Housing in Christchurch

May 30, 2014

I have a good reason for not writing recently: I’ve been working more shifts to save more money for the upcoming trip to the STATES (so excited!) which is in less than 3 weeks time, and in the meantime Scott and I are moving, but we don’t know to where, so house-hunting is taking up all of my free time and free brain cells, which are few and far between.

And we haven’t gone on any trips, so I have no pretty pictures.

So this house hunting is consuming all of my thoughts. Seriously- I had nightmares about it last night and I got no sleep. So maybe if I share my thoughts with you, inter-web, then I will sleep better tonight.

I may have mentioned it before, but there is a major problem with housing in Christchurch. (Not to be confused with the major problem with housing in New Zealand, which is that most of them come without insulation, double glazing, or central heating.) The problem with housing in Christchurch is that 90% of residential housing had at least some damage in the earthquake, and many are either torn down, uninhabited, or in the process of being rebuilt. So all of these inhabitants are displaced. But to where? And then thousands of people are coming monthly to Christchurch to work on the rebuild- engineers, geotechs, contractors, laborers. All these people want housing! And they don’t even want cheap, crappy housing. The audacity!

And we haven’t even gotten to the biggest problem. Insurance companies. To be fair, they’re probably society’s biggest problem anywhere, but they’re even worse here. This is why: when a family is displaced from their house, the insurance company has to pay for them to live somewhere else for 3-12 months while the house is being rebuilt. At cheap hotel rates, this is $700/week. When a family has 5 kids, a simple hotel room won’t do. So it is cheaper for them to rent out a house for the family, than a hotel room.

Fair enough, except, anyone with a decent house is hip to the idea of renting it out for a few months to insurance companies and reaping $100-200/day. At those rates, you don’t even need year-round tenants. At those rates, you move in with your kids and rent out your own house so you can go on that Italian vacation you always dreamed about.

I get it, I would probably want to try to do this too. However, this leaves so very few houses for normal people. There should be a kickback for landlords who do rent to normal people. (Looking at you Christchurch City Council). Right now we live in a broken house. There are cracks in the walls, all of the brick siding on the outside is gone. It rains in our bedroom when there’s a storm (every damn week). We have mold, we have damp clothes, it is cold. And we pay more for this than we do for our mortgage on our house. In California. One of the more expensive states in the USA.

So we are looking for a new house, one that is closer to Scott’s work and that doesn’t have an indoor water “feature” during bad weather. Like any professional couple who work hard for their money, we have a simple set of standards. We want (in order of importance):

A) A good location. Safe neighborhood. Close to the hills, for mountain biking. Close to Scott’s work.
B) An “affordable” price. Yes, it will still be hundreds over our freaking mortgage at home, but that’s what you get when you live in a beautiful worldly city earthquake shattered town. An affordable price for us is $400/week ($1600/month for you Americans) or less.
-sidebar: I know that if you live in San Francisco you pay like, $2000 a month for a room. But        trust me when I say: Christchurch is not San Francisco, and also trust me when I say: You are getting ripped off and I’m pretty sure you’re crazy.
C) A garage. You know, the bike thing again. It must be secure.
D) A heat source. Either a heat pump or a pellet stove. You wouldn’t think I’d have to put this on our list of “wants”, but I do.
E) A decent kitchen. Right now I have a nice kitchen, and I realize this was a fluke in the Christchurch housing system. I won’t get crazy and expect a dishwasher. But I do love to cook, so a full size oven, even floors and countertops, and maybe even decent storage space would be radical.
F) The little things, most of which we will have to for-go. But any of the following would be swell: a private outdoor space/ or even a backyard, a sunny backyard would be tops. A dishwasher. Internal access garage. Laundry room that isn’t part of the kitchen. Off street parking. Nice neighbors. Decent water pressure. Earthquake repairs done. Double pane windows…. hahaha nah, just kidding. Lets not get crazy. This list is already asking too much!!!

So now that you’ve got an idea of what we’re up against, let me show you what our options are (and why Im having housing nightmares)…

All photos are from www.trademe.co.nz and I can’t think of any reason why I can’t use them, but if I can’t: my bad.

