Hot in the city: Townhouse next to Auckland motorway nudges $1m in first auction

A new year hasn’t taken the heat out of Auckland’s property market, with a three-bedroom townhouse next to a busy motorway selling for almost $1 million in the first Saturday auction of 2021.

The 76sq m, two-level, modernised townhouse is one of several in a School Rd, Kingsland, gated complex which include private outdoor space and a communal lawn area set under towering palms next to the Northwestern Motorway.

It sold at its pre-auction offer of $970,000, with none of the more than two dozen, mostly young couples, at the auction making a higher bid. The home, originally built in the late 1980s as accommodation for immigrants from the Cook Islands, has a government valuation of $760,000.

The buyers, Auckland couple Elaine Chen and Patrick Gibbs, did the right thing by moving fast, Ray White Kingsland business owner and salesman Tim Hawes told the Herald.

The townhouse was put on the market a week ago and had 200 potential buyers through last weekend.

“They’ve moved quickly, they’ve obviously spent some time being frustrated in the market.”

REINZ data showed Auckland median house prices hit $1m for the first time in October last year, with the Covid-19 pandemic and associated social and economic impacts having no effect on the rise of house prices in our largest city.

Hawes expected high demand – which was mostly coming from wannabe owner occupiers – to continue.

“There’s no drivers for change. We’re seeing a lot of people – we’ve seen that with our open home numbers – the interest rates are not going up anytime soon, we’ll eventually see more and more people coming back from overseas, so the pressures are going to continue.

“We simply don’t have enough supply of the properties that people want.”

Chen and Gibbs, who are aged in their 30s, own a central city apartment but wanted a home they could raise a future family in. They will keep their apartment and rent it out.

They’d been trying to buy a new home since May last year and had many disappointments, Gibbs, an engineer, said.

Two previous pre-auction offers had been beaten at auction, they’d been out-bid at other auctions and one sale had fallen through after problems were discovered with the plaster cladding.

“We’re surprised, [given] all the other experiences we’ve had. There’s always someone else … it’s been the full rollercoaster.”

The hardest part had been missing out when they’d made previous pre-auction offers, and allowed themselves to imagine their future in a home that once the auction began it soon became clear would not become theirs.

“The first time you go to an auction it just takes your breath away. Everyone gets swept up in it.

“[One we missed out on] went up $100,000 in about a minute, before we’d even caught our breath.”

Afterwards, they’d have to go back to work and keep a brave face, Chen, an urban designer, said.

“And all you’d want to do is go to the bathroom and cry.”

Another couple in their 30s at the auction told the Herald they had also been trying to buy a home, their first, since last year.

“With lockdown, it’s been erratic. We’re resuming the search in force now, but there’s not a lot in the market at this time of year,” the woman, who did not want to be named, said.

“We’ve given up trying to time the market.”

They had a top budget of $1m and were prepared to spend it “for the right place”, which she did not think the School Rd property was.

“We’re trying to stay optimistic.”

They’d watched as Gibbs and Chen embraced when the auctioneer declared the home theirs, she said.

“It’s heartwarming that they’ve found their forever home. Hopefully that’s us soon too.”

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