We had tried to plan ahead as much as possible and had contacted letting agents and set up references before we left home. We had managed to book a couple of viewings for that first weekend and set off to have a drive around Wellington to see what each area was like.
Wellington is a beautiful city. We decided its a cross between Swansea, San Francisco and Balamory. The view as you drive along the highway past the bay and towards the city is breathtaking and I don't think I will ever get tired of seeing it. Much of the city is built into the side of the hills and there are many different styles of house clinging to the sides of the valley. Most of the houses near the centre of the city are of the old wooden colonial style and very beautiful. Its a very different style from UK towns and city's and you are hard pressed to spot any brick built buildings until you get into the centre of the city. Some of the parades of shops in the suburbs look like something you would expect to see in an old mid western town in America.
The picture below was taken from our holiday cottage which was located in Thorndon about 10 minutes walk from the Parliament buildings. It was one of these old colonial style cottages and needless to say this area is quite expensive to live in and way out of our budget.
We had been advised that some of the nice areas to live within commuting distance of Wellington were Karori, Ngaio and Upper and Lower Hutt. We spent our first Saturday in New Zealand frantically driving round these areas to see what they were like and waiting in vain for a letting agent to turn up to show us around a house.
By the end of our first weekend we had narrowed down the areas we were prepared to live in but still had not seen a property we liked. With DH starting work on Monday it looked like I would have to drag the girls around to look at properties during the week.
When looking a properties in New Zealand there is one major problem that you have to look out for. As most of the properties are wooden you have to check for damp. Normally this is very obvious to spot and I ended up looking around quite a few that had that musty smell as soon as you walked in the door or wallpaper that was peeling off the walls. You also need to be very suspicious of any fresh paint.
By the end of Wednesday we were all getting a bit depressed as we had yet to find any property that wasn't showing signs of damp, peeling wallpaper, rotten wood or was too remote and difficult to commute from. There was one property that I don't think I will ever forget looking around as it left me feeling quite traumatised!
It was in a lovely area of Karori so we were both quite keen on it. However as we walked up to it you could see that it wasn't very well maintained on the outside as the paint was peeling. We thought it might be better inside, it wasn't. The floor in the kitchen was slightly wonky and the kitchen was grubby and old (although bizarrely it did have a brand new dishwasher). Then when we walked in the bathroom the owner proudly displayed the sunken bath. Well is was definitely sunken, it looked like an ordinary bath that had just fallen through the floor and they had decided to leave it there. Its very difficult to think of something nice to say to the person who is showing you round when faced with this. So I think in the end we just mumbled something and quickly moved on to the next room.
We could see a view of the back garden from there and spotted a large shed with a lady standing in the doorway. My DH asked what was in the shed and the landlady said not to worry but that was where Mrs X lived and she was honestly no bother as shes very quiet and wont intrude. It was at this point that we rapidly made a retreat. The house with the sunken bath and an old lady living in a shed in the back garden was not for us!
I managed to make appointments to view two properties on the Thursday and we decided to look slightly further out of Wellington to see if you got more for your money. It turned out that both of the properties we looked at were great but one in particular stood out. The views across the bay were spectacular and I don't think I really looked at the rest of the house. The picture below is the view from the living room balcony where I am now typing this. I think you'll agree we chose the right house.