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Mar 17

Will the Next Generation of Kiwis Opt Out of Home Ownership?

I’ve been on a bit of financial planning binge over the last several months. This was prompted by a bunch of books I’ve been reading including the books from the ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad‘ series and a bunch of investment books (including shares, bonds and property).

Meanwhile there has been a house price spike in Auckland, New Zealand as can be seen from the tail end of the graph below (data from Barfoot & Thompson).

Interestingly, during this period, total returns are 21% or 4.2% per annum. Adjust that for inflation and you got a 1.8% return on your investment, hardly amazing. But that’s a subject for another post.

Auckland Housing Prices (Average Selling Price)

Average Selling Prices for Houses in Auckland sold by Barfoot & Thompson

Back in 2005 when we bought our current house (a 3 bedroom house on a small section on Auckland’s North Shore) we were able to get it with a mortgage of about 3.5 times our combined income. We then went overseas for a couple of years and came back ready to have our first child. Fortunately, my income had increased, so we could still afford our mortgage (3.7 times income).

These days, with two growing pre-schoolers, a wife who’s just finished studying and is returning to work our mortgage is a very healthy 2.3 times income.

Here’s the issue, like many of our peers (and generations before us) we’re now growing out of our 3 bedroom house on a cross leased section.

In previous generations they may have just added an extension (not possible with so little land) or simply moved to another house with only a marginal increase in their mortgage.

Even though our house price has to some extent kept up with house price increases, acquiring a four bedroom house on a full section in our neighbourhood would require us to increase our mortgage by 82%.

This would mean our mortgage was now 4.3 times earnings, without the likelihood of the dramatic salary increases possible in the earlier years of your career. [Note, this site suggests 2 – 2.5 times gross earnings].

Hillcrest Weatherboard House

This is actually the house we’ve most liked in our area. Well above the 4.3 ratio though!

So what am I saying?

There’s a lot written about housing affordability and the fact that people can’t afford a first home. I’m looking on one step further, even if you can afford a small first home, based on two incomes, what future can you look forward to when kids come along and you eventually need a bigger place?

The answer is pretty clear to me, either:

  • A lot more middle class New Zealand families will be renting their homes in the future (maybe from overseas residents (again a topic for another post))
  • A lot more middle class families will be forced to live outside Auckland
  • There will be a major correction in house prices as people refuse to pay the unaffordable prices
  • Many families will undertake a massive (possibly unsustainable) debt burden that will negatively influence their entire life.

The last point is the one I worry about. What does a society look like where families are toiling under the pressure of their massive mortgages? Unable to take holidays, struggling to put food on the table, unable to even think about supporting their community (either financially or in time)?

That’s why, I would encourage my peers and those just starting out their adult life to seriously think whether the traditional aspiration of house ownership is still relevant.


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  1. Jeremy

    I’m already consigned to this. There is no way that I’ll be able to afford to by a place any time in the foreseeable, and prices just keep going up.

    Maybe if I move back to kaikohe, but then it’ll be a four hour commute to work. Each way.

  2. Pete

    Never say never…there are quite a few people who have been (wrongly) forecasting the bubble bursting for a long time now. It hasn’t happened, so you can’t live your life hoping it will, but never say never.

    Rest assured, when you think it’s the worst time to buy a house, it will probably be the right time.

    Plus, there are always other ways of getting financially ahead other than property…think direct investment in any other number of assets (shares, private equity etc).

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