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30 Sep 15

At home in a city apartment

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Article by Diana Clement at the New Zealand Herald, featuring City Sales:

Some over-65s are opting to live in apartments with views of the coast and city instead of retirement villages.

Apartments aren't just limited to downtown Auckland, but are found in many suburbs, such as Mt Wellington, Takapuna, New Lynn, Orewa and Albany, as well as in towns and cities such as Mt Maunganui and New Plymouth.

They offer a feeling of security as tenants don't have to worry about structural maintenance, and heating and cooling is cheaper than in a standalone home. They may have amenities such as pools and gyms. Shops, cafes, libraries, doctors and public transport are often not much more than a lift-ride away.

People can buy apartments outright and benefit from the capital gain; moving into an apartment often frees up capital for an older person if they're moving from a family home.

However, costs such as body corporate and ground rent can be a drain year after year, although they do cover insurance and maintenance.

Barfoot & Thompson agent Kris Jamieson estimates as many as 20 per cent of the residents in the Merchant Quarter building in New Lynn are over 65. He has sold to several buyers in their 70s and 80s.

"They are not ready for retirement villages."

The Merchant Quarter building appeals to the older market because it's beside LynnMall, has a covered walkway from the front door to the train and bus stations, a medical centre and library next door and the body corporate fees are reasonable compared to buildings that have gyms and pools.

Jamieson estimates one and two-bedroom apartments cost from $380,000 to $555,000, which is cheaper than small standalone properties on their own sections in the vicinity.

Octogenarian Pam Fox moved to an apartment in Hobson St nine years ago to be near her daughter and son-in-law. In the first few years she got out and about on public transport.

As she has aged she goes out less, but still enjoys the life around her.

In the lift and foyer she runs into people of all ages including babies and children, which adds interest to her life. She has stunning views from her apartment and a long ranch slider she can open to let the outside in.

Pam says she almost never has to get out her heater or fan. The building is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Martin Dunn is a real estate agent at City Sales and says more than 30,000 people live in apartments in central Auckland and "most are as happy as Larry".

People who criticise apartments are often baby boomers who don't understand the lifestyle, says Martin. In their day, they'd borrow mum's station wagon and go out drinking with mates in suburbia. Young people today text their friends, take the lift and meet at a gym or bar, he says. His son Scott is a prime example.

Kiwis aren't moving to apartments because they're forced to. Many enjoy their new life. That's what happened to Trevor and Sandy Giles.

Trevor had a heart attack in the early 2000s. Their children had all but flown the nest so they decided a change of lifestyle was needed and moved into central Auckland.

The pair now have extended family living in the same building and pop in and out to see each other.

Young people in particular, says Martin, don't want to live in Takanini or have a $1m mortgage. "For $300,000 they get a young person's lifestyle, security and a view," he says.

Ultimately the choice comes down to lifestyle. If you want to stay in surburbia or love gardening, then an apartment might not be for you.

But there are plenty of reasons why it could be just the change you need.

APARTMENT LIVING MIGHT BE RIGHT FOR YOU

• You don't need to paint the roof and the windowsills or worry about leaking pipes, broken front door locks and all those things that keep you busy in a standalone home. 
• You can have facilities such as gyms, secure carparks, security systems, and swimming pools. 
• Insurance is paid for in bulk by the body corporate and apartments don't need much heating or cooling compared to standalone homes. 
• They allow people to live on their own, rather than share a flat. 
• They can be locked up and left without security worries - although do check your contents insurance policy to make sure you're covered.
• They are usually close to restaurants, bars, shopping, public transport, and other amenities.

By NZ Herald

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