Venturing into the unknown

A first home buyer’s case study: Anthony and Sarah

The Christchurch property market is globally unique, intriguing and for many first home buyers, confusing. My girlfriend and I recently took the first step onto the ladder they call ‘property’ and it opened a whole new world of complexities, some of which are reserved solely for the residents of our fair city.

Introducing your hosts

Firstly, allow me to introduce myself; Anthony Patrickson, media consultant and journalist for Academy Publishing, 26 years old from the Newcastle, England. I’ve spent a whirlwind year in Christchurch that has endeared me to this remarkable city and its residents. See, I’ve travelled extensively, worked some interesting jobs in obscure places (including shark fisherman in the Indian Ocean) and I’ve always lived by the motto that ‘people make places’. Christchurch is a fine example of that.

Please accept my point of view as not just an outsider looking in, but now as a bricks and mortar resident of the city myself (although the house is actually wooden).

My girlfriend and I met through a friend of a friend scenario and we were both flatting in opposite ends of the city. Sarah Eatwell, legal executive at Saunders and Co, 24 years old from Hokitika and now Christchurch. Sarah was living in her mother’s house in Brighton before the earthquakes, but her house was red zoned, she was forced to move out and began the interesting procedure of flatting.

After almost a year of being together we decided to pool our resources, end the respective flatting scenarios and take the plunge into the housing market. And at this point I have to say that I was lucky to have Sarah guiding me through the process – being a non-resident of Christchurch there were certain words that were thrown my direction that I, an English Literature graduate, had never before heard of. Scope of works, liquefaction, EQC, TC1, TC2, TC3 and of course the daddy of them all ‘munted’ – this regional dialect was starting to become a language barrier for me – and I’m usually the one who is hard to understand.

The underlying point here is that Christchurch is unique thanks to events foregone, but it also presents itself as an unmistakable opportunity for any prospective first home buyers who are ready to roll up their sleeves and climb up that property ladder.


The purchase

Fate has a funny way of presenting itself. Before our Christmas vacation we became regular faces at open homes around the city. Often we would be ushered through a property as 20 other buyers/investors and families would be crammed into the bedrooms scanning for cracks, calculating rental possibilities or evaluating whether they could squeeze another bedroom out of the study.

Sarah and I enjoyed a much needed break during Christmas in the North Island and decided to attempt a road trip around the South Island early in the New Year. For some reason Mother Nature didn’t agree with our planned route – as we passed over a bridge in Murchison it collapsed three hours later due to torrential rain and as we continued South towards Franz Joseph, another bridge en-route fell down too!

We spent a few days semi-stranded in Hokitika with Sarah’s family and then decided to head back to Christchurch a lot earlier than planned. On our first day back we unexcitedly resumed the open-home frequenting. The first on our list of homes to view on the 5th of January was a two bedroom property in Dallington. From the description on TradeMe it didn’t exactly get our wheels spinning but when we viewed it, it was exactly what we were looking for… potential.

It was a blank canvas; affordable, two good sized bedrooms, a double garage and more than 680sqm of land to go with it. Originating from urban England, 680sqm of land basically qualifies you as a farmer and a double garage is the perfect man-cave; we wanted it and we had to act fast.

It was the first open home of the year for the agent we dealt with and Sarah and I, along with a couple of property investors, were the only attendees (due to many people still being on vacation). The property investors made an offer and we made an offer that afternoon – we had to counter their offer but we eventually pipped them at the post.


The tip of a rather large iceberg

The celebrations were put on ice as we started a procedure that many first home buyers commit to without having a true grasp of housing markets; property jargon and legislative land mines.

Luckily we had some sound advice from a few friends and the dedicated help of Michelle Winter at Tony Mounce Mortgages to guide us through the borrowing process, eventually accepting a very generous offer from ASB. We tread the insurance tightrope assisted and eventually rescued by AMI, while the legalities were sorted by Sarah’s very professional employers Saunders and Co.

We signed on the dotted line in late January and Sarah and I now own a house; not something I had personally planned when arriving 12 months ago on a working holiday visa, but when an opportunity as good as this presents itself – we simply had to think and act fast.

It’s the tip of the iceberg as far as our plans go – inspired by friends’ success stories and by watching too many episodes of The Block we are on a self-assigned mission to renovate our ex-state house, add value and continue up this property ladder as Christchurch renovates itself simultaneously.

Our goal is simple; to add as much equity to the house through renovations to then use it as leverage to secure our first rental property – the emphasis being on ‘first’!

Watch this space as we start our journey into the relatively unknown. Now, where did I leave my paint brush…

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