If Benjamin Blackwell, 30, could share any wisdom with his 25-year-old self, hed say reality TV is not all its cracked up to be. Also, get a mortgage broker.
The former Married at First Sight NZ participant has bought his first house with partner Alex Mallett, 22, in New Lynn, Auckland.
The couple were flatting in Mt Albert last September when they brought home puppy Casserole, who inadvertently pushed them into the market by chewing up their housemates belongings.
Benjamin Blackwell, 30, and Alex Mallett, 22, have Casserole the puppy to thank for getting their first home, a two bedroom in New Lynn, Auckland.
We were dragging our heels because of Covid-19, and like a lot of people, were hoping and waiting for the market to slow down. Then it dawned that we’d have to jump in.
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Back when Blackwell was starring on the 2017 season of MAFS, he was spending all his disposable income on clothes and going out, and never thought he’d have a house.
Five years down the track, hes spending every weekend renovating and couldn’t be happier. His nemesis du jour is neither a radio-host, nor social media trolls but the Dulux paint woman.
Their most recent battle was over a shade of navy blue: I said this isn’t it, you need to make it darker. We were in this back and forth for half an hour, she was so frustrated with me, but I’m not going to take a colour that isnt what I want. So, I guess this is 30? he jokes.
I wake up in the morning, I open the curtains and look out our bedroom window to Bunnings, literally. It’s across the road, said Blackwell.
The couple started looking at properties last October, and had factored two First Home Grants, to the tune of $10,000, into their budget. For first home buyers to get the grant in Auckland, the most they could spend on a property was $600,000 (the price cap for new homes in the region rose to $700,000 on April 1).
That is perfect for us, we are looking to buy either a car port on the Bombay hills, or a Remuera mansion…. in 1942 as our first home, Blackwell wrote on social media at the time. How out of touch can you be?
The argument that first home buyers should just leave Auckland’ for cheaper pastures didn’t stack up either. Prices in Blackwells home city Wellington are comparable now, and dual promotions for Blackwell into an insurance manager role at Tower, and for Mallet to project manager of a plumbing firm, locked them into the market.
Auckland was kind of it for us. Alex and I are in a good financial position with our careers, so ultimately [losing out on the grant] changed nothing.
Casserole the French Bulldog was chewing up everything in Blackwell and Mallett’s old flat, which they didn’t think was very fair on their housemates.
But their financial position was not as strong as some investors.
The first two homes they tried to purchase, around thuhu and Mt Wellington and in the late nines, they lost: We paid for valuations, and property investors came in and paid way, way over those valuations. There is no contest.
They put in a $740,000 offer on a quaint 1920s two-bedroom home, but initially lost out.
What saved us was the loan-to-value-ratio rule change. An investor had put an offer in, and it fell over because he was with ANZ and all of a sudden they required a 40 per cent deposit.
It wasnt until January they turned around and went, oh yeah, you got the house.
The thing Blackwell is looking forward to most is a central kitchen that can be the heart of the home.
Both Blackwells and Mallett’s parents have experience with renovations and interiors and have inspired their taste.
When we actually got the house it wasnt as exciting as I thought it was going to be, it was just relief.
The house appealed because of its age.
We don’t like the style of the new builds. We were gunning for a 1950s, or older, house because there is a lot more that you can do with them. We want to strip the house back to its original vibe.
It’s also West Auckland-ish, which suited me, Blackwell said.
They ripped up the carpet over Easter weekend and found rimu floors: We were stoked.”
The 1920s cottage has been added onto in the 1980s and early 2000s, but the couple plan to take it back to its bones.
Blackwell and Mallett initially looked at larger houses, but realised they only needed two-bedrooms.
The lounge and dining has been split into three rooms. The plan is to bust it all out, putting the kitchen in the centre, and shifting the lounge to the back of the house so it opens out onto the backyard. Theyll build on an extra bedroom as well.
When I was 25, and this is probably like a lot of people, I was really disenfranchised from buying a house in Auckland. I think a lot of people our age have given up on the idea owning a home, so their priorities are completely different,” said Blackwell.
Before I’d even really looked into it, Id written it off.
But he knew he wanted to give it a go before shifting their lives elsewhere in the country.
In the end, we only paid about $8000 from our savings, he said. The rest of the deposit was their combined KiwiSavers, including Blackwell’s Australian super savings from when he lived in Melbourne.
As much as the pair are into their reno, Blackwell said hed never do a season The Block NZ: People always ask if I’m watching the latest season of MAFS, and the answer is always no. When youve been on reality TV, you watch it in such a different light.
We also both have such strong personalities, we’d have so many arguments.
You won’t be seeing this couple on the next season of The Block NZ.

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