My property story: Renting in small-town New Zealand

Marriage, home and community.

These were the three key aspects that Luke Fanayan and his now-wife Sarah foresaw in their plan to relocate to Whakatāne. As an urban planner, moving forward with a strategy came naturally to Luke, and with time, the lovely couple came to settle in to a modest rental property they're proud to call home. We spoke to Luke and Sarah to get the details on their new adventures in Whakatāne.

Luke and Sarah

Building community in small-town New Zealand

When asked "why Whakatāne?" it was clear Luke and Sarah made this decision with complete confidence. Before the move, Luke lived in Auckland while Sarah was even further out in Sydney. They knew they wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and find a town that had a closer community.

"The lifestyle change is huge," says Luke. "I've definitely enjoyed the community aspect. In a smaller town, people are nicer - if you're rude on the road you might see that same person in Pak 'n' Save the next day. That's not to say it's forced, it's just natural that people think more about what they do and they're nicer to each other."

It's that aspect of community that's driven their move in more ways than one. Besides embracing a smaller, more close-knit community, Luke and Sarah plan to pour more of their time and energy into helping the existing community flourish. With both of them having experience in youth programmmes, they plan to bring their experience to promote the development of wairua - spiritual and emotional empowerment - in local youth.

"It's about getting youth to come together, be of service to their community and be part of positive change," Luke explains. "Kids are getting heaps of great education in schools, but these programs provide balance with a focus on moral and spiritual education."

Luke and Sarah's house

Finding home in Whakatāne

The journey to where they are now wasn't exactly a straight line, however. Over the 12-month course of their property journey, Luke and Sarah lived in four and five homes respectively. Ahead of Sarah's relocation from Australia, Luke made the first move out to a friend's bach in Ōhope. It wasn't a cheap option - but it spared him the house hunt and brought him closer to the town where they planned to set up their life together.

Eventually, after Sarah moved over, the couple looked to move further into Whakatāne. They started living separately, with flatmates and after their recent marriage began to look for a home together. They each used every day in their journey. 

"We used the map feature a lot," Luke said. "I'm an urban planner so maps are kind of my thing, but it was really helpful to see where exactly properties are. Especially when we didn't know the area, using the map meant we could see how close properties were to work, find out what sort of homes are in different areas and really start to get a grip on the layout of the town."

Despite all their searching, the couple found competition for rentals was greater than expected. With a lot of commuters to Tauranga looking to live in Whakatāne, as well as the local workers, there were plenty of people searching and a number of their applications were unsuccessful. They eventually had to settle for a home that didn't match what they were after - a breeze block townhouse that they knew would be cold in the winter. They moved in and made a plan together to find another rental before the cold rolled in.

Fortunately, the right one did come along and Luke and Sarah are now settled in a long-term rental while they save to buy their first home - and they've even gotten the landlord's permission to have a dog!

Whether you're looking for your next rental home in New Zealand's big cities or small towns, your journey starts right here on Start your search today to find your perfect rental in any corner of the country.

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