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Some Interesting Occurrences in Early Auckland: City and Provinces

Chapter 22 — Surprising Figures In Land Values

Chapter 22
Surprising Figures In Land Values

In my opinion the investors who paid just on £600 per acre for town lots at the first Government land sale in 1841 must have had courage as well as money.

At a sale in 1853 the lease for 21 years of ten acres “on the Epsom Road 1 1/2 miles from town” made £12 10s. per annum, and 53 acres at Tamaki with water frontage brought £51 yearly. Cash sales at this time were made at 50s. per acre in both cases for 77 acres at the Whau portage and 41 acres at Shoal Bay.

As to housing: how does the following extract from the leading article of the New Zealander of 20th July 1859 compare with present ideas and values? “We have been assured on competent authority that frame houses easily put together could be made as follows: Single house 12 £ 8 feet; walls 7 feet high; one door and two windows and a stove plate inserted, from £12 to £14. Such a house would be sufficient for a party of four single men. A couple of small cabins could be added at from £6 to £10.”

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In my own time we had considerable areas in Epsom let to Chinese market gardeners at £3 per acre per annum. Now, good building sites of a quarter of an acre will fetch up to £2,500 each, or £10,000 an acre.

In more modern times, when the New Zealand Insurance Co. decided to erect their great office building the sharebrokers and others who occupied the box–like offices under the old town clock had, of course, to be turned out, and the Sharebrokers' Association was offered the property known as Firth' old mill at £75 per foot frontage to Queen Street. This was considered excessive, but one member of the Association was more enterprising than the others, and he bought the property and made a fortune out of it. Another case I remember is that of a friend who had made a profit of £16,000 on a land deal. I did my utmost to make him put his money into Karangahape Road at £20 per foot with shops thereon, but he would not!

Another sale I remember was of a property in Queen Street, the price working out at £1,200 per foot. I had been instructed that the width was thirty feet, but a survey fixed the frontage at 29 feet 11 inches. The buyer claimed £100. The vendor gasped £100 an inch!” But it was paid.

The greatest increase in property values that I have ever heard of occurred in London, and came under my notice when I was there in 1927. About two hundred years ago a house producing £30 per annum was left to the Blue Coat School. By 1927 the rent had increased to £3,000 a year.

When my firm moved into Queen Street we rented a three–storey building then bringing in £1 14s. 9d. per week. By giving £5 per week with rises every five years, I secured a 21 years' term, and subsequently negotiated an extension for ten years — making 31 years in all. By the end of our lease the rental — and selling — value of the property had increased fabulously.

In the 'teen ages of the present century the well–known old firm of Samuel Cochrane & Son used to hold a land auction every week. One of their principal lines was rate sales — land being sold by local bodies for default in payment of rates. Thousands of acres were sold — mostly in small areas — as low as one shilling per acre. I often indulged in a little flutter at these sales, and did very well; but the biggest buyer was Mr. Gresham, not the originator of “Gresham' law”, but then the Auckland coroner.

It must not be assumed from the cases I have quoted that fortunes can always be made by speculating in land. Money can thereby be lost just as easily.

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