Why cashing in your Auckland property is not as easy as you think

by Greg Dixon / 28 February, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Auckland property

Before the fall: a snip at $160,000 less than we hoped. Photo/Greg Dixon

Fancy cashing in your Auckland property in the big smoke for a rural idyll? Don’t get your hopes up, says Greg Dixon.

It’s a year ago this week the Auckland property market curled up its toes and died like an old dog in the snow. Well, perhaps not the entire Auckland property market. But certainly our now-former bit of it.

On March 1 last year, our Auckland home – hardly the best in our central city suburb, but far from the worst either – was passed in at auction without a single bid being made.

The shock of it was like a punch to the guts. In an airless side office at our real-estate agent’s premises, with the next home’s auction already under way on the other side of the door, Michele and I sat staring at each other, lost for words, but each silently willing the other to say something, anything, that would make this awful, unthinkable situation better.

After three tedious weekends of open homes, after assurance upon assurance from our agents that, despite what looked to us like sluggish interest and relatively low viewing numbers, all was well and, yes, they would absolutely sell the house, and for the figure they’d named, here we were on auction day with an unsold home and a growing sense of dread.

With settlement day on our new house just 30 days away and with the marketing of our old home a demonstrable failure on auction day, we were, our lawyer quietly informed us later that afternoon, facing losing our deposit if we couldn’t settle, then paying penalty interest on the unpaid portion of the purchase price, and being required to make good the difference if our new home was later sold to someone else for less than what had been agreed.

It’s as close as we’ve ever been to financial ruin. But worse still, our hopeful, possibly mad dream of leaving dreary, humid old Auckland for a gentler, better, more fulfilling life surrounded by green and animals and quietude was now mutating into a cruel chimera.

Buying and selling houses has long been something like a sport in our biggest city, of course, a game that everyone thinks they’ve already won because owning a house in Auckland now means, on paper at least, you’re probably a millionaire. And as a rule, many Aucklanders, at least the ones lucky enough to own a home, do little to disguise their smug sense that they have a golden ticket in life’s lottery and that cashing in that ticket is easy. I suppose we were no different.

Selling up in a slowing market can be a brutal, soul-eviscerating experience. Ours was one of unfulfilled promises and a series of humiliations that began with an early, insulting offer (as it happened, from another Auckland journalist who, excuse the schadenfreude, later faced something similar) $400,000 below the agents’ estimate and ended a week after auction day when, with the settlement clock ticking, we had no choice but to accept a price that was $160,000 below the figure that, a mere eight days before, our agents had said was a fair and expected price for our home. In our anger, we asked the agents to lower their fee; to their credit, they did.

And here we are, a year on from that stuffy, godawful office, now surrounded by green and animals and – excepting the terrible chooks – quietude. Auckland’s real-estate market failed to kill the dream; the sense of bitterness is fading; and so, too, is our Aucklanders’ sense of entitlement.

Slow Train, an Aucklander who is staying with us this week, rang before coming down to talk us through his Byzantine food requirements.

“Is there anything you want me to bring down?” he inquired of me, before I handed the phone to Michele.

Not a thing, I said, and walked outside into the hot, bright Wairarapa sun.

This article was first published in the March 3, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


The drama and the trauma behind NZ musician Shayne Carter's rise to the top
107207 2019-06-15 00:00:00Z Music

The drama and the trauma behind NZ musician Shayne…

by Mike White

Shayne Carter’s career has been wild and acclaimed. But his just-released memoir reveals the drama and trauma going on behind the scenes.

Read more
Rare photos of the Straitjacket Fits by Brian Murphy
The Handmaid's Tale is so chilling, you risk hypothermia
107150 2019-06-15 00:00:00Z Television

The Handmaid's Tale is so chilling, you risk hypot…

by Diana Wichtel

Season three of The Handmaid’s Tale packs a punch, despite some implausible scenes, writes Diana Wichtel.

Read more
Christchurch mosque attacks: Accused pleads not guilty to all charges
107204 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Crime

Christchurch mosque attacks: Accused pleads not gu…

by Anneke Smith

The man accused of the Christchurch terror attacks has pleaded not guilty to all the charges laid against him.

Read more
One thing is certain: Political biffo is unavoidable in NZ Parliament
107183 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Politics

One thing is certain: Political biffo is unavoidab…

by Bevan Rapson

Despite overdue efforts to improve Parliament's culture, political biffo will always be with us.

Read more
The sweeping proposal to lower speed limits is on the skids – it's a good thing
107144 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Social issues

The sweeping proposal to lower speed limits is on…

by The Listener

Transport officials’ enthusiasm for a sweeping lowering of speed limits looks set to go the way of the once-proposed ban on cats in dairies.

Read more
Are New Zealand's intelligence agencies watching the right people?
107185 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Social issues

Are New Zealand's intelligence agencies watching t…

by Phil Pennington

New Zealanders who feel they've done nothing wrong have found themselves under surveillance by the state and say they've been left nervous.

Read more
Never Look Away: A flawed masterpiece about life in WWII-era Germany
107122 2019-06-14 00:00:00Z Movies

Never Look Away: A flawed masterpiece about life i…

by James Robins

Epic drama captures an artist navigating the upheavals of Nazi and post-war Germany.

Read more