Property across the generations: A tale of three Auckland family homes

One Auckland couple in their eighties have bought five family homes, the first for 2000 pounds in 1955, and six business and investment properties; their daughter and husband have bought three homes; their grandsons, with their parents’ help, went halves on their first home.

These three generations of the Murphy-Cloney family provide a good illustration of the changing face of the property market over the last half-century, where price growth appears to be pushing home ownership further out of reach.

In November 2016, the average national price was $624,675, but in Auckland this figure was much higher, reaching $1.051 million, with only a handful of suburbs deemed below the “affordable” range of $600,000.

Rewind 61 years, when John, 86 and Eileen Murphy, 85, bought their first Auckland home while in their mid-20s.

They described the situation as a buyers market where all their peers were buying too.

The couple still had to borrow to buy, worked hard to save and their first home came bare of any frills but homes were sitting vacant and open for the taking.

Two decades later when daughter Ann Cloney, 62, and her husband, John, 64, then in their mid-20s bought, the market was tighter with a 50-50 split amongst their peers as to who bought and who rented

Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Property across the generations: A tale of three Auckland family homes

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One Auckland couple in their eighties have bought five family homes, the first for 2000 pounds in 1955, and six business and investment properties; their daughter and husband have bought three homes; their grandsons, with their parents’ help, went halves on their first home.

These three generations of the Murphy-Cloney family provide a good illustration of the changing face of the property market over the last half-century, where price growth appears to be pushing home ownership further out of reach.

In November 2016, the average national price was $624,675, but in Auckland this figure was much higher, reaching $1.051 million, with only a handful of suburbs deemed below the “affordable” range of $600,000.

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Rewind 61 years, when John, 86 and Eileen Murphy, 85, bought their first Auckland home while in their mid-20s.

They described the situation as a buyers market where all their peers were buying too.

The couple still had to borrow to buy, worked hard to save and their first home came bare of any frills but homes were sitting vacant and open for the taking.

Two decades later when daughter Ann Cloney, 62, and her husband, John, 64, then in their mid-20s bought, the market was tighter with a 50-50 split amongst their peers as to who bought and who rented.

Now their grandchildren, Blake and Daniel Cloney, have gone halves on their first home which was first bought by their parents.

They are but two of a small handful in their mid- to late-20s who have been able to buy property.

Corazon Miller talks to the three generations, all of whom own a property in the Supercity, about why they chose to buy, the sacrifices they made and what their money could buy.

THE GRANDPARENTS

In their lifetime the Murphys have bought five family homes and six business and investment properties. Their first one cost 2000 pounds. Today they live in a $1.025m property in Bucklands Beach and own a couple others around the city.

For the grandparents’ generation owning a property appeared to be a rite of passage rather than an insurmountable lifetime challenge.

John and Eileen Murphy have owned 11 properties, including five they’ve called home. They bought their first in their mid-20s and their second was fully paid off by their early 40s.

Today, they live in a two-level, four-bedroom home in Bucklands Beach with a view overlooking the harbour and the CBD skyline in the distance.

Details around how they bought their first properties remained a little sketchy for both, a reflection, perhaps, of the market’s relative ease at the time.

There wasn’t any problem at all; it had been sitting there empty for sometime.

Eileen Murphy, about her first house

The husband and wife of 63 years rented until they bought a two-bedroom weatherboard home in Mairangi Bay in 1955.

It wasn’t flash, with no garages, fencing, landscaping or driveway but it was theirs.

“We had a small child so we were just so pleased to make it,” Eileen Murphy said. “We felt secure, that’s why we wanted to buy a house.”

They had to borrow, but the couple said buying a house was something all their peers did.

“It was a buyers’ market,” Eileen Murphy said. “There wasn’t any problem at all; it had been sitting there empty for sometime.”

Both said property ownership had never been “the dream”; in fact, John Murphy’s focus was on his business aspirations.

“My life’s ambition was to own my own business.”

An auto-electrician by trade, John Murphy did the milk run for six years to double his wage and fulfil his ambitions.

From 1954, he worked from midnight through to 7am, seven days a week for 24 pounds a week.

When the couple moved into their first home, he barely had the energy to reflect on what it meant because he was working so many hours.

“I never felt anything much. With that milk round you were perpetually tired; you never got used to trying to sleep all day.”

Five years later the couple sold up and moved to Cambridge where they established their first business.

“We went to Cambridge with a baby, no house of our own and no business. Just the money to buy it,” said Eileen Murphy.

They rented for two years, before getting into their second house, this one a four-bedroom Spanish-style home became the family home for the next 17 years.

While the Murphys couldn’t remember how much it cost, they said it took them 10 years to pay this off in full. It was the last time they had a home mortgage.

