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The Covid impact: Kiwis want bigger, better homes and to move away from Auckland

The Covid impact: Kiwis want bigger, better homes and to move away from Auckland

Kiwis want bigger, better homes and some are planning to move out of the big cities after two years of Covid-impacted lives.

A survey of 1300 Westpac customers found 19 per cent wanted a bigger house, rising to 29 per cent for those households with children and 39 per cent were considering moving house.

Of those staying put a third (34 per cent) were keen to renovate.

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Ian Hankins, Westpac New Zealand general manager consumer banking and wealth, said it did the research to get data on anecdotal stories it was hearing from customers.

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"The idea was to get a bit of a sense of how homeowners are feeling or people that are looking to move into home ownership, how they are feeling about movements in the market."

What emerged was a surprisingly high percentage of Kiwis wanting change in their housing situation.

Asked whether the Covid-19 outbreak had made them wish for a bigger or smaller house or to live in another suburb or region there was a definite trend.

Overall 19 per cent wished for a bigger house while only 4 per cent wanted a smaller one. Just 8 per cent wanted to live in another region but this rose to 18 per cent for those who were flatting.

Many had already made changes to their existing homes because of Covid with 21 per cent setting up a work station and 6 per cent converting a bedroom to a study while 15 per cent had undertaken an indoor renovation.

Of those who worked from home 35 per cent did it from their study while 24 per cent worked from their kitchen or dining room and a further 23 per cent from their living room.

For those considering moving house in the next year a third were doing so to get more space, while 47 per cent were doing it for a better lifestyle.

The Covid impact: Kiwis want bigger, better homes and to move away from Auckland

Some 15 per cent were planning to move to lower their costs while 8 per cent no longer needed to be in a specific location for work and 16 per cent downsizing.

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While just over 40 per cent planned to move to another suburb in the same area they currently lived in 21 per cent planned to move to a smaller city, town or region than the one they currently lived in, this rose to 27 per cent for Aucklanders.

Hankins said it appeared the trend of people moving to the city was now starting to reverse.

"The urbanisation trend that we have had over many years there are signals that that is starting to reverse, particularly from Auckland with 28 per cent of people considering a move outside Auckland - that's a big number.

"That is the trend we are closely monitoring."

He said people were wanting a better lifestyle. "A big part of that from our perspective comes from people wanting to have a bit more control in a world where there is a lot more uncertainty.

"What are the things you can control? You can control renovating your house, you can control moving, you can control the lifestyle you have; spending more time at home now, you have got the ability to work more flexibly so I think all those things factor into some of the trends we are seeing in this data."

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Home renovation was firmly on the mind for many with 34 per cent planning to do one in the next year, rising to 37 per cent for couples and 42 per cent for households with kids.

Of those surveyed 21 per cent also wanted to spend more on items for their house.

Outside of that 52 per cent planned to spend money on travelling within New Zealand and 21 per cent on overseas travel. A further 23 per cent planned to put more into savings and 17 per cent wanted to invest more in KiwiSaver, managed funds or shares.

Hankins said this was translating into mortgage top-ups by people using the equity in their house or savings to renovate.

"During Covid we did see people using the fact that interest rates were lower to pay down their mortgages so you see that gap between house prices, which were over 30 per cent and lending growth which was 10 per cent - what that tells you is people were using that excess and we saw that in our data as well, to pay down and save more money - there is a combination of debt and savings that have been going towards renovations."

But he said that trend could change this year with the cost of living rising substantially over the last year.

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"I think some of those trends are going to shift as, you have seen the inflation data come out, mortgage rates are increasing but have come off historic lows and even the rates we are increasing to are still on a long run average at a normalised level.

"I don't think it is going to drop off a cliff but I don't think there will be the same level of activity we have had in the last year or so."

Of those surveyed 29 per cent of people felt more positive about their home since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, compared to just 8 per cent who felt more negatively about it. The remainder felt about the same as before.