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Returning Aucklanders find good deals on homes in the city

Former Auckland residents miss the bustling City of Sails and look to return.

27 July 2022

The Eastern Bays are perceived to be expensive, but that’s not always the case.

Whenever Aucklanders move out of town to try living in another part of the country, perhaps in the regions, people warn them they may never be able to afford to buy back in the City of Sails. And it’s something that can put some off, but a lot of Aucklanders have nevertheless heard the call to the regions in the last couple of years and gone for it anyway.

Unsurprisingly, some are making their way back to the nation’s largest city, missing their family and friends, the lifestyle that’s possible in this attractive, bustling town.

Barfoot & Thompson agent, Paul Neshausen who specialises in the Eastern Bays (Orakei, Kohimarama, Mission Bay, St Heliers and Glendowie) says one of the biggest groups of buyers he’s helping at the moment – around 20% of his clients – are Aucklanders who’ve gone off, tried out a new place and decided they want back in.

His colleague Allie Hooper agrees. She’s currently helping returning Aucklanders from Hawke’s Bay who are looking at homes in Orakei and Mission Bay, while she’s recently advised another client who moved back to Auckland and bought in Glendowie at a very good price.

People went to Queenstown, to the Mount or to the Hawke’s Bay, they did the wine trails, and figured out they missed Auckland, says Paul. “There’s just not enough going on, what if they want to see a show or a movie?” he says. Plus they miss their families.

His clients tell him: “It took us a year and we figured out they miss Auckland,” he says. “They’ve decided, actually, it’s worth tolerating the traffic in Auckland,” says the Barfoot’s agent.

He gets it, he and his family moved to Pauanui for a year but that was it.

“You realise there’s not that much on offer, (especially in the winter). All the family and friends are miles away and there’s only so many beach walks you can take,” he adds.

Returning Aucklanders whose kids have left home tend to want somewhere that’s lock ‘n leave and low maintenance, that’s close to the village and maybe has a lift, says the Barfoot’s agent.

“Lots of people think they can’t afford to live in the Bays but, actually, there’s a good percentage of homes in the early $1 million price range. And you’re in decile 10 school zones and a five minute drive to the beach,” he says.

You’re in family safe neighbourhoods, you just need to look around and find them. And many of these homes have good potential for adding value, he adds. Meanwhile, at the $1.4 million price range upwards, there are new terraced three bedroom townhouses being built which might appeal.

What’s happening with Auckland prices?

What sort of prices are returning Aucklanders coming back to? Bayleys National Director of Residential, Johnny Sinclair says he’s been going round the country talking to offices and he’s hearing, in Auckland, that prices haven’t got much further to fall.

The volume of transactions is down on what they were at the Global Financial Crisis level (in Auckland down 39.6%) which was the biggest property shock the world experienced. There has been a big standoff in what vendors want and what buyers will pay but he thinks as price drops plateau, buyers and sellers will start engaging more.

Vendors are being encouraged to think logically about their gains in the last couple of years.

“We had a peak this time last year (July 2021) which saw price rises of 35 to 40%, depending on the calibre of the property. That’s dropped down 10 to 20%, so, if you owned the home pre-Covid, that’s still a net gain, it’s just not as big as you could have received,”says Johnny.

For returning Aucklanders, there’s a lot more stock available than at this time last year, so they have a good choice of properties. “Now’s the time to return to Auckland, absolutely,” says Johnny.

And more homes look to be coming on, says the Bayleys director. “We’ve seen a shift in appraisals over the last 10 days, so we think the market is going to engage in the spring,” says Johnny.

What’s on offer in Auckland at the moment?

Wayne Maguire, who owns five Ray White offices in the Eastern Bays under the Maguires One Team brand, says those former Aucklanders coming back to the city are changing the kind of home they’re buying this time round. They might want to be back in the Eastern Bays but those whose children have grown up are not wanting the large house on a big piece of land. They might go for perhaps a terraced house, he says. “I think our lifestyles are changing to have less junk and more living,” explains the Ray White business owner and auctioneer. “We’re out and about enjoying the cafes and the waterfront,” he says.

