From the Editor - July 2011
Sally wears a cream top from Browns of Remuera
How much do you reckon you’d get for your house if you sold it now? Bet you’ve got a ballpark idea.
Most of us are minor real-estate experts – we consume concepts like overcapitalisation and suburb-by-suburb average home values with our tea and toast as we read newspaper property reports and blob out in front of real-estate reality TV. And there is nothing wrong with that… at least it never occurred to me that there might be until I met Andrew Smith on a recent trip to Wellington.
Andrew is a consultant to EECA, the government agency that encourages us all to put timers on our heated towel rails and so on. The day we met, Andrew cycled into town from his home in Island Bay (leaving behind a days-old baby) and explained to a group of journalists that the Kiwi propensity to “view our house as an asset rather than a home” makes it difficult for him and his workmates to sell the energy-efficiency message.
Our market-value mindset, Andrew says, is the polar opposite of the European view – they happily spend on insulation to make their homes comfortable. Kiwis favour aesthetic fixes such as painting to add resale value: “They want quick payback for everything they spend. Homes are put in a different category from other purchases, such as jeans or cars.”
Andrew probably overstates his case (I’m sure many Kiwis paint for pleasure rather than profit), but there is truth in what he says. Our years of fascination with real estate mean Kiwis often act like property investors, even when we’re not. About five years ago, my husband Nick and I had a small extension built on our home. We had no plans to sell; the new rooms were for us and our kids to spread out. But I can remember skimming over the alluring brights on the paint chart and thinking, “No, I should go for neutrals because of resale”.
Here’s the thing though: I’m pretty sure things are changing. Since the property market became anaemic, it has lost its grip on our thinking about our homes – and that’s opened the way for a new wave of home creativity. Homeowners I talk to these days barely mention indoor-outdoor flow and other mass-appeal real estate attributes. They talk instead about homes tailored to their own passions. Alan and Mary Swafford, for example, fancied a lighthouse, so they built themselves one (See page 18 of the July 2011 issue). And you can bet Nicky Brindle (See page 58 of the July 2011 issue) didn’t spare a thought for market values when she splashed Moroccan colours over her lovely Wairarapa home.
Andrew reckons Kiwis might even be starting – very slowly – to embrace the message about insulation: “We’re getting some traction,” he said. Meantime, he’s leading by example. During a break in our meeting, Andrew showed me pictures of his new baby. Did he decorate a nursery? I asked. “We double-glazed the windows,” he said. “It’s so much warmer during night feeds.”
Story: Sally Duggan
Photographs: Jane Ussher
Stylist: Debbie Clark