In the years since they’ve bought three more homes; one for $55,000 in 1979 in Cambridge, another for $120,000 in Discombe in 1980, which they sold 18 months later for $189,000, followed by their forever home in Bucklands Beach.

That four-bedroom house was bought in 1982 for $142,000 and now has a CV of $1.025m.

They’ve also owned two commercial and two investment properties out of Auckland and still own two in the Supercity.

While the couple acknowledged things are harder today, they question whether today’s generation just need to give up some of the luxuries.

“Our kids have done it,” they said when asked if property ownership was out of reach.

“There are so many things for people to spend their money on,” Eileen Murphy said. “We didn’t go out for lattes; we didn’t go out anywhere; we made our clothes. It was a different market.

“[Today’s generation]’s first thing is their OE; it is much harder for them, because they’ve spent their money on travel, all these bars and food places.”

THE PARENTS

The Cloneys have bought two properties to call home and one for their children. They managed to save a deposit for their first, took out three mortgages for the second, which they paid off some 20 years later with hard work and a financial inheritance. They also bought a third, mainly to give their kids a foot on Auckland’s property ladder.

For the Cloneys it’s taken about twice as long as the Murphys, and an inheritance, to be mortgage-free.

John and Ann Cloney were a similar age as the Murphys when they bought their first property, a three-bedroom house for $32,500 at 4 Humber Place in Avondale in 1979.

We would have used every penny we had

John Cloney

They remembered saving for about two years before going “dressed in our Sunday best” to prove they were “upstanding members of society” to the bank for a loan.

Ann Cloney, a hairdresser at the time, said becoming a home-owner was nerve-wracking.

“It was a huge commitment, because we were so young,” she said.

Unlike her parents’ generation, she said it was a 50-50 split amongst her peers between renting and buying.

John Cloney, who was a mechanical engineer, said they were left with absolutely nothing once they secured their first mortgage, with his in-laws helping them buy their first large appliances.

“We would have used every penny we had.”

It took a year before the couple said they were finally “secure enough to spend a bit more”.

Ten years, and three children [including newborn twins] later, the Cloneys looked to upgrade.

“We just needed a bit more space,” Ann Cloney said.

In March 1989 they bought their home at in Western Springs, for $239,000.

Twenty-two years on, it took them receiving a family inheritance to finally be mortgage-free, more than ten years later than their parents’ generation.

Today the two-storey villa has a CV of $1.74m

Despite the achievement Ann Cloney said going mortgage-free went almost unnoticed.

“I always thought we’d have a big party, but it just seemed to slip by.”

However, both were grateful at the security their home had provided for the past three decades.

Around the same time they paid off their mortgage, the Cloneys bought a third property – this one for the kids.

“It was theirs [his two sons] house from the word go,” John Cloney said. “But it gave them breathing space until they could buy.”

THE GRANDSONS

Blake Cloney bought his first property at 21, with the help of his parents and in conjunction with his older brother, Daniel Cloney. Seven years later he is one of a handful of his friends to have a foot on the property ladder, most of whom also had a helping hand.

If the Auckland electrician’s parents hadn’t been on a mission to get their children into a property there’s every chance he’d be almost locked out of the city’s market.

Today, Blake Cloney owns a modest Kingsland property with his brother, Daniel and sister-in-law, Andrina.

Bought in 2013 for $500,000 by his parents, with the intent their two boys would rent to buy before completely taking on the mortgage for themselves, the property has a CV of $860,000.

“It was pretty impromptu,” Cloney said of his decision to get onboard with his parents’ plans. “I did it mainly because it was a good opportunity.”

He put in $3000 towards the house’s initial purchase and spent time and money doing up what was a rather neglected house. Eventually he cashed in his KiwiSaver before taking on a $300,000 loan he’s still paying off.

Today he lives in the three-bedroom property, set on 483sqm of land with a couple of housemates who pay board.

It’s just a Kiwi thing, especially with a big garden and a lot of grass. It feels like a bit of security.

Blake Cloney

His brother has since moved to Rotorua, and bought a second property with his wife.

“It’s a really big commitment,” Blake Cloney said. “I don’t have the spare cash.”

He said a few sacrifices had to be made; unlike many his age he’d not been able to head away on an OE and has done shorter trips.

“I became pretty domesticated.”

Despite this he said it was worth it, especially given today’s prices.

Cloney doubted he’d have been able to afford buying in central Auckland otherwise.

“It feels like less of a waste than renting,” he said. “While it’s harder at the start, it’s worth it.

“It’s just a Kiwi thing, especially with a big garden and a lot of grass. It feels like a bit of security.”

NZ Herald