Westpac commissioned survey suggests many New Zealanders still pine for the quarter acre dream when it comes to their homes

Westpac commissioned survey suggests many New Zealanders still pine for the quarter acre dream when it comes to their homes
Photo: Bayleys.

Many New Zealanders still pine for a home with a backyard despite the densification and rise of apartment living in some of our major cities, a Westpac commissioned survey suggests.

The Nexus Planning & Research survey of 1,008 people aged 18 and over shows 49% consider a backyard essential when buying a home, and another 42% think one 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's 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.”

Not surprisingly those living in cities are more prepared to give up a backyard than those in smaller centres, according to the survey. Of survey respondents 39% of Aucklanders and 43% of Wellingtonians view a backyard as 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,” says Hill.

Among first home buyers 55% of respondents consider a backyard essential, ahead of 31% who think a modern kitchen is essential and 28% who think a modern bathroom essential.

“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,” Hill says.

Most survey respondents also prioritise safety and security over luxury home features. And, not surprisingly, 85% say a warm, dry home is essential, while 70% would choose an area with a low crime rate.

Meanwhile, 65% of survey respondents think a lock-up garage is essential to a property, 56% say privacy from their neighbours is essential with another 42% believing it would be nice to have.

When choosing the area where you purchase you next home for you to live in, which aspects are essential, nice to have or nor important to you? 

  Essential Nice to have Not important
Safety (low crime rate) 70% 29% 2%
Safe from environmental risks 63% 33% 4%
Safe from climate change risks 61% 31% 8%
Quiet 57% 40% 3%
Access to public transport 28% 46% 26%
Close to schools and/or childcare 22% 27% 51%
Close to parks/recreational facilities 21% 63% 16%
Proximity to work 18% 49% 33%
Social hub (eateries and bars) 11% 53% 36%

Are each of the following features essential, nice to have or not important to you?

  Essential Nice to have Not important
Warm and dry 84% 15% 1%
Within budget 83% 16% 2%
Backyard 49% 42% 9%
Modern bathroom 47% 48% 4%
Modern kitchen 46% 48% 6%
Good investment potential 40% 45% 15%
Move in ready (no renovation required) 37% 51% 11%

Which of the following features are essential, nice to have or not that important to you?

  Essential Nice to have Not important
Lock-up garage 65% 31% 4%
Storage areas 60% 38% 2%
Off-street parking 57% 36% 7%
Privacy from neighbours 56% 42% 2%
En-suite to the master bedroom 37% 50% 13%
Outdoor entertaining area 36% 54% 9%
Single level 34% 37% 29%
Study 19% 55% 26%
Environmentally friendly 18% 67% 15%
Swimming pool 6% 24% 71%

Westpac commissioned Nexus Planning & Research to conduct the survey. Some 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 were surveyed in March and April this year. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

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30 years ago anyone/everyone could afford a quarter acre section. On 1 income.

Middle class people (i.e. not rich, but comfortable) could afford a bach by the beach (or snow) as well! 2 houses on 1 income!

Now both in the couple have to work to afford to rent a small apartment... Whilst trying to save for a house/apartment which is 10 times 1 salary (in Auckland).

So we've stuffed things up a lot I reckon.


30 years ago people also reaped the affordability benefits of post-war housing support efforts from various governments over the decades. Then all was forgotten and we all hailed neo-liberalism and forgot about the role of society in supporting housing affordability.

yes we've been fooled into thinking that sending both parents to work at the expense of the family unit would make us wealthier. It didnt!

It has just pushed up house prices and left a lot of children hardly seeing their parents during the week.

Seems our greed got the better of us.......................

Ya reckon? 30 years ago is 1988. I was in school in a very middle class town on fringes of Auckland, and went to a semi- private school and I'd say maybe 20% at the most had baches. But granted nearly all families the mother stayed at home.

NZer's value of per hour worked has been declining or been stagnant relative to other people's around the world.

Hence, certain things are getting less and less affordable.


Property only get less affordable if there are other buyers distorting the market and pushing out of local 'wage earners' reach. They don't just get magically more expensive. Hence why a lot of property markets are now dropping including our own in cities that were strongly influenced by external buyers that are now gone.

Here's a an example from Sydney's property market: Selling agent Catherine Murphy of The Agency North said Epping was a perfect example after she sold a house for $1.258 million – just $8000 more than when it last sold in 2015.
“There are young families and young couples that are buying again when they simply couldn’t compete at all,” Ms Murphy said.
She said vendors who were selling in this current market were doing so out of necessity despite trying to get 2017 prices.
“It’s like saying I want to sell my Holden for $100,00 to buy my Ferrari. No one cares,” Ms Murphy said.

