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Why Aucklanders are house hunting in Taranaki

Aucklanders are leading out of towners looking for homes in Taranaki. The appeal? Skiing and surfing on the same day.

16 November 2020

Mount Taranaki

Taranaki real estate agents have never been so busy, they say, and the stock has never been so low.

The secret is out that the region, known for its beaches, the constant presence of Mount Taranaki, the vibrant art scene and music festivals, is a great place to live. And though its prices have been going up –REINZ figures just out say October median house prices were up 23.2% on October 2019 to $480,500 after reaching a record $485,000 in September – that’s still very affordable to those coming from larger cities like Auckland and Wellington.

Out-of-towners will have to compete hard though. The number of homes on the market remains tight, with inventory this October half what it was in October 2019 (five weeks vs 10 weeks). The days it takes to sell a home have decreased by 12 days in the last two months to 21, and sales volumes were up 24.5%, the highest for an October month in 14 years.

This tale of supply and demand tallies with what we’re seeing at Trade Me Property – our audience views up for Taranaki by 21.95% in the months of September and October.

Garry Malcolm, REINZ Taranaki spokesman and owner of RE/MAX Team Realty New Plymouth, says, on higher end properties, locals are competing with out of town buyers from Aucklanders, Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Taranaki is attracting them because of its unique lifestyle – the vibrant art scene, its gardens, the Coastal Walkway and those surf beaches.

“I think we probably have more to offer as a city than any other, and all within a 15 minute drive. We’re very diversified. I don’t think there is anywhere else you can go in the morning up the mountain, have a ski, come into town have lunch and then go for a surf and have some coffees in between,” says Mr Malcolm.

Housing stock in Taranaki

The region’s main city, New Plymouth, has a wide variety of housing stock from smart, centrally located townhouses you can lock up and leave, to lifestyle properties further out and then magnificent ocean front homes. For first home buyers, there are attractive homes in towns like Stratford and Hawera, and in the numerous small satellite towns dotted around the area.

New development is going on in the region. Mr Malcolm says new subdivisions are coming up in New Plymouth but they’re boutique, producing 20 to 30 houses each. There are still options to buy land and build in the area, though tradespeople are in high demand, says the RE/MAX owner, who thinks New Plymouth could do with another apartment building to feed demand.

Meanwhile, there are luxury seaside properties available, built by farmers who sold up, and by the region’s oil and gas executives. “There’s some quite big money around Taranaki,” says Mr Malcolm.

Luxury seaside property at 137 Turangi Road, Onaero, New Plymouth, Taranaki

These are highly tempting to out-of-towners who want the sea views.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of houses over $1 million, a segment of the market which was a bit slow pre-Covid, but post-Covid we’re seeing a lot of activity in this area. And not just because of out-of-town interest, but locals are also upgrading,” he says.

Aucklanders leading the out of town charge to Taranaki

With flights between Auckland and Taranaki taking just 35 minutes, senior agents in Taranaki agree that Aucklanders are leading the charge among the out-of-town buyers.

What are Aucklanders looking for? Ray White New Plymouth principal, Jane Simonson, says: “Aucklanders love the character homes, they also like the fact they can come here and buy a waterfront property and are pleasantly surprised at what they can get for the money compared with Auckland prices,” she says.

The agent is seeing strong demand for four bedroom homes with two living rooms.

“I’ve got an Auckland buyer really chomping at the bit,” she says. They’re looking in central New Plymouth, around Westown and Fitzroy.

For smaller families or empty nesters, Ms Simonson is marketing a brand new, architecturally designed three bedroom home in central New Plymouth’s St Aubyn Street which is likely to appeal to Aucklanders. Designed by the Auckland architect Peter Sargisson for his daughter who lives nearby, it wouldn’t look out of place in Ponsonby or Grey Lynn. Ms Simonson is expecting offers in the $1 million range which to many Aucklanders will be very doable.

290A St Aubyn Street, New Plymouth, Taranaki

Ms Simonson recently sold a 78 sq m eco home, on the fringe of New Plymouth in Welbourn which went $200,000 over expectations with 15 offers. It sold to expats in Singapore for over $535,000.

The Ray White agent says she’s meeting buyers from the larger cities wanting to spend some of their time in Taranaki and some of the year somewhere else. One buyer from Auckland wants to spend six months in Taranaki and six months in the UK visiting grandchildren, for instance.

A market where good properties don’t linger – sound familiar?

