck about renters.

Viewings for rental properties are always held during regular working hours, and because the market is so tight, there is only ever usually one single viewing. If you can’t make it, tough luck – it’s almost a certainty that property will be gone after that viewing to someone who DID attend. (By contrast, open homes are always on weekends – usually both Saturday AND Sunday.)

You might get lucky and find the odd property that’s managed directly by the owner, but in our experience (that is, lower end of the price range in central west Auckland) almost all rentals these days are managed by agents.

You will waste a lot of time

Compare a typical rental listing on TradeMe to a typical property for sale listing.

One will have a multitude of photos of every single room from every possible angle, and a flowery description to accompany, along with address or at least the name of the road.

One will state the bare minimum and the bleeding obvious (number of bedrooms, type of dwelling, and maybe the total move-in cost). It MIGHT list the address, but often it will simply only give the suburb. Super helpful. As for photos, there are a few rare listings that include photos of all the important rooms as well an exterior shot. Most of the time though, one of the following is true:

  • No photos at all (yes, this really happens)
  • One single photo of the exterior
  • Multiple photos of the exterior from different angles (sometimes up to about 10 – why?!)
  • Photos of the interior – bedroom and/or lounge only
  • Photos of the interior – minus the kitchen
  • Photos of the interior – minus the bathroom

I will remind you again that almost all of these are managed by agencies. I’m sure many of these amateur photos are provided by the owners, but that’s a weak excuse especially if you’re paying someone to manage your rental for you.

Then again, it hardly matters since the market is so tight that even crapholes get snapped up in a flash.

What sucks is that the managers put zero effort into the listings, forcing US to take time out from work to go along to viewings to get any sort of idea whether a place is really like inside. If we were better able to screen listings online, this would make flat hunting a lot less of a headache.

Did I mention that lots of agencies still don’t offer online application? Apparently they’re still stuck in the 1990s. Seriously – if I have to download and print a form (then scan it to email or physically deliver it to the office), then it doesn’t count, *cough Barfoot & Thompson*.

Meanwhile, house hunters have apps to get pre-approved in 10 minutes. I know there’s a lot more money to be made off buyers, but renters are people too, you know – and we need shelter over our heads just as badly.

On a budget? Then your choices range from Damp to Downright Uninhabitable

Yes, our climate is pretty dang mild compared to most part of the world. But that doesn’t mean living in an uninsulated house is healthy.

Did I ever tell you about the time we found a mushroom growing through the carpet in the hallway of our last house? I also hate to think how many spores I’ve breathed in over the past few years in the process of cleaning mold off bedroom and bathroom ceilings (and walls, come to think of it). I met up with a Kiwi friend while she was over in San Francisco at the same time we were, and we collectively marvelled at how warm and dry it was inside American houses.

If there wasn’t such a shortage of (affordable) property, maybe landlords would sort out their act. But there is, and so there’s no incentive to.

Please, share your other big city renter sob stories in the comments. Let’s wallow together.


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