Cameron van der Sluis is clearly a man not afraid to think outside the box.
The 36-year-old and wife, 35-year-old Julia, had been looking for a property to buy around their base on Auckland’s North Shore for years.
“Like so many people in their 30s, we were seriously looking, but with prices going up and up, we just weren’t able to get enough of a deposit together to buy a property of any reasonable standard,” Cameron says.
“That’s when the idea hit for the three of us to go in together, just because of the financial benefit.”
That third party was Cameron’s elder sister Emma who likewise had been looking for a number of years to get on the property ladder.
Is three a crowd?
The van der Sluis trio are all equal owners of their new house in Pokeno – and Cameron says they made just one concession to the typical four-bedroom family home to accommodate their living situation: a door between Emma’s bedroom and a family bathroom, which essentially gives her an ensuite.
The commute from Pokeno to work, he reports, is no greater to his job in Penrose, or his sister’s at Auckland Airport, than it was from their previous base on the North Shore. Julia, an early childhood teacher, now works at a local day care centre and has 1km to walk to work.
Cameron says the trio’s living arrangement works well: “Oddly enough we all get on – Julia and my sister actually knew each other before Julia and I got together, so it’s worked out nicely. When it comes to making any decisions by committee we can get all kinds of situations – whether it’s the girls banding together or the husband and wife or the siblings.”
Easier to build than buy?
When the Reserve Bank introduced loan-to-value lending restrictions in 2013, requiring a minimum 20% deposit on most home loans for those buying an existing property, the trio spied another alternative not always considered by first home buyers.
“When that 20% deposit requirement came in, we really started looking at doing a new build. Because the government obviously wants more new houses to be built, we discovered there can be more leniency around deposit requirements – as our build was based on a turnkey (single fixed price contract) we were able to get a construction loan with a 10% deposit.”
Combining forces within the family and embracing the idea of building their own home started to give them greater options; realising the rapidly inflating North Shore property market was still probably out of reach, they began to investigate building opportunities in South Auckland.
They eventually bought a site in Pokeno Village, with the house build commencing in July last year. After nine months of construction, the trio are now resident in their own four-bedroom home.
Embracing non-traditional options
While the typical picture of first home buyers is a couple on the hunt for a do-up on a full section in a familiar neighbourhood, the rising property market means buyers are increasingly looking at alternative ways to get on the property ladder.
Brooke Reynolds, a mobile mortgage manager for Westpac in the fast-rising property market of Tauranga, says building is an option she’s increasingly seeing being considered by first home buyers.
“First home buyers now are pretty savvy. They go looking for opportunities and they’re finding that, depending on the area, building can sometimes actually be a cheaper option than buying an existing home,” she says.
“Some building companies are structuring their offerings to make them attractive to first home buyers – and taking the option to build means first home buyers aren’t dealing with auctions, where prices can completely run away on them.”
Reynolds has also observed others looking for an existing property are increasingly embracing non-traditional measures to get on the home ownership ladder.
Buying in a ‘less desirable’ area is one option, as is buying a rental property. While the ultimate dream might be a lifestyle block, she’s seeing first home buyers increasingly open to a smaller home or section size.
“I’m also finding a lot of individuals, or even couples, who are buying houses and being quite savvy by getting in flatmates – putting that flatmate money towards paying off their home loan faster.”
Like the van der Sluis, many are thinking of banding together with family members. Cameron says: “The biggest benefit for us was the ability to get a loan with a 10% deposit because we were building. That made it easier to get into the market, but, even now in Pokeno, the prices are increasing markedly – hard for those still looking.
“Really it’s just about taking every opportunity you can get.”
To find out more alternatives to getting your foot on the property ladder, visit www.westpac.co.nz/paynointerest