Domain article: https://www.domain.com.au/news/the-sydney-suburbs-you-can-buy-property-a...

That's what triggered our move to the Wairarapa. A house with a back yard, just under 1/4 acre for 3 x my salary. Our mortgage should be gone in 7 - 10 years (I'm early 30's) unless the wife decides to upgrade before then.

If she decides to upgrade it'll be his problem then, right?

Way to go mate, less financial stress and more time with family

Heh, well, not when you factor in the 4 hours out of my day to commute to the office and back. But I do work for a great employer, who has since provided me with a laptop so I can work from home on the odd day.

They may well be able to afford their dream home with back yard even in the Auckland area in the next few years as house prices fall to meet the wage earning market now that Foreign Buyers and AML regulations are in place. If you don't think that markets can swing back that fast, I suggest you take a look at what's happening over the pond, where they were also effected by the same property market distortions.

Domain article: The Sydney suburbs where property prices have slipped back to 2015 levels

Mr Oliver said a lot of the unit price falls occurred in the suburbs with high supply.

“Those areas that were most exposed to supply would be more vulnerable, and that could affect the unit [prices] in those areas or houses [too].”

...and that is the key difference from Sydney to Auckland = oversupply! We don't have an oversupply issue in Auckland like Sydney we have a lack of confidence.

Auckland does have an unaffordability problem within the more expensive suburbs, we're already starting to see the tipping point which will like to really manifest it self next Spring (Not that long away). When more property will surge on to the market on top of a stagnant unsold property listings.
Two years is the maximum time that a market can remain stagnant for until prices start to slid downwards. Auckland's selling peak was in late 2017.
You only have to look at the auction results to see that property isn't selling in these areas and if they do it's usually at a lower CV price.
Sellers may try to hold out for better buyers but they simply aren't there for the million dollar homes, so whether we have an oversupply or not is fairly irrelevant in such a vastly over priced market.

Supply/demand is an economic fundamental and is never irrelevant. The current issue is confidence which drives demand, this always ebbs and flows, no disputing that it is very low currently.
Sydney prices even at 2015 levels are very high relative to income and always will be, same here for Auckland. Its the price Aucklander's now pay being an attractive place to live. Look at the survey of top citys in the world to live and Auckland features in most of them, any City on the list are expensive to incomes.

Short term prices look like they will continue to fall when then will level off or start to raise is anybody's guess, time will time. But we have been here before with big increases followed by pauses, last GFC 08-12 then look at 12-17 and then 17-?

I'm surprised that Kiwi's and Australian's tend to dig their heels in and don't want to commute longer than 20mins. I think younger generations are starting to consider commuting a lot more which would be to their advantage especially in very larger cities like Auckland. If you're prepared to do a 40min commute in to the CBD you'll be able to find much more affordable property that ticks most of the boxes above. That's what we did and it's not so bad if you do most of the commute by train.

In the near future it wont matter, most office workers will be able to work from home

If those of us who measure real stuff have it right, they will indeed be at home and will indeed be working.

But my bet is that it will be in the backyard veggie garden.

It depends on the commute. In London I worked with a poorly paid middle aged secretary who commuted from Brighton - expensive and took an hour on a fast train - however an hour sitting on a comfortable seat reading is not unpleasant. These days she could be using her tablet or phone for entertainment or learning. It is sitting in traffic or squeezed and often standing on a bus or train that makes commuting hell.

Fine if you are a city based paper pusher.. complete waste of time for many real workers. Auckland public transport is rubbish if you want to go anywhere other than the CBD/major centers generally. I have a 10-15 minute drive, or an hour and two buses to choose from. Not hard to see that driving is going to win.

Sending the kids off to the local park to play is no longer a viable option.

Oh, these naughty, naughty Deplorables. They clearly have not taken to heart the Narrative that living up in the air, in Modest if not actually Tiny Apartments, is the Way of the Future.

Preferences, once again, Trump Plans......

I'd love to see the full report.
Interesting that only 57% saw off-street parking as 'essential'. This would suggest, at face value, that there might be a reasonable number of people willing to consider living in a home without it.
That goes against the 'conventional wisdom' that says that there is almost no market for housing without off-street parking....
I went to Westpac's website and couldn't find the study.

It can sometimes be hard to see behind the numbers.

While only 57% said it was essential, once you add in 'nice to have; then it is over 90%. Plus if you have already answered the' lock up garage' question, then you could be thinking as the 'off-street parking question' as being for the second/third or visiting friends car parking.

Also the lock up garage question will be influenced by whether you see the 'lock up' being used for a vehicle, or for general household storage/workshop/laundry etc.

But I think the main point that is highlighted is we are still building the wrong type at unaffordable prices. So we have an oversupply of wrong type, and an undersupply of right type.