In Aotearoa, the median price of a rental property is currently $650 per week, according to the April rental price index from Trade Me. 

In the Wellington region, the median price of a rental property is $670 per week.

Re: News journalist Janhavi Gosavi and photographer Lewis Ferris (@lewisferris_) took a tour of three flats in central Wellington to understand what living in the capital looks like — and costs.  

Maggie, Chloe, Yana and Lucy

Six 20-year-old students pay $1050 for this tall and narrow Victorian-style villa in central Wellington. 

The house has six bedrooms and three bathrooms. 

Three flatmates pay $195 per week, and the remaining three pay between $135 and $185 per week. 

“We’re paying Dunedin prices to live in central Wellington,” Maggie says. 

Top image: The living room window, next to a large wall-mounted tv. Bottom image: One of the six bedrooms.

Utilities come to roughly $360 per month, which is evenly split into $60 per person per month. 

They get three hours of free power between 9pm and 12am every night so they blast the heat pump and run the dishwasher then. 

Image: The flat’s kitchen, accented with red tiles and a matching coffee pot.

In the mid 1900s, the property was situated in Wellington’s red light district and was owned by a woman who was known to rent rooms by the hour. 

The group has a theory that their flat was used as a brothel in more recent times, which they say would explain some of the house’s unusual features. 

All of the bathrooms are close by or directly connected to a bedroom, and each one has in-built hairdryers. Each bedroom has a small, wall-mounted tv and there is a larger wall-mounted tv in the living room. There’s an intercom system and multiple chandeliers. 

Then there’s all of the red: red carpet, red curtains, red tiles, red frames around windows and doors. 

Top image: One of the chandeliers in the flat. Bottom image: A downstairs corner, featuring red curtains and red carpet. 

Left to right images: An intercom machine, red bedroom curtains and one of the hairdryers built into a bathroom wall. 

The group says they often find new leaks and things broken around the flat. 

“We just kept being like, ‘it's so cheap it's worth it’,” Chloe says. 

The group says they enjoy how centrally located their flat is, how sunny it can get, and having access to a dishwasher. They intend on staying here for the rest of this year, at least. 

Top image: An upstairs bedroom. Bottom image: The flat group walking down the stairs between the floors. 

Amelia, Athena, Eden, Zahna and Audrey 

Five flatmates pay a total of $1050 per week for this three bedroom, one bathroom inner-city suburb house. 

Amelia, 22, sleeps in a converted study and pays the lowest rent of $180 per week. 

Audrey, 24, has converted the lounge into a bedroom and pays the highest rent of $227.5 per week. 

Top image: The smallest room, which is a converted study. Bottom image: The largest room, which is a converted lounge. 

Image: The flat group collaged onto their living room which has an ornamental ceiling and wooden floors. 

The flat has a high ceiling and wooden floors and the flatmates say they stay warm by using the internal gas heating which gets pricey. 

Their gas, electricity and wifi bill averages out to roughly $440 per month and is evenly split so every flatmate pays $88.20 per month. 

Some of the women were previously living at home and others were living in separate flats but they all spent so much time together that they moved into this flat together in December last year. 

Top image: One of the three designated bedrooms. Bottom image: A corner of that same room. 

Eden, 24, says they spent a while searching for a flat and came across many that were “very student-y” and “terrible and cold”. 

“This one attracted us more because we could actually see ourselves living here together as a group,” she says. 

Securing this flat was seamless because they knew the previous tenants. 

Top image: The kitchen, which leads into the living room. Bottom image: Eden (left) and Zahna (right) standing around the kitchen island. Eden has just found a toothbrush in the fruit bowl. 

Top image: Athena plugging her phone into the built-in speaker system. Bottom image: The bathroom. 

The group describes their flat as a big, old, character home with “regal” classical details and says they love the built-in speaker system and the kitchen island which is great for dancing around during parties. 

Amelia says the flat feels like “more of a home, I think, because women live here and we’re quite clean and tidy”. 

The group doesn’t think their flat would be worth paying $1050 in rent if they had not converted two spaces into two extra rooms and were splitting the rent between three people instead of five. 

The group says “because it's an old house, there’s always something breaking” but that their landlord is very responsive and comes around to repair things himself. 

Top image: One of the designated bedrooms, with a plush toy on the bed. Bottom image: A different bed that also has plush toys on it. 

Several of the flatmates hope to buy a house in their 30s and see themselves renting until then, or switching between flatting and living at home. 

Eden and Zahna are moving to Melbourne next year. 

Eden says New Zealand’s economy is the main reason for the move, with the likelihood of finding public sector jobs in Wellington shrinking and overseas prospects being exciting. 

“I feel like we’ve all done our time in Wellington now,” Zahna says. 

Pippa and Katie 

Katie, 24, and Pippa, 23, pay $260 each to live in a two-bedroom flat in central Wellington. 

Pippa’s room is smaller than Katie’s but she pays the same amount of rent because her room has a built-in wardrobe and she gets to have a small workspace in the lounge. 

Their electricity and gas bill comes to $160 per month which is also split evenly between the two. 

Top image: The smaller bedroom. Bottom image: The bigger bedroom.

The pair studied at the University of Otago and say renters in Dunedin are able to secure flats within three to six months prior to moving in. Securing a flat in Wellington took more time and effort. 

Top image: Pippa standing in front of a wall with her and Katie’s degrees on it. Bottom image: The bar cart that sits next to their tv. 

They spent a month and a half applying for Wellington flats and getting their friends to attend viewings — which was not a requirement when they were renting in Dunedin — before they found this flat and were able to move up.

Katie says they’ve tried to make the flat “cosy” and “go for a more homely vibe since not being students anymore”. 

They have a sofa-bed they pull out when watching The Real Housewives on the weekend and a drinks cart sits next to the tv. 

Top image: The kitchen. Bottom image: The combined bathroom and laundry. 

The pair says they’ve been told their flat is good value for the price, as two-bedroom flats with a carpark can be expensive in Wellington. 

Top image: The gap under the front door. Centre left image: Mouldy curtains. Centre right image: Water damage from a leak in a doorway. Bottom image: A close up of a cracked windowsill in the kitchen. 

Pippa and Katie have had several issues in their current flat: mouldy curtains, a gap under their front door that lets the cold in, a bedroom door jamming and they say an ivy plant grew up from a gap in Katie’s bedroom wall. 

In Pippa’s experience, landlords were more responsive when she reported issues in Dunedin than in Wellington. 

Image: The pair tucked into their sofa-bed, checking their phones while watching the Real Housewives. 

Despite the issues, the pair are happy to be living in Wellington. 

Katie says she’s loved this city since she was a child and living here makes sense since she works in policy. 

“Welly is the place to be in your 20s,” Pippa says. 

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