With winter nipping at our noses, now is the right time to consider what you need from your Christchurch home to keep your family safe and healthy through this tough season. We know that the property market in Christchurch has been tough since the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, but there are still things you can do to make sure the home you’re renting or buying ticks all the boxes for your family’s needs.
Ask the right questions
First things first, when you’re looking for a property in Christchurch you need to think about the right location. It’s a fact: Where you live is going to greatly affect your lifestyle. Even though the central city is open, you might want to be living out further in the burbs. Think of what your family needs and ask yourself the following questions:
- How long will it take to commute to work and back?
- How close is this property to schools and day care?
- What amenities are nearby? Where is the nearest supermarket?
- How busy is the road? Is it safe?
- What are the neighbours like? Is the neighbourhood safe?
These are all questions that good property professionals will have the answers to. When you go in for a meeting with your property manager, bring a list of questions that you’ve prepared the night before, so you don’t miss out on any information you might need.
Eyes Wide Open
When you’re going for a flat or home viewing in Christchurch, you’ve got to go in with your eyes wide open. Flats and houses are often let in summer when they look their best, but you’ve got to imagine the place in the middle of winter. Sure, the ceiling to floor windows let the sun in the summer, but in the winter, if they’re not double-glazed, you’ll be saying goodbye to all the precious heating you’re spending your money on. When you’re looking for a healthy house for your family, you can afford to be choosey.
Like I just mentioned, double-glazing is a bonus, but it can be too much to ask depending on the areas of Christchurch you’re looking to rent in, or if you’re buying the cost can be prohibitive. Choosing a house on the right side of the street can work wonders: a house that gets a lot of natural sun is a winner. When you’re looking at the windows make sure there are proper locks on them so you can ventilate your house while you’re out running errands.
Take a good look at the windows inside the house. Check the ledges for signs of mould. If the place has recently been repainted, this new splash of paint may be disguising a mould problem. Buyer beware.
Christchurch is a beautiful sunny city in the winter, but it’s cold in the winter. One of the first things you need to know about your Christchurch property is how well it’s heated. Is the heating source provided by the landlord? Are you allowed open fires? If you’re not happy with the heating on offer, some landlords are willing to install heat pumps under the Government scheme, same with insulation installation. It never hurts to ask. If your landlord agrees to install heating, be sure to get it in writing before you sign the tenancy contract – just to be safe.
In fact, before you sign anything, be sure to do a thorough property inspection with your landlord or property manager. This is where you record any existing problems in the property, like broken windows, or stained carpets that could fall on you if you don’t note it down properly. You don’t want your bond to pay for pre-existing damage. So just take the time to report on the state of the place – you can also make a list of things that you think should be on the report, if you come across something like faulty wiring that might not be visible during the walk-through. Keep in mind that if you need anything fixed in your rental property, you’ll need to request it in writing. It’s always good to have a paper trail.
Once you’ve signed a lease or a purchase agreement and you’re living in the property of your dreams, you’re still going to have to make the effort to keep your home healthy. As you know, air flow is vital to the health of a household, and keeping the windows open throughout the day helps to ventilate. This is a cost-effective way to prevent mould during the damp winter months, especially if the place you’re living in doesn’t have an HRV system.
Another trick to keep your home healthy is to keep it heated consistently throughout the day. This prevents condensation which leads to mould. Just keep your heat pump on low, or if you have wall panel heaters, you can set them on a timer. Panel heaters are a great source of heat, particularly compared to gas heaters which are dangerous and prone to adding a lot of moisture to your house or flat.
During the day, while you’re at work, keep your curtains open to trap some of that sun. And then keep that delicious heat in at night by closing them up again once the sun goes down. If you notice a lot of condensation, wipe your windows with a dry cloth, or a handy window wiper, to stay on top of that moisture.
You’re not alone
Living in a dry and warm environment is not only good for everyone, but as a New Zealand citizen or resident, it’s a human right. Your home is where your heart is – and your health should be at the top of your list of priorities, especially if you or your family members suffer from asthma or other respiratory disease. Many Christchurch houses can be damp and cold, which could lead to more illness in the form of colds and flu, and can aggravate existing asthma problems.
If you believe that your flat is seriously breaching health and safety requirements, you can contact your city council to request an inspection from an Environmental Officer. This officer will then send recommendations to your landlord or property manager. Making your home dry, warm and pollution-free is a responsibility that you share with your landlord. It’s not that hard if you put the effort in.
Dry your eyes: keeping moisture out
The truth of the matter is that we create a lot of the problems in our homes. Our daily habits create a cycle of condensation with morning showers to cooking breakfast, to simply breathing – all of these things create moisture in our homes.
Ventilation is important for reducing and controlling condensation. Moisture is not a healthy home’s friend. It leads to mould, which can lead to serious health problems for your family. The good thing about your moisture problem is that it’s easy to beat by following these simple tasks:
- Put lids on pots when you’re cooking
- Dry your clothes outside, or vent your clothes dryer to outside
- Open the windows on clear days
- Use the extractor fan in your bathroom when showering
- Check for water leaks and have them repaired
- Pull beds away from the walls
- Ventilate wardrobes by leaving the doors ajar
- If you find mould, get rid of it by using diluted household bleach
Damp homes can cause health problems for you and your family, and unfortunately they’re more difficult to heat. Before you sign on the dotted line, try to identify the causes of the dampness in your home or rental, and follow our tips to correct them. If you can’t do it in on your own, there are plenty of professionals to help you.
Packing heat: keeping the warmth in
If you make a few changes to help keep the heat inside your home, you’ll be surprised by the benefits from just a little bit of effort. First of all, you’ll feel more comfortable, which will help you to relax after a long day at work. Secondly, you’ll save a considerable amount of money on your heating bill. The last two are off-shoots of the first two perks: you’ll be helping the environment by conserving energy and you and your family will be healthier.
The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum internal temperature of 18°C for a healthy household. When your home’s climate dips below 16°C, there’s an increased risk of health problems. Sadly, many New Zealand homes were built before insulation became a requirement. Almost 40% of heat escapes through an uninsulated roof, and another 10% through your flooring. These problems are easily fixed:
- Purchase well-fitting thermal curtains to keep the heat in
- Use draught stops under doors
- Place draught proofing plastic around windows and doors
- Use a healthy form of heating such as a heat pump, or pellet or wood burner
- block off any open fireplaces if you’re not using them
A healthy home is a happy home and you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure that your Christchurch property is comfortable. At Cowdy, we can make the process of finding a healthy Christchurch property a lot easier for you. Our team of professionals recommend only the best places in Christchurch to live. So get in touch with us today, and we’ll have you in a warm and cozy home in no time.
Janice Cowdy is director of the Property Management Division of Cowdy.
Having worked in the role since 1989, with a reputation for offering an unrivalled property management service, she ensures landlords receive the best return for their investment.
A property investor herself, her philosophy is to treat every client’s property as they would. Always ensuring landlords receive a good return on investment, and enjoying open lines of communication.
She has extensive experience in all aspects of business, understanding relevant tenancy legislation, and is committed to providing the best property management service available.
A strategic thinker, she focuses on quality control, problem solving and forward planning.