Banks Peninsula Land Search

As I mentioned in the previous post, we started looking at land recently.

Banks peninsual map

During the month of April we started going on weekly scouting missions to the Banks Peninsula, an area one hour from Christchurch where we’ve considered settling. An area of 1000 sq km, it is an old volcanic region with rolling hills, two large harbours, and many beautiful bays. We put Maggie, our realtor, onto the search. And soon enough we went out to see a few properties. Stressful to say the least, as we had big criteria for our dream property: magnificent views, as small as 10 acres as large as 100, must have a water source (stream preferable), some native bush a plus, no building(s) unless it was rundown (we didn’t want to pay for someone else’s renovation); room for large gardens and an orchard. At that time, we were still planning to spend two weeks in early May up in Golden Bay, the northern part of the south island, to get a feel for the area and talk to some people. It is an area we’ve considered moving to as it has a much warmer climate and a lot of ‘sustainable’ projects are happening there. However, after all our guests and travels in April, we cancelled our trip as we really didn’t have the wherewithal to go on the road again. And so we agreed to concentrate our land purchase efforts right here in Canterbury, and should we find THE place, we would take it as a sign we were meant to stay here in this region.

Road up to PropertyRoad up to Property

On May 17 we went to see two 100 acre properties in Okuti Valley, one of the earlier valleys you get to as you come onto the Banks Peninsula. One of them caught our eye: northfacing (full day sun), no buildings but had a building site, plenty of room for gardens, three springs, and about 12 acres in forestry that would be harvestable within a few more years. Wow. The downside: there was a very steep 4WD narrow dirt road to get onto the property, three of the neighbors had water rights to the springs and no one knew how much water was available; the terrain was quite steep in most places, no mains electricity on site. We were really intrigued. We went back the next day with friend Gen to have a closer look. The day was glorious, we basked in the sun’s warmth. Between Bruce & I, we went at least two more times in the next two weeks and spent a total of six or seven hours there, walking the boundaries, exploring the land.

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And we spent endless hours talking about it. Over and over again. Pros and cons. Is this the dream property? Is this the best we can do? I really didn’t like the access road and investigated the cost to put in a tar-sealed road: $100,000. We didn’t know how much water was on site or what was legally meant by the neighbors having use of the springs. The agents arranged a meeting between us and the seller. Turned out we had met her at the Convergence festival. Was this a good sign? Round and round. Sleepless nights. The seller was hoping for $800,000; we were told she’d probably come down to $700,000. Was it worth it? Should we put an offer in on it? How do we know?

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Maggie suggested we put in an offer with the stipulation of us having two weeks to do our due diligence. We would get a hydrologist out to the property; we’d talk to lawyers about water rights, etc. Time was running out as Bruce was leaving in a little over two weeks and all of this would need to be solidified prior to our leaving for our two month state-side visit. Meanwhile, the money we were going to use to pay for this property (the money from the sale of our San Francisco home) was still sitting in my US account in US dollars. And as any good kiwi expat knows, the US dollar has been tanking fast against the NZ dollar and has fallen approximately 13% in the last a four months.

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Finally, after sleeping on it one more night, we decided we ‘should’ put in an offer. Neither of us was super excited (first bad sign), but we went ahead anyway. We came up with a bit of a low but yet what we thought was a fair price ($625K) and Maggie presented the offer on the morning of May 30th.

We were anxious all day. It didn’t feel good (second sign). At the end of the day we’d heard the vendor was wanting $725k but would think about it over night. The next morning we got a call saying she’d come down to $625k but we’d have to pay the 12 ½% GST on it (bringing it back up to $700k). We said no, we couldn’t come up in price and it was over.

Done. We walked away. I was thrilled as I really didn’t want to put myself through the stress of dealing with this right before our trip. And I wasn’t convinced this was THE property or whether Banks Peninsula is the place we’re supposed to settle. Bruce had more mixed feelings. He really wants to find the property soon because it will take years for us to develop it into the sanctuary we envision. “Time’s a wasting” he says sometimes. But we know we have to trust, trust in ourselves, trust in the universe, trust that we shall find the place when it’s the right time to do so and not a minute earlier.

We learned a lot. We’re more educated. We are one step closer.