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What drives Kiwis into buying rather than renting?

This is the third in a series of guest posts on housing affordability from Luch JH, you can see the others here and here.

As I discussed in my last blog post, I think one of the big questions we need to confront when we talk about improving housing affordability in Auckland is why it is that so many people in New Zealand are determined to buy their own homes.

It’s important not to generalize here: Clearly not all Kiwis want to buy their own homes but it’s pretty obvious from what you see in the media and the little bit of research you can find that many do.

As I discussed earlier, the determination of NZers to buy their own homes is creating some economic problems for us a country. It’s also not entirely normal in an international context: For example, this paper mentions that Germany, although a relatively prosperous country, has pretty low rates of home ownership. Several other European countries, such as France, also have pretty low levels of home ownership: In these countries, renting for life is not necessarily seen as a terrible thing to do.

So I thought it might be useful to discuss what factors drive young couples (and others) to buy their own house in Auckland. I don’t want to talk about the financial factors (such as our lack of a capital gains tax) that make buying more attractive than renting because I’ve already discussed those as have many other much better qualified people.

Instead I wanted to talk about the quality of life issues, which get discussed less often. In particular, I’m drawing on the experiences of a lot of my friends who have recently become young parents and (I don’t think this is a coincidence) have also bought houses.

Stability of tenure. In New Zealand, unlike some European countries, it’s virtually unheard for people to be able to get an indefinite or even a 5 or 10 year rental lease. The most you are likely to get is a 12 month contract. Landlords can, and often do, ask you to move for a variety of reasons at short notice. Obviously, knowing you could be asked to move suddenly is problematic for everybody. But it’s particularly frightening for couples who have young children and don’t want them to have to change schools. Being sure they an stay close to their extended family is also a big consideration for lots of young parents. I have friends who literally couldn’t work if their Mum/sister didn’t help out baby-sitting. But this kind of help is only really viable if your family live on the same side of the city as you.

Predictability of costs. Since we don’t have long-term tenure, landlords can raise your rent every year so long as it is within “market rates” for that area. I think what scares people of my generation about this is that ever since we’ve been old enough to take an interest (I turned 17 in 2000) house prices in Auckland have been rising. So we assume this will go on for ever, particularly given the number of articles like this you see in the Herald. On the other hand, people know that if they get a mortgage, and particularly if they get a fixed interest rate, they can accurately predict how much they will have to pay.

I don’t know what we need to do to reform our tenancy law so that more landlords offer long term leases which give both security of tenure and predictable costs. But let’s find out and do it!

Our rental properties are cold and damp and they are making our children sick. In theory, it may be possible to find a warm, dry, affordable rental property in Auckland. In practice, I don’t actually know anybody who’s ever lived in one. Brian Fallow cites a report by Statistics NZ in which “two-thirds of renters said they had major problems with their housing, such as being too damp, too cold, too small or far from their work.” A report by BRANZ compared rental and private housing in NZ. They found the rental housing was in significantly worse condition. The take up by landlords of insulation grants has been also incredibly low – just 25,000 or 5% of rental properties have been insulated, as opposed to 215,000 privately owned houses.

Obviously, being warm and dry matters to us all but it matters to parents with young children more than most. For example, recently my friend who has a one year old baby moved from her cold, dark apartment to a nice dry sunny house. Her baby is already sleeping and breathing better. If you buy your own house you can insulate, install extractor fans, put in double glazing and generally make your house liveable.

Both National and Labour have talked about requiring landlords to insulate their rentals. Let’s do it!

Our rental laws offer very little protection to tenants. I have lived in houses with illegal wiring and plumbing and I know many others who have done the same. In other countries, such as Britain, landlords have a legal obligation to do regular inspections of the electricity and gas systems of their rental properties to ensure they’re safe to live in. NZ needs something similar.

Lack of access to shared green space. Renters, particularly renters with children, value access to green space. Many Auckland rental properties don’t provide this. In fact, a lot of Auckland units actually do have green space around them but it’s not fenced. That means parents can’t let kids play outside (even watching through the window) as they’re afraid they might stray into the driveway. If you buy your own property, you can fence the garden and let your kids play outside.

So to recap: Why don’t young Aucklanders, and in particular couples with children, want to rent?
Well, basically because it sucks. This is particularly true if you are in the lower half of our income distribution and you can’t afford to rent a cosy little brick unit. It also makes no financial sense.

What do you think? Am I overstating how bad it is to rent in Auckland? Do you think our tenancy laws are weak compared to other countries?

