“Get out!!” Is what I keep thinking to myself the deeper we get into this housing supply shortage problem. Auckland is very much like Toronto. They both have towers (although Toronto’s is bigger), they are both by a large body of water (You win this one Auckland) and both are experiencing the wonderful woes of inflated housing prices.
But this entry isn’t about housing prices. It’s about the next challenge Nicole and I encountered after solidifying a job in New Zealand.
*Enter Auckland’s Renters Market*
For the record I’ve never had to take care of renting my own property or paying rent for that matter. In Korea that was all taken care of the EPIK program we worked for (thank god). Luckily Nicole was all up in this game. She made sure we had copies of our previous land lord reference letters, knew where to look for properties and what to look out for when viewing a property.
1) “Shit. Rent is high.”
There are several ways to look for rental properties but the most common is going on a site called TradeMe. Which is kind of NZ’s answer to Amazon. It’s more of an auction house really. Rent is also paid weekly and is presented as such (as opposed to monthly). My guess is to make it seem less expensive or maybe its because people are paid weekly? Anyways, as of 2017 I believe the rental market is averaging NZD $450-500 a week for a 1 bdrm apartment in Auckland CBD. That translates to ~NZD $1800-2000 per month. This is without parking (a whole ‘nother issue). That’s a bit insane.
To make matters worse rent is forecasted to increase in the coming years to offset the cost of owning a house and the inflated prices home owners have subjected themselves to. More on that at a later date.
2) “Real Estate Agents are arrogant as F%$#”
Ok so maybe this isn’t something uniquely kiwi but it is annoying. Plenty of real estate agents don’t engage with you (or get back to you), don’t provide alternative rental solutions and are really just unimpressive in this country and they don’t need to be it seems. I found that dealing with the actual landlord provided a significantly better experience.
We went looking for a rental property in March right after I signed on to my new job. Big mistake. As with most things, demand for rental properties are cyclical and it just so happened to be high season.
Visiting our first couple of properties really opened our eyes into how much of a supplier market it really was. At one point we were competing against 10 rental property viewers for one of our picks. I dressed up in my best suit (my only suit) to make myself look professional and responsible and talk up the real estate agent like I was at a UofT Commerce Networking Event. The struggle was real and the BS was through the roof. Yet, alas, we lost to a kiwi renter. Fair enough.
3) “Rentals are old and grungy in Auckland”
This carried on for a couple more viewings, getting a bit desperate we set our sights a little lower for a higher price. I ended up going to another viewing near the University of Auckland. It was a good location for a decent price, the shower was a bit broken but we were assured it would get fixed. It looked good to me. I just wanted to point out that I went to this viewing alone cause Nicole was at school that day. Another big mistake on my part. Especially since this became the first apartment we rented in Auckland.
I will never forget the horror that was our Mount Street apt. There were a series signals that something was not right but I proceeded anyways. Being quite desperate at the time I immediately made a statement of interest to the real estate agent who via email after the viewing, surprisingly, replied saying that I was “chosen” to rent the property (the arrogance!! *Shakes fist*)
Delighted that our luck had finally turned for the better I emailed Nicole for a quick approval. Bringing her through the photos I took and indicated what things I saw. Nicole agreed so we moved forward with all the documentation.
4) “Night of the living Dead”
First night I woke up and couldn’t breath. I didn’t know it at the time but I was having an asthma attack. Being the dumbass that I was, I had thrown out my old puffers when I was back in Korea because I had thought I didn’t have asthma anymore. To be fair to me I hadn’t had a serious asthma attack since I was really young and carried around my puffers as a precautionary measure for decades before I self diagnosed that I was asthma free. Luckily it wasn’t a serious attack so I just stayed awake the rest of the night.
As the weeks went on my symptoms had gotten worse. Not only did I wake up breathless but I started to develop hives all over my body. It was at this point we realised that I was allergic to something in the apartment. Dun dun dunnnnnn.
We had a carpet cleaner come in to blast the crap out of the carpeting and he noted that there was a large build up of dust mites behind the big closet he couldn’t get to that was left for us. Apparently dust mites are a big thing here (Auckland) and so was asthma.
I needed to get out and fast. Luckily there was an option to break the rental agreement subject to a fee and a good reason. This amounted to one week of rent which we paid and told them the apartment was affecting my health. They seemed uncharacteristically concerned about my health and agreed that I should definitely break the rental agreement (subject to a weeks worth of rent as the breakage fee and contingent they could find a new tenant). We were homeless within a couple of weeks. Out of the oven and into the frying pan.
5) “It’s always darkest before the dawn”
I never truly appreciated this proverb until I lived it. I had asthma attacks, hives and now had no home. It had been an uphill battle since we landed in New Zealand and we were tired. Oh so very tired. It was a very dark time for the both of us. But just like Muhammad Ali we got right back up.
My team leader at the time had mentioned that a new building had just been completed and was hardly occupied so I searched the property on TradeMe and we were in luck! We set up a meeting and I set out in my best suit, yes that again, and I schmoozed the guy pretty hard.
Luckily by the time we went out looking for a place to rent the market had lulled and there were significantly less people competing against us. This coupled with my god given ability to suck up hard-core we were given the “privilege” to rent the place we are currently living in. It’s a modern 1 bdrm with a great view of the harbour bridge and we’re on the top floor. PENTHOUSEEEEE. (Not really). We are also the first people to live in the apartment which meant everything was brand new!!!
This was probably the best apartment out of all the apartments we saw. It took subpar real estate agents, hives, asthma attacks and challenge after challenge to get here but we were better for it. I guess its true, good things come to those who wait…and suffer a bit. First world problems though.
Well folks that it for the New Zealand Story series. Thanks for sticking around. If you want to know more about how to rent a property in Auckland (or NZ) shoot me a note below. Have you ever rented an apartment in another country before? What shocked you most about the differences between your country and the one your were renting in? Share your story below!
For those that want to relive the series you can find them here: