Hard News by Russell Brown


The Boom Crash

If you need a metaphor for Auckland in 2014, try this. So many people clamoured this morning to search for their new property valuations that they brought down the entire Auckland Council website. We broke government.

To be fair, the 2014 valuations have been so extensively and enthusiastically trailered to us by the city's newspaper that it was no wonder that on the day they finally arrived, we went and had a look.

I got in before the rush and was able to get a valuation out before the whole show came crashing down.

"Darling," I called out from the office. "We're property millionaires."

Actually, that much had been obvious for a year or two. But it was still a weird sensation reading that the not-exactly-level and somewhat unkempt 632 square metres of dirt on which our ex-state house sits nearly doubled in value to $800,000 in the past three years. The house itself hasn't fared so well with the valuers -- the "value of improvements" on the land has actually fallen $30,000 to $230,000 -- which happens to be not much more than we borrowed from the bank four years ago to refurbish and extend the place so our boys could finally have their own bedrooms.

The ideal Auckland property investment strategy seems to be living in a shoebox and trying not to mess up the expensive dirt underneath it.

Overall, our cv has risen 39% in three years, meaning our rates will rise again next year, by about 5%. This is plainly nuts, and it's not even what the place would fetch on the market if we sold up, which we have no intention of doing. If the government directs Housing NZ to to flog off the five remaining state properties in the street, I guess our little cul de sac will go full millionaire alley. The days of the tinny house on the corner and the guy making homebake heroin over the road will seem a long, long way away by that point.

We've been living here since 1998 and we love the Chev, but if we were that young family again, we'd have no show of buying a house here. I don't really see how we'd be in with a shot within a 15 or 20km radius. This can't go on, surely.

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