36 comments to What drives Kiwis into buying rather than renting?

  • “So to recap: Why don’t young Aucklanders, and in particular couples with children, want to rent?” Because this young Aucklander along with his wife chose to purchase their solid 3 bedroom ex-army house in Papakura – that is near the Town Centre and Railway Station for $287,000 (with a resale value of $350,000) as we wanted the security and freedom to do as we choose (within the District Plan of course) on our own property. That means painting the house to our colours, landscaping and growing fruit and veges as we want and require, able to keep egg laying chickens, able to have the cat with us (who is sleeping right now), retrofitting as we see fit with HRV systems and insulation and able to achieve that rather illusive goal for most “Freehold” (in the mortgage free sense).

    Simply put, owning the house gives us the stability and freedom we do not find with renting (and we did rent before purchasing). Owning a house or rather property also gave us the leverage to afford capital items such as the retrofitting and landscaping – and now a nice break to Aussie after a hard year’s work (sitting on a revolving loan).

    Look I am playing devils advocate and giving the flip side on the reason why we went at full speed saving a deposit for our first house, and now full speed in getting rid of the mortgage.

    Yes renting has its place – and heck our renting stock is crap and needs a mega overhaul as the author said. But home ownership has its place too :D

  • Other points in favour of home ownership: you can make adaptations to your property to suit your needs, and you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to have pets.

    I have resigned myself to never being able to afford a house as long as I live in Auckland, but if I ever have any investment capital you can make damn sure it’ll be going into a market much less overdue for a bubble than property, and then I’ll be able to afford pretty good rent.

    • Svartmetall

      Renters in Sweden can make any modification they see fit without asking permission if they have a “first hand contract” – IE they are the sole renter and it isn’t a sub-let and pet restrictions don’t exist. It really does depend upon the rental laws in the country that you are in.

  • Poul Tvermoes

    As a town planner who often gets involved in master plans for cities I find the whole housing situation rather poor in Aukland but then it was not the best while I was living in Wellington for three years either in terms of what was available in the market to rent, most in very poor condition. If you look at Aukland and the new strategic plan for the city whole areas could be rezoned for apartment or town house construction, but it would mean a big change in how those areas looked and operated. Doing something like that would increase the supply of housing (accommodation) available and I would hope the quality would be good. Point in case though is that many baby boomers would fight such an idea tooth and claw, primarily because as you exponentially increase available supply of housing, you increase options to rent or bye and decrease demand which then drives down cost. Not the desired outcome if you have a few investment properties you hope to sell as they increase in value , to fund retirement or extensions to your mcmansion. This is a simplification but a its core f you increase supply, demand is met and then decreases for rental properties it will have an affect on rent; prices too.

    If for example you increased overall density and accommodation types that could be built in Grey Lynn and Parnell as an of right, say 4 story apartments, with a mix of 1 2 and 3 bedroom places not requiring a resource consent, the shift and impact would be interesting indeed.

  • Dan

    I think the low quality of rental stock is the big one — that Branz report on the subject is very interesting thanks. This sentence from the summary jumped out at me: “The average cost of repairs and maintenance required to address aspects of the houses in the survey in poor or serious condition was $9,700 for rentals and $8,000 for owner occupied houses. This may be due in part to rentals requiring repairs or maintenance to more expensive components than owner occupied houses.”
    $9700 really isn’t much money when you own a house. A $14 per week mortgage would pay that off. It suggests to me many landlords are just too lazy or haven’t done the sums when thinking about what is sensible. I’d strongly support measure to have minimum standards for rentals.

    Predictability of costs — most landlords won’t impose large jumps in rent. You need to factor in about 3-4% per year. Mortgages aren’t very predictable either.

    Stability of tenure. Not sure about this as a major factor. Imposing strong rules can discourage people renting out their property if they are uncertain about their future. How many people do you know have actually asked for a long term contract with their landlord?

  • Uncertainty.

    Fine when you’re 20, boring when you’re 40.

    It also makes more sense to pay rent to yourself…

    • Ash

      The uncertainty you mention is clearly more of a cultural thing, and/or a result of the legal status and protections for tenants vs. landlords in NZ, as many people go their whole lives without buying homes in some European countries.

