Only last month we had the Dutch reporting on how our houses were so cheap and now this month we have an article in the respected UK Guardian newspaper telling prospective migrants to be wary of buying houses in NZ. On the one hand such profile is encouraging, clearly with economic and social issues in the UK, NZ is attracting attention for people looking for a new life; however more accurate reporting of facts would help as this UK article has some significant inaccuracies.
I therefore thought it would be beneficial for UK readers to get some clarity on specifics raised in the article:
- “The market is certainly going through a difficult stage. In the past three years interest rates have risen by 3%, the price of petrol has doubled and inflation is bordering 4%, but people’s salaries have not kept up with inflation” – the first three facts are correct and reflect most countries, but to say salaries have not kept pace with inflation is not true.
- “New Zealand is currently plagued with a unique phenomenon called leaky homes” – I think a plague would be significantly overstating the facts – there are a large number of homes impacted to a greater or lesser degree in some areas of the country, if they amounted to 10,000 I would be surprised – that would be around 1% of all homes, hardly a plague. Also leaky homes are not a unique phenomenon, the Canadians in British Columbia experienced such an issue in the 90’s.
- “The problem (of leaky homes) is down to the architects, builders and councils – and also because the forestry groups promote untreated pine and the Building Industry Authority mistakenly approves it.” – untreated pine was used up until 2003, since then changes to Building Industry regulations have made treated pine mandatory. In additon a raft of other stringent regulations concerning weather tightness have been implemented as well as new Building Act.
- “It’s important to check what materials were used in the construction of the house. Look out for exterior walls made of single-layered bricks supported by a wooden frame. Also, while wooden weatherboards were once common they have now been replaced by cheaper alternatives. These are fibre or cement sheeting, mostly known as Fibrolite, Hardiplank or monolithic cladding. (Hardiplank is known to have contributed to the leaky homes syndrome.) Check for roofs made of galvanised steel and tiles of bitumen, pebble or cement. These materials, while saving on cost of construction, often compromise the durability of these houses”. This is a bit of a muddle, brick veneer on a timber frame is very common form of NZ construction of single level homes, built to design specifications they should provide no problems at all, in fact many UK homes are brick veneer (double brick) on a timber frame.
Timber weather boards are still used, however the new form of fibre cement board under the brand of Linear are highly durable and not just a cheaper alternative. This form of weatherboard is a recent development. Fibrolite, Hardiplank and other monolithic cladding are used much less these days than in they were in the 90’s.
A vast number of NZ homes have galvanised steel roofs, this is a part of NZ and have been for many decades, equally bitumen or concrete roof tiles, all of these options if well maintained provide a very durable system.
- “That’s not all. In New Zealand, a lot of insurance policies don’t cover termite damage or structural problems, making repairs expensive” – we don’t have termites in NZ, we have bora which can be a danger. As for insurance I think you would not find any significant difference between NZ and UK.
Whilst I don’t think the article was designed to be alarmist, it could have been interpreted that way, the best advice which I am sure any prospective buyer would do, whether a local buyer of new migrant is to get a detailed building inspection report, after all a $1,000 report is a small price to pay when making an investment of $400,000.