This 2-bed house is attached to its twin. These conjoined twins live on the corner of our dream location and a busy road. The yard is not private, there is no dishwasher, and according to the property manager, the kitchen is original 1970’s. But it still ticks boxes A-D, and I don’t have any reservations about it except that it’s on a noisy road. It’s $360/week.


This bad boy gets an A for location. And it’s a free standing 3 bedroom home. Isn’t this picture just stunning? I mean, look at that… that… that…

This is one of the better photos of this house in that it is destroyed on the inside. Like, holes in the walls, carpet on concrete, gnarly, destroyed. It actually has a cute little backyard and a dishwasher. And a 2-car garage. But before I start to make it sound just dreamy- there is no heat source. Nothing. Nada.

So what does an cold A+ location, B+ yard, C+ kitchen, D+ cleanliness house go for? Asking price, $410/week. We offered $360, and are waiting to hear back. This is a high contender on the list. (Seriously, I expect ya’ll to be excited for us if my next post is photos of our stuff in this house.)

Moving on…

Now look at this! Truly charming. I mean the kitchen is tiny, but what a sweet little 2 bedroom conjoined twin house! And actually, the backyard is superb. Lawn, deck, grill… SUN! The works.

But location… when do you bend on location? It’s several blocks out of the desired neighborhood. Bike safety is a bit lower, and its on a busy thoroughfare street. Traffic noise? With this shift-work working’ girl? Ughhh… but it’s only $350/week.

So this last one is at the top of our “budget”:

And by top of budget I mean out of our budget. And its actually more than we need, but I’m including it here because we offered them the top of our budget and have yet to hear back. So she’s still a maybe.

Location: A+. Storage and bike safety: A+. Heat source: pellet stove. A+. Kitchen… ehhh… but its private, in a lovely neighborhood, quiet, EQC repairs have been done… so I though I’d share.  Oh, and the entire carpet is a brown floral pattern, so thats a win right?

In case you were wondering, this is what we can get for the price of our California mortgage:

Downstairs apartment, 2 bedrooms. No garage. Does come with dodgy neighbor who will gladly “watch” the bikes while you’re away.

Or this beaut: Look at the private fenced yard!! Heat source not necessary, the neighbor’s meth lab keeps it toasty.

On the flip side, here’s a few modest houses in the dream neighborhood that tick every single box (except the budget box, of course)…

This cozy little 3 bedroom charmer is a mere $1250/week. I mean, what else could one possibly do with $5 grand per month?

Or how about the following, a 2-bedroom home, for just $1200/week:

It has a single garage, single glazing, and it is on a very main thoroughfare street… shame on you people. Just… Shame. On. You.

Lastly, and just for kicks… what could we get in a different NZ city for our hard earned cash? Let’s say, the quaint, coveted town of Nelson- our first choice destination back when we made that big move. What will $350-400 get us there? I mean, it’s a city on one of the world’s most stunning pieces of land- Abel Tasman National Park, the emerald green ocean… Surely $350/week will only get one a shack. A shanty…

You can’t be serious. 

No. Just no.

Christchurch, I am begging here… these two hard working full time employees with no pets, no kids, who don’t smoke, who have a perfect rental history, who enjoy gardening and don’t throw loud parties (anymore)… we need a place to live. We want to love you.

(Note to self: can we both transfer to Nelson…?)

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  • Reply Anonymous June 3, 2014 at 9:17 am

    hi there, long time reader, first time poster.

    we’re right there with you as expats living in WLG. similar story but w/ children to complicate matters.

    enjoying your posts about biking and hoping you return to more bikey fun stuff soon (for your own sake)

    • Reply Kristen F June 5, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Ahh, thank you for the kind words and hopes! I’ll definitely post when the dilemma is over (which is not yet!). I bet kids can complicate things (but in the best way!)- and I had no idea it was as competitive in Welly. At least your potential home won’t be earthquake ravaged?? 🙂 Thanks for posting!

    Come on, you must want to tell me something!