He’s also seeing expat Kiwis coming to the Eastern Bays this year. “To them, Mission Bay is heaven,” he explains.

Vendors in the current market are realistic, he believes. “Anyone with a property on the market to sell today would have to have a genuine reason to sell. It’s not as if they’re getting an amazing premium for their price today, if you’re a vendor in today’s market you’re motivated,” he says.

Auckland homes for sale today are in good shape

Wayne, whose business has a renovation company, One Reno, says the division has been busy in the last couple of years updating local homes. So many of the homes coming on the market through his offices are in excellent condition and have been updated.

“People have enjoyed their improvements in the last couple of years before it was time to put them on the market,” says the Ray White owner.

1A/163 Tamaki Drive, Kohimarama, Auckland

The Ray White Mission Bay office is selling a waterfront apartment on Tamaki Drive, which looks straight across the road to the ocean. The beautifully presented apartment, inviting interest over $2 million, will sell by auction.

Bayleys agent, David Nightingale says the market is seeing more deadline sales, homes selling by negotiation or with a clear asking price.

“I believe in auctions but I think what we’re finding now is the heat has come off the market, so now it’s horses for courses. It's about getting market feedback, then pricing the home,” he says.

34a Nihill Crescent, Mission Bay, Auckland

David is selling a four bedroom, three living room home in Mission Bay, a combination of 1930s weatherboard and concrete block, priced at $2,595 million. First listed in November, it’s a lot of property for the money, well-presented and has potential for improvements. It’s just about finding the right buyer, the Bayleys agent says.

Returning to an area you haven’t lived in but that’s always intrigued you

It may be that when you return to Auckland you buy in an area that you always thought had great potential for lifestyle and price, like Hillsborough.

8 Bluff Terrace, Hillsborough, Auckland

Bayleys agent and Hillsborough resident, Diane Burt is marketing a stunning Ron Sang-designed home in the suburb and it’s just a hop skip and a jump to the water. It’s CV of $3.075 million is a pretty good price indication, though the home is to be sold by auction on August 10, so you never know. It’s good buying, says Diane who says the vendors, who updated the property with double glazing among other things, have moved and are realistic.

Hillsborough has a lot of what people miss about Auckland, some bush, a harbour, a coastal walkway even.

“Last weekend the tide was in and there were paddle boarders and kayakers, the water was calm like a millpond,” says Diane, who takes her grandchildren to the water’s edge regularly.

At a more affordable price level, Ray White agent, Frazer Mackenzie-Johnson says he’s had a lot of interest in the beautifully-renovated Hillsborough property, at 2/9 Foote St, Hillsborough, nestled amongst some of the suburb’s most expensive homes on a clifftop cul-de-sac. There are grandstand views of Manukau Harbour to Puketutu Island and Ambury farm from the deck and it’s a walk to Taylors Bay Beach.

“It’s the best buy in the best street,” says Frazer, who says the open homes have been very well attended. With four bedrooms plus a rumpus room, when he appraised it last year, the Ray White agent priced it at $1.6 million, it would be closer to the $1.4 million price range now so represents excellent value.

The coastal suburb of Devonport is always popular.

Devonport, the place many Aucklanders long to live

For some returning Aucklanders, Devonport is the only place they want to be. Ray White agent, Kim Pausina, a local who, herself returned to the suburb after a stint overseas, says the North Shore suburb has homes at all the different price points. And while properties at the top of the market haven’t seen prices move much in the housing slowdown, those at the other levels have.

She’s marketing two affordable homes in the suburb likely to sell in the mid $1 millions, both going to auction. One is a beautifully presented 1970s townhouse in Cheltenham, always popular because of its nearby beach, the other is close to the ferry on The Parade.

Both properties are attracting the same pool of buyers – investors, downsizers and professional couples, says Kim. Each home is quite unique and of a very good standard, and they’re great options for someone who wants to get into the area and wants something with character.

“Devonport has a vibrant community, it’s very safe, great for families and suits lots of people from all walks of life,” says Kim.