30 May 2024

TradeMe notes increase in $1 reserve properties, but are they worth it?

9:57 am on 30 May 2024
An auction sign outside a house for sale in Auckland.

TradeMe says it has seen an increase in the number of homes for sale with a $1 reserve. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

For those trying to get onto the housing ladder, the promise of a super cheap house could be very tempting.

So, how does a dollar sound?

TradeMe has been seeing an increase in the number for sale with a $1 reserve, but it could be a case of buyer beware.

Rafael Caso is selling a tiny home for a dollar, but he sure hopes it will not go for that.

"If we could get close to 200,000, that would be tremendous. But then with the $1 reserve, we just have to have faith that there will be people that see it as good value and are very keen to put a bid towards it, and we just have to hope that it does well."

Caso was auctioning the house to raise money for the charity he manages, Live Well Build Well, which works to help improve tradespeople's mental wellbeing.

But whoever buys it will need somewhere to put it as the auction was for the house only.

Caso wasn't the only one putting a house up for sale with a dollar reserve. TradeMe said it has seen an increase in listings with 18 since the start of 2023.

Billy Mander bought a $1 reserve house, but on auction day he paid $509,999 dollars over asking.

A builder, once he got the house, he spent $80,000 renovating it from top to bottom due to the decrepit state it was in.

"I kind of knew what I needed to do and how I needed to bring it up to the standard. It was very messy when I bought it, so I had to do a lot of work on it."

Mander said he still got a good deal, as he ended up paying a few thousand under what other properties in the neighbourhood sold for.

"433 metres of land and a fully renovated house for $590,000, it's not a bad deal. Anywhere you go, even in today's market, it's over $750,000 or close to $800,000 for this kind of property, so I made a good gain there. Made a good profit on that."

RNZ found one home that actually sold for a dollar, in the Auckland suburb of Mt Albert. It was an apartment at a former student accommodation complex that was on leasehold land, and there were known issues with the condition of the building.

Property lawyer Joanna Pigeon said leasehold land could be a problem.

"You're signing up for a lease, which means that you'll have to pay a rent, a ground rent, which will be subject to review.

"Depending on the basis of the rent review and how often you need to review it, it might mean that you could be paying considerable increases of ground rent.

"Then you'll probably also have maintenance requirements."

Pigeon said homes for removal came with their own issues too, if they were in poor condition they would need to be upgraded to meet the building code and if they were in good condition they still needed to be put somewhere.

She said these properties often were not suitable for first home buyers, and anyone else hoping to make a quick buck needs to be prepared.

"You should always be not just looking at the purchase price, but what is the cost to be able to actually lawfully use and occupy it, to upgrade it to the standard that is needed?"

There were four listings on TradeMe currently for $1 reserve properties.

One was Caso's charity auction. Of the others, one was a wetland in Northland with only paper road access, one was a house for removal in Invercargill, and the last was a plasterboard home in Onehunga, which failed to sell at auction in July last year.

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