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The House

A lot of folks expressed surprise that we bought a house after only being in the country for a month. We had originally planned to take more time so we could get to know the best neighbourhoods and be sure that we would find the right place. But ... we had a couple of pressing issues with regards to the cats needing a home after quarantine and the imminent arrival of furniture. That and the fact that rents throughout the country were relatively high, ranging from $250 to $300 or more a week. This was approaching house payment level, and would start to eat through our funds quickly. We also were aware that housing prices were on their way up, and figured it would probably be good to get in sooner rather than later.

Relative to US dollars (and most other foreign currencies and their corresponding average salaries) houses in New Zealand are a bargain. Even in Nelson, where prices are amongst the highest in the country - thanks to the great weather, housing is a bargain. No where else in the world will you find houses in such proximity to the sea and mountains (and their views), in such a temperate climate for such a good price. Unfortunately it doesn't translate well for kiwis themselves, since relative to typical kiwi salaries, the houses are pretty expensive. But for those who already own property, the demand from foreign buyers does drive up the value of their property - and for purely selfish reasons, I would encourage my non-kiwi friends to invest here and drive up the value of our house!

The market here is so hot now, that rarely is a house listed with a price. Most houses are sold at auction or tender - basically floating the price of the house at what the market will bear. So when we tried to figure out what was available at what price range, the only way to tell was to make offers on properties. Well not totally true - the Realtors had some idea of ballpark prices, but you still couldn't know for sure until a house sold. So as mentioned previously in the diary, we went out to look at what was available and fell in love with one right away and just bought it.

We did get a home inspection, so we were aware of some of the issues, but of course until you move in and start living in a place, you won't find everything.

In the inspection, we found out the roof is actually made of cement tiles. The house is about 50 years old, and the tiles are original. We were told the roof might have another 5 to 10 years of life, but would need to be replaced. These cement tiles are quite brittle, and unpainted they soak up lots of water. So they are heavy to begin with and even more so after rain. And as the inspector checked the roof, he cracked several and as John tried to seal and paint them, he cracked a few.

There was also an issue with a leak in the dining room, but we thought we knew the cause and how to fix it. Well we weren't in the house long before we decided the roof would need more immediate attention. We had the leak in the dining room, but also found when we got up into the attic that apparently there were others, since there were buckets scattered about the place. Of course our inspector had failed to mention this. Now I've gone on and on about the great weather here, but we did have quite a bit of rain in our first few weeks. When it does rain here, it does not muck about - we get proper rain. The other thing is these cement tiles sit directly on the rafters, and we could actually see daylight in places when looking up at the roof. Most roofs here at steel, often designed to look like tile. John's initial reaction was a negative one against steel roofs, but he has come around. We are getting a steel Gerard Roof installed soon (hopefully), and will post the after pictures. (I've been raving about the great weather too much lately - we are having a proper rain as I type this. It's rained so much today we may have now recovered from a 6 month drought!)

We got about half a dozen estimates from various roofers. One of the folks who came out broke a tile, and I don't know what he was thinking, but his repair was the worst thing I've ever seen - no better recommendation against using that roofer!

Replacing our cement roof with a much lighter steel one should make our doors open and close better, at least so goes the theory. We will see. With less weight pressing down, it really should be better. We are planning to redo the locks - every door has a different lock - and different type. I'd just like to put in simple deadbolts that prevent accidental lockouts.

Now, I've also mentioned the lack of heat here in previous diary entries. New England folks must find this very interesting. We had changed our heat in our Massachusetts house to something non-conventional. We replaced the 55 year old inefficient, poor heating oil furnace, with a multi-zone clean gas burning system. We had 4 free-standing gas stoves, running off independent thermostats. This gave us a nice attractive warm heat that we could control from room to room. If we weren't using a room, we didn't have to keep it as warm. And if we did want one toasty, we didn't have to heat up the whole house. We loved it, and it really was cheaper. But when we sold, we had an issue with New Englanders wanting traditional central heat, and it took some explanations. In the end we had a buyer who totally appreciated the efficiency of the system. So when we came here, we were amazed that many houses had no central heat, and often no permanent source of heat at all. Some used woodstoves, but many used portable electric space heaters. This wasn't just in temperate Nelson, but we saw this is Christchurch and Dunedin! So the next thing we are doing is getting a gas heat stove! We've actually found the same model we had in our kitchen in Massachusetts (of the four, it was our favourite). We will have it put in right after the roof goes on. We need to do it in this order, since it will vent through the roof.

The deck is one of the greatest features of the house. It is enormous - almost as big as the house. It stretches across the full length, and is as deep as most of the house. The house is 110 sq. metres - while the deck is 90 sq. metres. A large part of the deck is covered, great for both sun and rain protection. The sun is quite intense here, and a cover is critical to sit out on the deck for long on a sunny day. It's also great because it gives us a covered place to hang our clothes out to dry when it does rain. We have a hot tub on the deck, and it does get regular use. The area around the hot tub was partially closed in with walls of lattice. We built a gate, and closed in the upper parts with mesh, so the cats could join us outside.

The kitchen is the next thing we will tackle. The big issues are the cooker, the sink, the countertops, and well the basic lack of design and usability. The electric cooker is pretty bad. It seems to have settings of high, very high and very very high. Even on low, everything boils! I need a gas cooker! Then there is this sink. It has one tiny bowl and a drain area, so I have to wash stuff in series, let the water out, rinse, then wash some more. The countertops aren't very usable. The upper cupboards on the left come out to the same depth as the counter, so trying to chop veggies there doesn't work. The cappuccino maker is OK there. The counter top on the right is in an awkward spot. And workflow is just plain awkward. So we're going to tear it out and redo it. This will hopefully happen in June. In the meantime, we are working on the floor. The house has rimu floors throughout, but they have been covered with linoleum and carpet - wooden floors weren't valued by the original builders/residents. Rimu is a native tree as was used in building many kiwi houses. At this stage, many of New Zealand's original stands of rimu have been exhausted, and recent government policies forbid the felling of many remaining forests. So now Rimu is considered rather valuable. As old buildings are knocked down, the old rimu is often recycled into furniture. It is a beautiful wood. So we are making our way down to it in the kitchen. There is a layer of linoleum on top of plywood, on top of vinyl tile which was glued down with tar. It is quite a chore to get to the base wood. The plywood was nailed down with a million little nails whose heads pop off quite easily. We're also been trying to strip the paint on some of the windows to get to the Rimu and Ash frames underneath!


The wood floor has been exposed in the living room, dining room and hall. We had it sanded and polished before the furniture arrived, and it does look fabulous, so we are sure the kitchen will come out quite nice.

.The bedrooms are relatively small by American standards, but we have set up a very nice guestroom, complete with a queen size bed. And we expect all our friends who said they would come visit to do so! We promise not to put them to work polishing floors - honest!




Summer 2003