WHEN DAVID AND JULIE decided to sell their 280 square metre architecturally designed home to purchase an apartment, some of their friends thought they were crazy. Almost two years later, some of those same friends are considering a similar move.
The couple decided to purchase the 117 square metre property in the Altera Apartments in Stonefields after admiring the development of Auckland’s newest eastern suburb. As the couple moved towards retirement, it was becoming more evident that maintaining their large home in St Johns Park wasn’t conducive to their plans to travel, nor the lifestyle they sought.
“We really wanted to downsize to something that we could lock up and leave as we wanted to be free to travel and enjoy our retirement without having to worry about leaving a large house empty while we were away.”
David and Julie were most impressed by the design, layout and standard of the apartment that they purchased from the plans just three days after viewing them. This meant they were able to secure their preferred location in the complex and personalise various features in the spacious three bedroom, two bathroom apartment.
“We had 18 months to plan for the move while the apartment was being built,” says David, “It was terrific fun as we had plenty of time to think about how we wanted to furnish the apartment.”
The couple decided to start from scratch, working with professionals to design and build custom made furniture, ensuring that they achieved exactly the look they were after.
The purchase also marked the beginning of a large scale cull of their household contents, which had accumulated over many years.
“It was a truly liberating experience,” says Julie. “You don’t realise until you go through the process of downsizing that you actually don’t need a lot of what you’ve got. Often you’ll stumble across bits and pieces that haven’t been used for years. The move was a great opportunity to start from scratch and keep everything simple and clean.”
The couple were both born and bred in Auckland and had always lived in Auckland’s eastern suburbs. They ran a successful website development business which they sold around the same time as they decided to transition to apartment living.
“When we were living in our home in St Johns Park, there were some days when we would never see anyone, but here you bump into people all the time and it’s great having that social aspect,” says Julie. “There’s a gardening group that you can get involved with and we’re growing herbs, fruit and vegetables that we can all share. It’s just enough for those who want to do a bit of gardening without being held hostage by a large garden that needs constant maintenance.”
The couple adore their apartment and the lifestyle it affords. They believe the kiwi dream of the house with the quarter acre section is changing as the perception of apartment living changes. “Some people have visions of cramped quarters, noisy neighbours, and feeling hemmed in, but whenever we have visitors, they often comment on how it doesn’t feel like an apartment at all.”
One visitor who had been slightly sceptical about their move to an apartment changed her mind when she first saw the couple’s new home, says David. “About six months after we’d moved in, we went to an open home for one of the apartments that was up for resale and low and behold, who did we see? That same visitor and her husband were there with tape measure in hand seeing if their existing furniture would fit into the apartment!”
In both New Zealand and Australia, apartment living is a fast moving emerging trend, particularly for baby boomers. The pull towards the urban, cosmopolitan lifestyle that apartment living offers, together with location taking priority over size is one of the factors driving the shift. The benefits are easily visible with security, shared facilities, location and ‘a less is more’ mind set cited as the main motivators.
With supermarkets, cafes and shops only a few minutes’ walk from their apartment, David and Julie are thrilled with their new apartment lifestyle. The nearby wetlands, walking and cycling tracks are also well utilised by the couple. “We would highly recommend apartment living to anyone wanting to simplify their lifestyle. The process that we’ve gone through means we can also share our insights and experience with others considering a similar move.”
“If you’re downsizing from a house, don’t try and work out how to fit all your furniture in. It’s about decluttering... You’ll find that you don’t actually need much of what you have stored away. Also make sure you consider where the apartment is located in the complex.” That was one of David and Julie’s first priorities; their apartment is on the top floor with panoramic views as far as the Coromandel on a clear day.
The couple are enjoying the many benefits that apartment living offers. Becoming part of a built-in community is just one of the perks that they enjoy. “Sharing common areas with others allows you get to know your neighbours and for those who are on their own, that can be very reassuring.”
For many who are purchasing apartments over houses, it’s also a chance to be closer to the inner city and shorten their commute to work. Apartment living is also becoming an increasingly popular ‘green choice.’ More people can fit into less space and less space means less room for unnecessary clutter or purchases.
All of the benefits of apartment living can be found at Stonefields, a rich village environment in an already established urban area.
When completed, Stonefields will have approximately 2,500 high-quality homes in a variety of styles that cater to different demographics and different lifestyles.