  • The “do what you want” thing is a big one. The evidence that pets are good for your health is unequivocal, but there are plenty of landlords who won’t countenance their tenants owning anything that can’t be kept in a cage or a tank 24/7.
    NZ tenancy law also doesn’t provide for tenants to make improvements to the property without the permission of the landlord and, if they do, they forego any participation in gaining from improved capital value. In parts of Europe it’s normal for a family to rent for decades, and if the landlord sells the tenants get some of the money that’s come from any improvements they’ve made to the place.

  • It works both ways, I always offer my new tenants a long term lease but the most any ever sign for is one year. I’d love to sign someone up for say, five years with fixed 2% rent increase per year. I’ve also offered to repaint and redecorate to their liking on a long lease. Never get any takers. Maybe many renters actually appreciate the flexibility of shorter term renting?

    I must say however that my tenants are typically couples or singles without children, if I had the sorts of places that appeal to larger families then it might be a different story.

  • mm

    We rent on an open-term lease at the moment – ie. there’s no fixed timespan, we just let the landlord know when we want to move on (or if he wants to kick us out!). it has worked well so far (2 years) but I guess it depends on the landlord/tenant relationship. On the weekend I cleaned the outdoor steps/railings and we look after the garden and clean the windows, which is not really our responsibility I think, but we don’t mind doing that kind of basic stuff. although, as a DINKY, we definitely feel the pull of house ownership, especially when it comes time for kids, so we are saving for a house deposit. renting feels like you are in limbo but at least you don’t have to worry about the cost of major repairs. luckily we are allowed a cat and we’ll replace the (slightly) torn net curtains when we leave!

  • After reading the paper on Germany, I would speculate that many people in Germany also would prefer to own if you asked them….
    The kicker is the loan value ratios banks will lend, which require a 35-40% Deposit !!!!!!

    The average detached house prices in Germany is ~200K Euro , so to buy a house you need to have up to 80K Euro knockig around in the bank, – that means a number of years of serious saving, So it is no wonder the demand for renting is so strong…..

    • Yes. Demand = Desire + Affordability. To talk about ‘what people want’ divorced from costs is to say nothing at all.

      Hence all that nonsense spouted by Andrew Atkin; lots of people might very well desire a country estate, oh and servants, and Ferraris, and never working again, and the rest, but this doesn’t constitute demand unless they can afford it.

  • jonno1

    I’m surprised at the claim that most rentals are cold, damp etc. For example, I doubt that Kim Dotcom would put up with that when he’s paying $20k/month rent. I keep my rentals in good nick which has the bonus of retaining tenants longer term. But as others have noted, most tenants don’t want long term contracts. I’ve insulated my flats, well, the ceilings anyway – didn’t use the govt scheme as the approved suppliers simply load their prices, it was cheaper to do it through a regular builder. Also installed heat pumps.

    Contrary to the claim in the post, the Tenancy Act actually mitigates against landlords, so it pays to be super careful when selecting tenants, or many thousands of dollars can disappear very quickly. Also, the notice requirement is much less onerous for the tenant, who often gives notice about this time of year so you’re stuck with a vacant property till late January! (Maybe not at the moment, as demand is high).

    As for maintenance, on average I do a major renovation about every seven years, which costs a couple of months’ rent as well. The overall yield is actually pretty low, so without long-term capital gain no-one would be a landlord. Oddly, rentals deteriorate much faster than owner-occupied homes – I’m not saying the tenants are intentionally rough (well, some are), but a lack of accountability seems to filter through into behaviour somehow. My flats have plenty of green space, and I pay for the lawns to be mowed & hedges cut.

    • RHarris

      I see alot of properties all over Auckland and generally if its a rental it’s a mess especially out of central Auckland. I see people living in all sorts of holes. Some landlords seem to think its ok to treat tenants like animals cos “it’s just a rental”. Half the time the place is a mess cos landlords want to bleed every last cent they can out of the place, the other half may want to tidy places up but its difficult with tenants in the place.

      There are a few bank economists out there who promote renting over ownership. The upside of renting is the flexibility. One bank economists rents as its cheaper and investments the savings in other areas for his retirement. Rent can also be tax deductible.

      • jonno1

        Heh, I must move in different circles RH as many of my friends have rentals (usually just one or two) and they all look after both their properties and their tenants. Then there are the state house tenants who (a) make a real mess both inside & out, and (b) seem to think they have some inalienable right to a lifetime of taxpayer support. But that’s another story!

        • RHarris

          Yes there are good landlords and places out there but geez I see some horrors. Going into places in summer and the people coughing cos the place is still cold and damp. You can see the mould on the walls and heaters in the rooms. Landlords also hid behind the defense that they would have to put up the rent if the house was clean, warm and tidy.

