BusinessDesk investments editor Frances Cook responds to emails from readers each week to answer questions about money. Below, you will find her expert advice. Send your own questions to [email protected].

Hi Frances,

I feel completely overwhelmed by the current financial state of the country, and of myself! I have just returned to work from maternity leave, and my husband and I are currently trying to build back up the bank accounts after the parental leave pretty much drained them.

However, we find ourselves in a conundrum with the house ... we bought a 'fixer-upper' and have half fixed it, but in the meantime, the other half has gotten the worst wear and tear.

We have decided, as we probably should have when we bought it four years ago, that renovation does not suit our lifestyles.

We want to sell and then work ourselves into a new build (in a subdivision so already built for us to just walk into). But... the timing is stressing me out!

We have the opportunity for cheap rent in a family member's rental property, so do we take the plunge and sell ASAP before the market gets even worse? And then rent for a bit so then maybe we have more money in our savings to get back on the market in a new build, hopefully, helped along by further drops in the housing market ... ? 

I guess I'm feeling stressed because I was so relieved to be ON the property ladder when we bought, that I'm so terrified now of getting off it!!

I would love love love some advice. Particularly from an outsider's perspective after listening to your post about fear-mongering the other day!



Hi C,

I can totally understand feeling overwhelmed. There are lots of bad headlines around the money world at the moment, and it all gets a bit much. 

Especially if you’ve just come back from parental leave. That’s tough for just about everyone.

Meanwhile, renovation certainly isn’t for everyone, especially if you’ve got a wee one now. I imagine that time is in short supply, and frankly, it can be a little difficult to secure all those paint cans and screws away from a nosey little person.

My first house just needed painting and the laundry fixing up, and by the time we moved out, I still swore I would never move into a fixer-upper again.

Some people do amazing things with renovations, and I take my hat off to them. Personally, I find it exhausting, and I simply do not have the time and energy to make it worthwhile.

Now after saying how much sympathy I have for your situation, my two cents: is it possible to buy a new house and then sell your current place, without risking leaving the market entirely?

You say you’d like to possibly take the opportunity of selling, having the market fall more, and then buying, to cash in. In a perfect world, that would be a very smart plan. 

But if it was that easy, everyone would do it. In reality, it’s a very risky plan.

Risk versus reward

The property market is fickle, as I’m sure you’ve seen. Prices boomed 45% over two years of covid mayhem. 

Now it’s falling, with the latest OneRoof figures showing it's fallen 8.15% nationwide so far. Some regions have it worse, with Wellington falling an eye-watering 17.7% since March. Ouch. 

Things can shift, quickly, and I don’t want to see you caught on the wrong side of it.

Sure, it might work out. Or it might really, really, not work out.

Let’s weigh up the risks on each side. On one side, the benefit is getting ahead by a few years on your mortgage. On the other side, the risk of being locked out of the housing market, while trying to look after (and pay for) a young family.

To my mind, it’s a small possible upside and a large possible downside. The risks just don’t balance.

Other risks

A house isn’t just a financial decision. It’s also security and stability. 

Even if you’re renting from someone you know, things can change, and renting could mean moving more often. Especially with a young family, that can be an absolute pain.

There’s also the possibility that once you sell, and have the deposit chunk sitting there in a bank account, you find it hard to resist dipping into it. 

If you have another child, you might want to use some of it to get through parental leave. Or some other life expense comes along, and you use it to stave off that dose of bad luck. Before you know it, you've chipped away at your nest egg, with little left.

There are lots of things that could go wrong if you sell and go back to renting, especially if money is already tight.

A different solution

I suggest making an appointment with a mortgage adviser and asking if they see a way for you to qualify for a new build now. 

New builds can mean you get better lending conditions from the bank, such as a lower interest rate, or qualifying for a lower deposit. Mortgage advisers also know the system, and how to structure your finances so that more opportunities open up than you expected.

A mortgage adviser is free to you. They get paid a commission by the bank when you sign up for a mortgage. So, you might as well hear what they have to say.

You could even make an appointment with three different mortgage advisers, in order to make sure you find someone you like and whose style fits your goals. Nothing wrong with shopping around to make sure you find the best person to help you.

Something like a turnkey house could possibly work for you. A turnkey house means you only need to put 10% down as a deposit, and then the rest is due when the house is completed.

It can depend on the contract that you sign, but it usually locks in building costs at the time you sign up. So, a big bonus is that there's less chance of a cost blowout catching you by surprise. 

Banks also like turnkey builds, so are often more willing to work with you on finance.

If you signed up for something like that, you would need to put in less money upfront. Then you could either stay in your current house while the turnkey is built or sell now and rent from your family member, without having actually checked out of the property market entirely.

To my mind, that's the way forward. Check out your options, with an eye to staying in the market, but in a house that works better for your current lifestyle. 

I think you’ll find you have more possibilities than you realised.

Best of luck!

Send questions to [email protected] if you want to be featured in the column. Emails should be about 200 words, and we won't publish your name. Unfortunately, Frances is not able to respond to every email received, or offer individual financial advice. 

Information in this column is general in nature and should not be taken as individual financial advice. Frances Cook and BusinessDesk are not responsible for any loss a reader may suffer.