28 May 2019

The vast majority of New Zealanders still dream of owning a home with a backyard, according to new research into Kiwis' housing preferences commissioned by Westpac NZ.

The online survey of more than 1,000 people found that despite the rise of apartment living, 49% consider a backyard “essential” when buying a home, while a further 42% think it would be “nice to have”.

“It’s interesting to see that people consider having a backyard much more important than living close to work, public transport, parks or schools,” says Westpac NZ Housing Lead, Robert Hill.

“Owning a home with a nice backyard has traditionally been central to the Kiwi dream, and the recent rise in house prices and increase in apartments doesn’t seem to have dented that.”

City dwellers are more prepared to forgo a backyard than those in smaller centres, with 39% of Aucklanders and 43% of Wellingtonians deeming a backyard essential, compared to 64% in the regional South Island and 57% in the regional North Island.

“City dwellers appear more willing to sacrifice a backyard to live in the big smoke and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues as more apartments and townhouses come on to the market.”

However first home buyers are more likely to consider a backyard essential (55%), and place far more importance on this than other features such as a modern kitchen (31%) or bathroom (28%).

“Clearly people looking to get on the property ladder are taking the attitude that you can always improve and expand your home, but you can’t expand your section,” Mr Hill says.

The survey found most Kiwis prioritise safety and security over luxury features when it comes to choosing a home.

An overwhelming 85% say a warm, dry home is essential, while 70% would choose an area with a low crime rate.

Safety from environmental risks (such as poor water quality) is essential for 63% of people, while 61% are wary of buying in areas susceptible to climate change risks (such as coastal erosion and flooding).

“We encourage Kiwis to make prudent choices about where they live, and it seems that message is being heeded. In particular it is interesting to see strong awareness of the risks relating to climate change, such as flooding and seal level rise,” Mr Hill says.

“By prioritising warm, well-built, healthy homes that are immune to future risks, they’re potentially saving themselves a lot of money and worry in the medium-to-long term.”

“At the other end of the scale, nearly three quarters of people aren’t interested in having a swimming pool and only one in ten think it’s essential to live near a social hub.”

New Zealanders remain wedded to their cars, with 65% of people deeming a lock-up garage essential to a property. 56% say privacy from their neighbours is essential, while another 42% say it would be nice to have.


Nexus Planning & Research was commissioned by Westpac NZ to conduct the research. It surveyed 1,008 people aged 18 and over who identified as home owners, property investors, or people planning to buy their first home in the next two years. Research was conducted in March and April 2019 and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.