By Allison Tait
MSN NZ Money writer
There comes a time in every kid's life when the urge to spread their wings and fly the parental nest becomes overwhelming. A room (or possibly two) of your own, no-one reminding you to wash/iron/dress, the opportunity to eat Cheezels for dinner every night if you feel like it … sounds like heaven, right?
While there are many kid-ults out there reluctant to leave the security (and, let's face it, comfort) of life with mum and dad those who are keen to get on with it soon find themselves trying to navigate the minefield of the rental property market.
Demand for rental accommodation remained strong throughout 2007 keeping rental vacancy rates low. According to Outlook for the NZ Property Market 2007-2010 by Infometrics, nationwide rental growth climbed to 6.8 per cent in June 2007 the fastest since 2004. And the ongoing demand for rental accommodation has meant more renters, but fewer properties so it pays to brush up on the basics before you hit the real estate section.
Where do I begin?
Firstly, you need to work out whether you can actually afford to move out. For this, you need a budget. Remember that as a tenant, you not only have to stump up the agreed rent each week/fortnight or month, but you'll be paying your own electricity, gas and, in some cases, water usage bills. Most tenancy agreements require you to pay up to the equivalent of four weeks’ rent as bond (this is the most the landlord can ask you for). The bond is money that you pay as security for the landlord, and they have to lodge the money with the Department of Building and Housing within 23 working days. They must also give you a receipt for the bond money you pay them.
Well, most places are let unfurnished, so you'll need your own stuff. That's everything from the fridge, the washing machine (unless you're in a unit block with shared facilities) and the bed to the forks, the ironing board and the toaster. While you can beg or borrow a lot of hand-me-downs from parents and others, you'll still need to supply some of it yourself. One budget-friendly option is to haunt op shops and garages sales in your area … you'll be amazed at what you pick up.
I've got the cash, now what?
A great place to start is with the Department of Building and Housing. Visit www.dbh.govt.nz and go to “Publications” to get a copy of their guide for tenants. The website will provide information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant and the rights and responsibilities of the landlords from whom you'll be renting. It’s particularly useful if you've never heard of a tenancy agreement, don't know what a bond is and are a bit overwhelmed by it all.
Do I have to do it on my own?
Short answer, no. Sharing rented accommodation can be a great way to keep costs down. You can either get together with some like-minded friends and look for a place together, or scan the 'Share' sections of the local papers to meet new people. If you're a student, an accommodation officer may be able to help you find somewhere suitable. There are, of course, a few things to keep in mind:
- How many people do you want to live with? Some people don't mind living with a shifting population of flatmates, others like to come home to the same one or two each day.
- Where are your 'lines in the sand'? In other words, what can you live with? If smokers drive you nuts, don't move in with someone who says 'I'll only smoke outside'. They won't. If you hate cats, don't imagine you'll be able to put up with one because the rent is cheap and the room is nice. You won't.
- Remember that people move on, up and out. Which means that you and whoever is left in the house might be left to cover the extra rent while you look for another flatmate.
- It might be a good idea to read a copy of John Birmingham's book He Died With A Felafel in His Hand (Duffy and Snellgrove). Just to give you an idea …
Have we got to the fun bit yet?
Yes, it's time to find a place. But even this is sometimes difficult to classify as fun. There are a million questions you need to ask yourself when deciding where to live: apartment or house? What's the security like? Do you need parking? Is it noisy? How far are you from shops/public transport/work/a decent pub? Can you live with orange kitchen benches and lurid green tiles in the bathroom? And that's just for starters.
You may need to look at a lot of places before you find the home of your dreams, but sooner or later you'll find The One. And you'll be sitting on the living room floor eating Cheezels before you know it.
Of course, the good thing about renting is that should the romance go sour and you discover the home of your dreams is actually a nightmare, you can simply move on in six or 12 months, depending on your tenancy agreement.
And begin the whole process again.