Bayleys’ Jenny Brooking, describes the active current market where houses are selling like hotcakes.

“A few more properties are coming to the market but they get whipped up very quickly. Buyers are patiently waiting for the right property, but there’s still a real shortage,” she says.

“We’re doing a lot of pre-auction offers. Buyers don’t want to wait. Some of the homes are only on for a few days.

She’s seeing people buying sight unseen in this market, though families will probably have viewed the home.

Daniel McDonald, general manager of McDonald Real Estate adds: “Coming out of Covid we had no idea that we’d be walking into such a buoyant market. I’ve had 16 years in the industry and this is the strongest demand I’ve ever seen, and in all price brackets.”

What’s more, buyers are generally liking what they see.

“We do find our buyers are really impressed with the state of the houses, the size of the backyards, and the facilities in the community, the sports fields, and the options for entertaining,” he says.

New Plymouth has one of the best music venues in the country, the Bowl of Brooklands, which is the main base for music festivals like Womad, and a venue for big international acts coming through from Cat Stevens to Elton John. Set in a huge natural amphitheatre it nestles in Pukekura Park, the heart of central New Plymouth spread over 50ha.

New homes are often getting snapped up by locals, says Mr McDonald. McDonald Real Estate was involved in marketing a Fitzroy housing subdivision and in 10 days of it coming to market it was all sold, mainly to locals.

More often than not, offers are coming in on new listings within a few days, he says.

“After the first weekend we’re trying to hold out. We’ve got people wanting to offer to stop the open home,” he says.

Mr McDonald thinks Fitzroy, the coastal New Plymouth suburb, is the hottest market getting the most attention, but other beach communities in the area, Wai-iti Beach, Oakurua, and Opunake are also sought after.

How to get a piece of the Taranaki lifestyle

Some Aucklanders may commute if they decide to buy and settle the family in Taranaki, says Harcourts agent Glenn Green.

“We’ve seen Mum or Dad realising it’s not a big deal to fly out and back home on the weekend,” he says.

Out-of-town buyers are looking at a variety of solutions for moving to the area to live and work.

“Some people are coming here for a speciality work position, some buyers are just coming for a change and will look for a job when they get here. They’re totally altering their lifestyle,” he says.

Mr Green’s property for the week is an inner city architecturally designed home townhouse with a lift built in and easy access to the Coastal Walkway, beach cafes and other amenities.

Working and living in Taranaki

Once known mainly for the oil and gas and the dairy industries, the Taranaki area has a wider range of business activity these days, according to Venture Taranaki. The organisation says that agriculture, forestry and fishing, real estate and construction are the biggest industries by business units.

Food and fibre and the diversification of the existing food and fibre value chain is where the big growth areas are, adds the organisation.

Energy remains a big focus for the area, with the skilled workers in the region working to support New Zealand’s transition to diversified, low emissions energy. All of New Zealand’s gas use is still attributed to Taranaki.

One local notes that TSB Bank has its headquarters in Taranaki, proving that it is a location all large financial organisations could consider.

Newcomers to the area are bringing their businesses with them, or in some cases buying businesses there, says Mr McDonald, whose real estate company also has a commercial division. He says he has seen a rise in business buying activity.

But he thinks, from the sheer numbers coming to the region, people are figuring out ways to work remotely, and also commuting. There are several flights a day to Wellington and Auckland and some to Christchurch.

An Auckland family which has relocated to Taranaki and not looked back

The founder of boutique baby business, Global Baby, Anita Affleck and her family came down to live in Oakura, a seaside town, in July 2019. She and her husband bought some land and built a house there. They have a Global Baby store in Epsom and go up to Auckland monthly for meetings and to check in.

Ms Affleck, who’s from Taranaki, but was away from her home town for 19 years, says 55% of the business, which specialises in strollers and furniture, is online. Post-lockdown, there are so many things they now do online, things like supplier meetings, which make their Taranaki location make even more sense.

In Auckland, raising a young family and working, Ms Affleck found it was difficult to be social. Seeing friends after work was such hard work because they didn’t get home until 6.30 pm, thanks to the traffic.

“Here it’s so easy to be social. On Sunday I took the kids to the art gallery, and bumped into someone that we know. There’s a lot more bumping into people,” says Ms Affleck, whose parents live on the Coastal Walkway.

Oakura, with a population of less than 2000, is amazing, she says. And it’s very international, says the businesswoman, who has lived in London before. “There are Brits, South Africans, French and other Europeans,” she says.