Wellington's Elite Streets
In Elite Streets, Homed looks at which streets are the most desirable in New Zealand's biggest centres and asks why. The answers might not be what you thought.
Wellington has always been a unique city – compact, vibrant, and of course you can't beat it on a good day.
Those very attributes make the whole concept of elite streets very different to Auckland. Wellingtonians want to be near the action, and they want to be able to walk everywhere.
Marty Scott of Harcourts in Wellington puts it this way: "I don't believe the concept (of elite streets) is as prevalent in Wellington as it is in Auckland. That whole idea doesn't get much airplay here now.
"People in Wellington love the compactness of the city, and they want to live in close proximity to town, preferably in a house with a view. There was a time when Carlton Gore Road in Roseneath was held out to be the most expensive real estate in New Zealand, but that spot's long since gone to streets in Auckland. It's still desirable, but not in that extreme bracket."
Wellington streets with the highest median house price estimate in figures provided by homes.co.nz are, in order, Bayview Terrace in Oriental Bay (median $2,480,167) McFarlane Steet in Mount Victoria ($2,263,309), Grass Street in Oriental Bay ($2,086,275), Oriental Parade in Oriental Bay ($1,995,408) and Market Lane in Wellington Central ($1,953,786). As a comparison, the average house price in Wellington is $787,740 (QV).
These suburbs are all mentioned by consultants specialising in high-end properties.
Marty Scott names Oriental Parade, and Upland Road, Central Terrace and Rawhiti Terrace in Kelburn as especially sought-after addresses, due to their close proximity to town.
Babette Newman of New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty agrees. "People in Wellington seem to want to be within walking distance of all amenities. If you live in Central Terrace in Kelburn you are close to the university and the botanic gardens, and you can take the cable car into Wellington and be in town in minutes."
Newman also ranks waterfront properties on Karaka Bay Road, which, as with Oriental Parade, have commanding views that make them desirable.
Ann Curtis of Bayleys agrees Karaka Bay is "very highly sought after", and this is reinforced by the fact that Sir Peter Jackson owns several properties on the water's edge, not too far from Weta Workshop in Miramar.
But Newman believes one-off high sales can distort values, which has been the case with McFarlane Street in Mt Victoria and Bayview Terrace in Oriental Bay. However McFarlane is named as one of "the classics" by Curtis, Scott and Craig Lowe of Lowe & Co Realty, along with The Crescent in Roseneath and Central Terrace in Kelburn.
Curtis also lists Orchard Street in Wadestown among the crème de la crème.
"It's an understated little cul de sac, close to the city, in a very popular area, but homes rarely come on the market."
But Lowe says there is a greater demand for homes on the flat, with buyers prepared to pay for space to raise families.
"The process of gentrification in the suburbs is creating a big change in Wellington," says Lowe. "It used to be that if you were on the hill with a sea view, your property was really sought after. But there has been a real shift to the flat. People want a classic villa on level ground that they can open out to the garden and a lawn for the kids. All the young families are wanting the Ponsonby-type home with potential, as opposed to a '40s-style home with a view.
"Those houses still sell well, but we don't get the 12 to 14 offers we get for the classic villas on the flat."
Lowe says people looking in the "classical" streets often prefer a house that hasn't just been refurbished. "They want to put their own mark on a property."
However, Marty Scott says there is a huge market for houses in Mt Victoria that have already been opened up to cater to modern lifestyles. "Many of those grand old Victorian homes have been transformed, and they have often been dug out underneath to provide garages and that all-important off-street parking."
Mt Victoria also has the backing of Ann Curtis, who says it's "incredibly popular". "This was once a rental area, but now people are getting in there and doing up the old houses."
Lowe has noticed other changes over the past 20 years.
"Two decades ago The Terrace was THE place to own an investment property. It was considered a blue-chip investment to have an apartment there, but that seems to have faded somewhat."
Lowe says it's the developers that are shaping apartment sales today, with "exciting", cutting-edge apartments in modern buildings, and it's even affecting Oriental Bay properties, despite the high median value of apartments in the area. "People want Clyde Quay, Chews Lane and Market Lane. The desirable properties have shifted closer to the waterfront and the city."
Older '80s and '90s apartments with dated decor, such as wall-to-wall carpet, have fallen out of favour. "Oriental Bay used to be really popular. Now it has become a trickier spot to sell," says Lowe.
Both Newman and Scott also report "huge interest" in CBD apartments, with Market Lane and Chews Lane being especially desirable.
"Many of our buyers are baby boomers who are at the stage of life where they have holiday homes in places like the Kapiti Coast and Taupo and they want to be able to lock up and go, so apartments have an immense appeal," says Scott.
Business leader Theresa Gattung is selling her four-bedroom apartment on Oriental Parade, due to work commitments in Auckland and overseas. Her apartment is valued at $2.825 million and she says she has never regretted buying it new in 2003.
"If I was still living in Wellington, I would never sell," she says. "I think it is the best location – sea right over the road, great to walk into the city or around the bay – and it's such a lovely, spacious, quiet apartment."
Marty Scott says larger apartments in Oriental Bay regularly fetch between $2 million and $4 million. "The best ones have a wide frontage, so two bedrooms as well as the living area all get the views. A number of the buildings go back into the hill a long way, which makes the rooms at the back very dark.
"This is why apartments in Clyde Quay are so popular – they go right through from the east to the west side, with balconies out both sides."
BUT ARE ELITE STREETS GOOD BUYS?
Lowe says when a street is known as "elite", the prices reflect this and there is always a risk that it will lose its popularity. "If it's already up there, there's nowhere else for it to go. Places that are considered more humble are more likely to ride a wave and see prices go up. We do find that some houses on those streets with high median prices can be very hard to sell."
But other agents say the problem is getting a house in one of these streets to list. "They are very tightly held," says Curtis. "They hardly ever come on the market. When they do, we always recommend a marketing plan to encourage competition and to get the right price. You can't sell a secret."
WHY LIVE HERE?
The old-school sense of community that defines many Wellington suburbs is a key reason why people living in the elite streets tend to stay.
A couple who have owned their Upland Road, Kelburn house for 17 years probably typify many of the owners. They have no intention of selling.
"We love it because of its proximity to the city, the cable car and the Botanic Gardens," says one of the owners, who prefers to remain anonymous. Here, you feel like you're in the city without having quite the same intensity you get with an apartment.
"And we love the character houses, many of which have lovely views. We also like the buzz of the student life around, and the village has a nice community feeling, although sadly that is changing a bit – the pharmacy has moved. But we have the best Four Square store I have ever been in. I can put on my walking shoes, head off around the park and think of three things I need for dinner. And even though I have no money on me I can stop off at the Four Square and butcher and they are happy for me to pay the next day."
The couple say the sense of community is especially strong. "We walk down to the cable car and generally there's a conversation or two to be had en route. My husband loves the cable car commute – there's always someone he knows to talk to.
"There is a general feeling of camaraderie in the neighbourhood, even though we don't live in each others' pockets. We see each other at neighbourhood drinks evenings – we try and hold one ourselves once a year to keep in touch. And if someone is unwell, we all know about it and see what we can do to help."
But the couple says the homes don't change hands very often. "People tend to stay a long time."
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