Article: Speak Easy

To Build Or Not To Build? with Michael BoturTo Build Or Not To Build? with Michael Botur

I have a friend who recently paid six figures to be homeless.
Let me start that again: I have a friend who, for her first house, chose to buy a section then wait patiently while she had the perfect house built for her, instead of settling for an already-built house designed by somebody else.

Buying a section as your first home can be a terrific investment which reliably climbs in value. At Christchurch’s Wigram Skies, where my friend Rochelle bought her empty plot of land, sections were initially offered for as low as $240,000 and, with $400,000 houses plonked on them, they’re nicely valued property today. However, sections at places like Wigram Skies are as small as 351 one square metres. That’s only a third of the quarter acre dream, but it’s probably a better deal than renting someone else’s house forever.

For people wanting to get out of renting and buy something to call your own, even if it is just a rectangle of dirt, here are some ballpark costs:
When building on a section, rough average costs per square metre to build a single storey house (under 130 square metres) begin at around $1,500 per m², going up to $2-2500 per m² more usually and rising to $3,000 per m². This is for a house with concrete slab or particle board floor, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, galvanised steel roof and standard quality fittings. On average it’s $100 per square metre more expensive for better quality fittings and Colorsteel roof on a larger house (100-250 square metres, approx.)

Here are a couple of things to budget for:
- PIMs and LIMs to tell you about restrictions on the build and consents
- Allow 10 per cent budget for building cost overruns
- Remember some work must by law be done by a qualified tradesman, especially
electrical work
Here’s what my friend Rochelle says about choosing to control the build of her house rather than buying someone else’s dream:

“In the context of a crazy Christchurch housing market fighting for houses for sale, we bought a section so we could develop a home we could incorporate our business into. It was the easiest way for us to spend our deposit to get what we needed and wanted. When looking at buying an existing home we found limitations in what was available to meet our needs [adding a home business space] and given the prices and deposit level required, we would not have been able to renovate or convert a home into what we needed straight away. Our decision ultimately came down to meeting our needs.”

“We bought our land directly from the developer so we weren’t tied to a specific builder, which meant we could then shop around on design and pricing. I know this option is not always available to everyone as it falls back on how you can finance the project. Our bank allowed us to borrow as we go based on our living costs and means of servicing loan at same time while building. We ended up with a purpose-build design for no extra cost.”

“The section cost $242,000 for 611m². It then cost us nearly twice that for the build. We did take out some extra things to do ourselves like fitting out wardrobes, only getting concrete done outside, doing the landscaping ourselves and choosing the best insulation.”

“We built this house to live in for many years so we wanted to spend on things to benefit us long term.”
Personally, I wouldn’t have the patience to wait around for my dream home to be built, but patience paid off for Rochelle and Johnny.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.


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