          They have the Renters crap on TV, I’m sure there could be one for Landlords instead of making just renters look like scum.

          • jonno1

            I have encountered mould, in fact I have completely replaced the ceilings in a couple of units, which is partly why I’ve also installed heat pumps and ceiling fans. But there’s another side, which is lack of ventilation. The tenants go out to work, leave the place shut up tight, come home & cook dinner etc, then wonder why there’s mould. Similarly showering without opening any windows (I’ve installed extractor fans attached to the lighting, but they still have to turn it on!). I’ve had to include mould removal as one of the tenancy conditions. It’s a no-brainer really, but some people just don’t get it…

          • The Trickster

            My current place and landlord are both awesome, however the last place I was in is exactly as RHarris described – mould and cold issues to the point that the two options as a flat were $400-500 powerbills a month during winter or wearing 3 layers and having a sleeping bag over a duvet, two thick wollen blankets and sheets just to keep warm at night – our house during winter was regularly colder inside than it was outside.

            The hot water cylinder previous to being replaced (according to the plumber it was literally days away from blowing up) wasn’t secured properly, it looked like the piles on the house hadn’t been seen to in at least 30 years and the main support for the roof over the porch didn’t reach the ground anymore – there were floorboards you could feel flexing beneath your feet (not in a normal way, but in a “am I going to go through the floor as a 72kg bloke way), and a fairly sizeable hole in the bathroom wall.

            To get anything sorted (due to the landlord being overseas) often took months and the property management company were tits useless at passing anything on.

            Only good thing about the place was the location (very close to Newmarket shops).

            So yeah, that place would’ve been great for a show called “Slumlords”.

  • I notice a unit near me had “Max Tenants 2″ listed as part of the advertisement. I remember reading a story recently about problems in Australia where people had similar clauses in their agreements and then got chucked out because their circumstances changed ( new partner, custody of children, etc) and went over the threshold.

    I thought it was especially weird since the property in question is 2 bedrooms and could easily hold a couple plus another ( or even two ). I guess the landlord doesn’t want a dozen people squeezing into the flat but I’d be interested if others know if these clauses cause people problems?

    • jonno1

      I specify a maximum of three persons (2 bdrm flats), mainly because of wear and tear. But I’m pretty relaxed about two kids, or Aunty visiting for a month, as long as I know about it. Ditto “no pets” but I can live with cats and goldfish. Not dogs though – had the beautiful polished kitchen floor of a Remuera house destroyed by a dog’s claws (not to mention the tenant’s stiletto heels). As in any business context, communication/relationship is a big part of the deal.

  • LucyJH

    Jonno1 it’s great to hear you are a conscientious landlord. I guess my point is that actually the research suggests most landlords are not like you. In fact, very few landlords have had their properties insulated recently under the HeatSmart programme, far fewer than private home owners.

    With regards to tenure, I think this is a circular problem, landlords don’t offer long term leases in NZ (unlike Europe), and so that means most people see renting as a short-term option so they’re reluctant to invest in their properties. And to be honest, I do think it’s about the quality of what is available to be rented. Have rented quite a few properties in Auckland and recently while I was looking for a unit I visited a lot more places. Frankly, there weren’t many places i saw that I would like to stay in long-term. I am probably down the lower end of the market but I guess that’s my point – if renting sucks for a lot of NZers, why would we expect them to do it?

    • jonno1

      Hi Lucy, well you and RHarris above clearly have a lot more hands-on experience than I do (I haven’t rented since uni days; bought my first house at 23). Having said that, I’ve been tempted (slightly) to sell in this inflated market and rent for a while until the market tanks. Then I think, “What if I can’t find a suitable place?”. So I’m probably arguing against myself there! Another option is to sell down to release a few hundy, but then what to do with the surplus cash?

      • What to do with the cash? Invest it in a kiwi company or two.

        It’s what we should be doing, and what successive administrations should’ve been carrot-and-stickinging us towards..

        • jonno1

          Well, yes, fair enough in theory, except that the NZ stock market is so shallow. There’s an awful lot of dodgy management too, and certain directors whom I avoid at all costs! The shareholder pool is pretty naive as well, if some of the proposals they agree to are anything to go by.

