Richard Klipin: We need to change the property conversation

OPINION:

It’s an emotional time right now for those looking to enter the property market.

But why do we care so much?

Bound up in the conversations about rising median prices in Auckland suburbs and properties selling for millions of dollars in a matter of hours after being viewed are a lot of emotions – our greatest fears and anxieties around the aspirations we have for our lives.

The reason New Zealanders are so invested in conversations about property, and why despite rising house prices first-home buyers are still desperate to get onto the property ladder, is because of what home ownership means to us.

When someone purchases their dream home, they’ve finally achieved security for their new family. They might have achieved a dream from childhood of building a life in a particular location. They might finally be able to get a dog or fulfil their DIY project aspirations.

On the flip side, all the people who missed out on that property are likely feeling one step further away from security, their dreams and goals.

Buying a house is a deeply personal and emotional thing. It’s an expression of who we are, what we value, what we prioritise in life and the way we want to live. A house is, after all, lived in by people, and is a setting in which we build relationships, start families, feel safe, show off our personalities, and so much more.

So, when we read headlines about the suburb down the road where a house sold for close to $4 million we think: will we ever be able to live the life we want?

The property conversation is ultimately a wellbeing conversation.

There’s a lot of fear and panic out there, fuelled by speculation, hype and headlines about multi-million -dollar sale prices. I think we need to recognise the impact this has on New Zealanders.

I think we need to start talking less about LVRs and median prices and more about the kinds of lives we want to lead.

For you, property might mean security for your family, or space for a growing one. It might be a connection to your past and reminder of relatives no longer with us. It might signify freedom, independence, creativity or joy. It might be a passion project you work on for a time and then pass on to someone else who’ll make it their home.

REINZ data showed that median house prices across the country increased by 19.3 per cent between January 2020 and January 2021 – and things aren’t slowing down just yet. Auckland’s median house price is now over $1m, with Herne Bay officially cracking $3m mark. Meanwhile we continue to read about stories like the villa in Ponsonby that sold for $3.905m within three hours of being viewed by the buyer.

Stories and statistics like this lend themselves well to hyped-up headlines and anxiety around the property market. It’s easy to be swept away in the panic and fear – we’re human after all.

We know from the Financial Services Council’s Money and You research that buying property is a key trigger for New Zealanders who seek financial advice; more than 23 per cent of those we surveyed said it would prompt them to seek advice from a financial adviser. Over 14 per cent said selling a property would trigger them to seek advice.

Whether you’re talking to a financial adviser, a mortgage broker or even just a friend or family member about an impending property sale or purchase, make it the starting point for a broader conversation about your life as a whole, and what it means for you.

The housing market is a hot topic, but it’s also one that requires a more human approach. Let’s turn it around and start focusing on it not as the be all and end all, but the starting point for a wider conversation about money and its impact on our wellbeing.

– Richard Klipin is chief executive of the Financial Services Council.

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