A lot of houses are individually designed and built. You do not get many housing estates. Most streets contain an interesting selection of homes, mainly wooden, a high percentage of which have corrugated steel roofing (which often looks like normal tiles). The new architecturally designed houses that are popping up, are cleverly thought out, making the most of limited space, and built to take maximum advantage of the sun.
The majority of houses are timber framed, although brick built homes are becoming increasingly popular. Much the same as in England, location costs money.
In December 2003 the average house price in Christchurch was $190,000. In Auckland the average was $297,000. The further North you go, the more expensive the housing.
Older style houses are often pulled down to make way for new properties and these are “one off” and built to the buyer’s specifications. Often buyers will locate a plot for sale and then employ a builder to work from plans that have been drawn up. A mortgage from the bank can still be obtained in the normal way to do this. It is a good way to acquire a modern, well equipped home, with substantial savings to be made for the person prepared to ’shop around’ for tradesmen.
For someone without the time or expertise to organise the building of their home, a building consultant can be employed to oversee the whole project and supply the different contractors and see the job through to completion.
Practically all the properties are detached, mainly single storey, always with a driveway or garage, you will see very few cars parked in the road. The sections (plots) traditionally large in size, are often divided up to make way for new housing. Apartments are becoming fashionable in city centres, but most New Zealanders when referring to a ‘flat’ mean a three roomed, single storey unit.
I would always be extremely wary when purchasing a property if it was sited next door to an old property on a large section. You might well wake up one morning to find the bulldozers moving in and three new houses going up in its place. People are beginning to question the planning consent laws here, as houses are being built ‘on top of one another’.
Rumpus rooms (large areas under the house, particularly good for children) are a feature of many houses in Auckland.
Bathrooms will be functional and every home appears to have an efficient shower. Formica sheeting around the shower is more common than ceramic tiles.
Utility rooms or laundries as they are known, are a common feature in all homes. These rooms, with a sink and taps, house the washing machine and tumble dryer, which is a far better arrangement than having them in the kitchen.
Cooking is mainly done on electric stoves, gas is not an option in many places. Microwave ovens are extremely popular.
Central heating is rare. Whilst winters in the North Island are warmer than you will be used to, they can still be quite chilly. The South Island with its colder winter climate means high fuel bills.
Many people have log burners which provide a good source of heat, the wood is chopped and stored during the summer months by the diehards, or you can buy it from a wood merchant in the Autumn. Coal is also popular and there are by-laws to control the emission of smoke, however there is still a big problem with air pollution in the winter.. New properties often favour electric underfloor heating.
Electric fires and oil filled radiators also have their place here, whilst the hot water is provided either by a wetback (utilising the heat from the log burner) or by immersion heater.
Swimming pools are not confined only to the rich and famous and spa pools are popular. Very few people have net curtains, preferring blinds and most homes have built in wardrobes.
When we were viewing a house an agent starting enthusing that there were plenty of bats in the roof, seeing my look of obvious horror, he quickly explained that he was merely referring to roof insulation! (known here as Pink Batts)