  • SteveC

    as an older poster, I have to say that being freehold certainly beats paying rent

  • axio

    I personally think the current situation favours landlords too heavily. A cursory glance at the law might suggest a level of fairness, but I think that fails to recognize the imbalance in the power relationship between tenant and landlord. For a landlord a rental is income, largely in a market with more demand than supply, so they have little incentive to make improvements. If there is a problem for a landlord it is likely to be an inconvience – even in the worst case insurance would come to the party ensuring any investment losses are minor (compared with capital cost). For tenants this is home and a problem means finding a new home, no mean feat in the current market, and upending a life at short notice. So as a result tenants aren’t in a position to threaten or damage the relationship because they have far far more to lose. Disputes tribunal actions and the like aren’t much compensation for the drama and emotional upheaval of an unstable home.

    Certainly ancedotes suggest that private landlords in NZ by and large are awful. A friend of mine rented in Greenhithe, off the city water grid, and the landlord was lazy about fixing a leaky pipe resulting in the need to cart in replacement water for an empty tank costing my friend $150. Yes he could take them to the disputes tribunal, but if he wanted other things fixed then that was going to further damage the relationship. Another couldn’t get a cracked (and with a hole in it) window fixed in Wellington. And tenancy agreements tend to limit the tenant from making repairs themselves without permission.

    Our current rental law is poor. I would like to see annual certificates of fitness applied to all rental properties with landlords required to remedy any failings with 30 days or be liable for all costs restoring them (including paying for alternative accomodation for tenants). I’d expect this to be phased in over 5 years so there is time to remedy current deficencies. And if the net result is that the state or large building socities become the primary landlords in this country then I think that is for the better. The best landlords I’ve had have always been professional property managers who know they have to play by the rules because their reputation depends on it.

    • I disagree axio, the system is incredibly in favour of the tenant. I’ve had plenty of problems with tenants who just don’t care, and no recourse against them. I had one guy who decided to just stop paying rent. It took me nine weeks of faffing about with HNZ to get the right to evict him, by which time he had left the country. I wasn’t allowed to enter the property, couldn’t touch his stuff, couldn’t stop him from leaving. There are a heap of regulations that protect the rights of the tenant, even when they are in the wrong.

      In another case one place sprung a periodic leak from a kitchen pipe. The tenants didn’t bother to mention it, they just let it leak for a month. I asked them why, they said they were moving out so it didn’t bother them. I had to recarpet the adjacent living room, repair a large section of wall and repaint the room, and get all the kitchen wiring inspected. If they’d told me about the leak the first time it happened I would have had it fixed that night, instead they let the house rot for weeks. Thousands in damage which I had to pay out of my pocket because the law says maintenance is my problem yet the people living there are absolved of any responsibility of not notifying me…. but also a landlord cannot inspect the property more than once every four weeks, and must give written notice in advance. If you have tenants that just don’t care about the house they live in there is basically nothing you can do.

      I try to keep my places looking nice (certainly helps when letting them) but it is often hard to justify spending much on improvements when the next bunch could just trash the whole lot. I would definitely favour longer term leases and more permanent arrangements in that regard. especially one where there is more onus for the resident to not partially destroy the house they are living in (two weeks bond certainly doesn’t cover half the problems disinterested tenants cause). I would love to have people who treat my rentals like their own home, and I’d be willing to do things a lot differently if they did.

      Now I don’t want to just gripe, I realise bad tenants are something you just have to deal with (and they are the exception, most are actually quite good), but I strongly disagree that the current situation favours landlords.

      • axio

        I agree there are awful tenants with scant respect for the (or really any) property. I would suggest in some cases the lack of care is a symptom of a system that promotes short term agreements (RTA can kick someone out of their home with 6 weeks notice if property is needed by owner) and therefore lack of meaningful attachment to the property by the tenants. As mentioned, many RTAs also prevent the tenant from doing anything about the problem themselves, further reducing any feelings of ‘ownership’ in their environment.

        But my point is to look at the two scenarios: in your (bad tenant) scenario it cost you money. I don’t know how geared you are (and overgearing is a whole separate investment issue), but odds are if you can afford an investment property then you can afford some losses. Ultimately your personal and financial security shouldn’t be heavily threatened. Whereas in the bad landlord scenario, the tenants financial security is threatened as they have less money to deal with problems (such as the water one mentioned above) or to take legal action, and their personal security is threatened because they risk losing their home and needing to uproot at short notice. Yes it sucks either way, but for a tenant it means loss of shelter which I consider to be a much bigger price than repairs.

      • axio

        One might also say that there is something wrong with legislation that leaves all parties involved feeling equally powerless.

