This section of Building a House in New Zealand should be read in conjunction with Choosing a Builder. Some builders offer both land and build packages, which can have both advantages as well as disadvantages. In some instances, a builder will develop an entire tract of land themselves meaning that if that is your desired neighborhood, you are forced to use that builder. Therefore, you need to make sure that both your land location and your builder are something that you can live and build with.
There is a saying pertaining to housing which is short and sweet: “Location, Location, Location”. It is great to build a great house from a great set of plans with a great builder, but if it is too far from work and your commute eats hours of each day. It may have been better to choose a closer location, so you aren’t eventually forced to take an inferior job or sacrifice your homelife by spending all of your time commuting. It also won’t help if you don’t have access to the proper schools for your children, or if you are forced to sacrifice amenities like shopping, friends, or extended family to get land within your budget to afford building that extravagant house you think you need. Alternatively, the best location may come at a premium which can then put your house build on the back foot and make getting the house you need harder.
Here are some things to consider when trying to find the best location.
- School districts and child transportation
- Closeness to amenities and work
- Neighborhood and surroundings
- Developments, building zoning, and local restrictions/covenants
School considerations are important for those that have families, are planning families, or are interested in resale value. In some areas, one side of the street may have house values that are >$100,000 greater than the other side of the street for identical house only because of school zones.
Even within your desired school zone, the location is still important. Some areas will have specific areas which a school bus will service. Though maybe not as important, it may be convenient to be on a bus route than spend time dropping children off at crowded schools, or multiple schools if you have different aged children.
There are those that like the solitude of rural lifestyle, and there are those that prefer the night life and ease of access to stores and dining possibilities. Deciding which best suits your lifestyle will greatly improve your quality of life as long as they don’t clash with your employment location. And don’t always count on being able to work from home forever if you are currently able. Job situations change which may mean that a part time at home job can turn into a full-time office job without warning. If you live significantly far away from what you want or need, then you will either have to change your needs, or have an extended commute.
Speaking of commutes, housing that is further away from city centers will generally be less expensive. In California, we had friends that would drive 2.5 hours each way to and from work so they could afford more house further from their work. Some things that they had to consider were increased cost in fuel, loss of family time, getting up 2.5 hours earlier, the impact to lifestyle from frustration and anger from constant traffic, and increased vehicle wear and tear. There were even late nights at work where they just spent the night in a hotel closer to work instead of going home. However, the trade-off allowed the family to move into bigger houses that were $100-200k less expensive than being closer to work.
Though this can be related to the above section of ‘Closeness to Amenities and Work’, we are now talking about the atmosphere of the immediate neighborhood. What is immediately around you will greatly affect how you perceive your house and how safe you feel. Your neighbors can make your lives better and can become great friends. Alternatively, living in a less than ideal neighborhood can force you to be more reclusive and limit neighbor interactions. If you are looking at a specific lot, we recommend knocking on the neighbor’s doors to have a quick chat. If they are welcoming and friendly, you want to know that. If they aren’t, it will be good to know that before you build your home and spend the rest of your lives next to them.
It may also be good to see what parks, trails, and recreational facilities are near your proposed home. If you like walking, jogging, or biking, can you do those where you are expecting to live? Don’t only think about living inside your home, but what also can you do within a short distance of it?
Lastly, are there any things that are close that will detract from your home? Is the site under the flight path for a local airport? Are there train tracks nearby? Is there a mall or constant traffic that will be noisy or even congest your commute? Is there a building that will block your view? Is there a sewage treatment plant upwind of you? You may also want to check on the local crime statistics for the surrounding area. Are there frequent burglaries or stolen automobiles? Are you close to a section of a university or apartments where parties often occur? Are there any residents near your potential site that are on a sexual registry if you have children?
Depending on where you build, you may have limitations on what you can build, or what you can do with your property. If you are building in a housing development, there may be rules or covenants specific to that development. Some can be quite restrictive and limit the size of the home, exterior colours, building material selection, landscaping, and even limit or prohibit pets. Specifically ask for these limitations of the listing agent and they are obliged to tell you. If they are very restrictive, they may not always volunteer the information and that is something that you don’t want to find out after you have purchased the land.
At this point, it would also be good to check with the local council to determine if there are any planned developments for the area. In some cases, the council will know of roads or developments in advance that will affect the access or amenities to or near your proposed property.
Lastly, check that you have adequate access to your property. There have been some councils that don’t ensure sufficient access to developments. In one instance, there were many houses in a development that had only one entrance/exit to the entire development that lead over railroad tracks and then into a busy intersection. If there was an accident at that intersection, people were locked into or out of their development for hours. When a train was present, it was a mandatory delay for everyone getting in and out of the development. Even without an accident or train, getting that many people in and out of the development before and after work caused significant daily delays and frustrations.