  • Owen Thompson

    I don’t want to retire at 67, start receiving Super and still be paying rent. A freehold house is important to me as weekly living costs are very low. It is also an asset for others to inherit.

    • Ash

      I understand that sentiment Owen, but let’s keep in mind that the typical mortgage ends up costing, IIRC, about double the principal once interest is factored in. For a mortgage on a $500,000 home, that’s $1,000,000 paid to the bank over the typical mortgage lifetime, meaning that on top of the return of their original loan they receive an additional $500,000 or so from you.

      The opportunity cost of that $500,000 is an interesting proposition. It has been argued that if the money was invested in something delivering a higher rate of return (e.g. bonds or stocks) that you would likely come out better off. It would also probably help struggling Kiwi firms raise capital.

      The erstwhile inexorable rise in house prices has meant this homes are still a good proposition for many who lack the discipline and/or nous to invest in less common alternatives, but will it remain so? We’re quite likely going to see capital gains and/or land taxes at some point in the future, and with the unsteady trajectory of the global economy, all bets are off as to how the various asset classes will perform. There is a housing shortage at present, but normally the market will step in to remedy such a supply shortfall, which in Auckland’s case means finally developing the economies of scale in higher density dwellings we’ve lacked, as infill land is freed up along transport corridors.

    • Ash

      And let’s keep in mind that the NZ housing market (esp. that in Auckland) is presently experiencing a fair amount of speculative over-inflation thanks to the obvious tax benefit in property!

  • Becs

    Great blog post!! And agree with everything you said! I just want to add a couple of things. Landlords can put the rent up every 6 months, as has happened to us, with 4 monthly inspections – they can inspect once per month if they want to! Plus we just got evicted for politely challenging our landlord increasing the rent and for asking her not to come over every week / week and a half to do various jobs. We could take her to the tenancy tribunal but the whole experience has been so awful and stressful that I just want to get out and move on. This is the other problem. While tenants have rights it is often too much stress to fight for them. We have now found a place to live that is smaller and more expensive than where we are currently living. I am really sad renter with too small a deposit to buy a house ;-( We need some serious regulation in the rental market as the market has gone crazy!

    • Interesting, we have people complaining that landlords don’t do maintenance or look after the place, and other people complaining when landlords do do regular maintenance!

      One thing to note about home ownership is that it’s not all rosy when it comes to cost increases. While landlords are forbidden to put up the rent more than once every six months (and it must nominally be no more than market rates), there is nothing to stop banks increasing mortgate rates every day if the need to. Interest rates are currently pretty low and fairly stable, but in the 90s and 00s they varied from 6%-12%. At the average house price in Auckland, a 1% increase in the mortgage rate translates to about $100 extra in payments a week.

  • LX

    Renting Germany is a whole different paradigm. People rent an empty white apartment often with no light fittings and even the kitchen is an empty room with just a sink and stove.

    Tenants paint it, put in their own kitchen cabinets and fit out the apartment as they see fit.

    When they move out that have to paint it back white and take out all their fitting so it is a blank space for the next tenant.

    Rent increases are controlled and can generally only be increased by more than a set amount each year if the owner does major improvements to the building.

    The effect of this is that rents tend to rise slower than inflation so in real terms the cost of the rent declines the longer you stay in an apartment.

    This answers the question of retirees on fixed incomes. If you have stayed in the same apartment for many years by the time you retire your rent may be quite low.

    This also is a good reason why people stay in the same rental apartment long term as the longer you stay the cheaper the rent becomes.

    The ownership of apartment buildings is also I understand very different. Generally owned by big institutions such as retirement funds which take a long term view of the return in investment. The buildings are also often purpose built for these long term institutional owners and as a result are built to be robust low maintenance structures which makes them more cost effective long term. Standard NZ detached family homes on the other hand are not really designed to be tenanted long term and tend to be relatively flimsy and high maintenance. Ok for an owner occupier with some DIY ability but not so good when tenanted.

    • jonno1

      Totally agree LX. A German friend of mine (lives in Munich) was a property manager for one of these big firms and confirms all you have said. Ironically, he is reluctant to leave his large apartment for one closer to his current work, as the next one would cost more for a smaller apartment.

      Presumably the property companies have a spread, and at least some churn, otherwise their returns would continually diminish. Same problem in New York where certain properties have permanently fixed rents.

      Your point about high maintenance costs for most NZ properties is well-made. I read somewhere that the average NZ home costs about $3000pa to maintain properly, which I think is about right.

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