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Houses

The traditional house in New Zealand sits in it's own quarter acre, is built from a framework of wood, and walled with (horizontal) planks of wood and no insulation .  It is built on either wood or stone piles, heated by a wood-burning stove and is finished with corrugated iron roofing.
In the UK, there is a technical term for this type of house.

.  It's called a garden shed.

I kid you not, the above description is fairly accurate for traditional Kiwi houses.  It is only recently (last 20 years) that insulation became the norm.  Central heating (or a heat pump) is fitted to most new houses, but a very high percentage of older houses have only a log burner as the sole source of heating.
New Zealand does get cold (see Weather) in our winter, June- August.  The degree of cold varies across the country, but even in the so-called "winterless north", most houses have some form of heating.
The normal Kiwi response to feeling cold is either;
  1. Put on another woollen jumper
  2. Put another sheep log on the wood burner
  3. Go out for a run
  4. Chop some logs
  5. Go to bed (with someone else if you can arrange it).  Going to bed with a sheep is frowned upon( ....unless you're Australian)
Until recently, laws in NZ allowed anyone to build their own house.  It would have to be inspected before final council approval was given, but planning and design was minimal.  This has led to the lack of large estates of identical housing, giving Kiwi towns and suburbs a pleasant individuality.
Traditionaly, each house has had a minimum of a quarter acre of ground, called a section. (pronounced saicxen see language).  As house and land prices have risen in recent years,  a trend has developed of sub-dividing the section under separate legal titles, and these being developed with their own dwelling.

House prices vary, as in the rest of the world, according to location, size and quality.
A two-bedroomed house on a small section in a remote rural area is around $50,000.
A three bedroomed house on a normal section in a suburb of Invercargill (deep south) is around $150,000
A three bedroomed house on a normal section in a good suburb of Wellington (the capital) is around $450,000.
A three bedroomed house on a normal section in a good suburb of Auckland (the largest city) is around $750,000
A three bedroomed house on a large section in the best suburb of Auckland (the largest city) is around $3,500,000
A house on the coast, with a sea view, is at a premium.
To look at houses in New Zealand over the Internet I would recommend using either trade me or open 2 view.

By the way, a house advertised as a lifestyle block or farmlet is a house (normally 4 bedroom+) with between 1 and 5+ acres, where you can supposedly live the Kiwi dream, and have your own lovely little bijoux  farm, with horses, livestock etc..
Why the Kiwi dream is supposed to include weeding (on an industrial scale), burying dead livestock, keeping fencing in good order, dosing sheep, dipping sheep, shearing sheep, delivering lambs at 3 o'clock on a bloody cold and wet morning, feeding chooks, collecting fresh free-range eggs (the one redeeming feature, especially made into a 3 egg omelette), cleaning out chook-sheds, cutting down trees, chain-sawing into logs, moving logs into log-shed, arranging logs in log-shed, re-arranging logs after the stack's collapsed, cleaning out the filter in the water tank(s), regarding what your drinking water's been flowing through for the past 6 months....., throwing-up, explaining to wife and family why everyone's had raging diarrhoea,  making appointment with GP to arrange typhoid and hepatitis shots, oh yeah better arrange a course of tetanus injections at the same time, remember that fencing nail??? etc..

Many houses, even small ones can have a sleepout.

House Purchase

As in many countries, Kiwis mostly use real estate agents, who get their commission (bloody exorbitant at around 4-6% + marketing costs) from the seller.
Viewing can be by appointment, but a frequently used tactic is called the open home.  This is a technique where the house is advertised as having an open home on a set time and day.  The visitors (no appointment normally required) turn up and look around the house.  The estate agent is normally present, and conducts the viewing.
When you decide you want to purchase, negotiations are conducted through the estate agent.
Chattels (removable white goods) including cookers, fridges etc.. are quite often part of the sale, and are listed in the contracts/descriptions.
It is when you move into the final stages of the purchase that the procedures begin to differ substantially from the UK
The contracts are prepared and offered for completion by the estate agent. (Most purchasers get a lawyer to check before signing)
Contracts can be accepted subject to certain conditions
For example:
  • Move in dates
  • Subject to a satisfactory building survey
  • Subject to finance
Once signed, the contract (with its conditions) is binding,(similar to the process in Scotland, but unlike England and Wales) and 10% of the agreed purchase price is handed over to the estate agent! as a deposit.
The agent hangs onto the deposit (in a trust account) until full completion and transfer.
The agent's (exorbitant) fee is deducted from the deposit before being given to the vendor.

The final title search and transfer is normally done be each party's own lawyers. (legal fees are somewhat lower than the UK, normally less that $1,500)

Warning

In the 1990s, some (quite a lot of ) homes were built using what was originally an Australian building concept.  These were quick and relatively inexpensive to build, and worked pretty well in Oz.
It doesn't rain much in Oz.
It does rain a lot in NZ.
Some of the timber used in the buildings was found to be improperly treated, and can rot.
The overall effect was a Leaky Building.  Be very careful that your prospective purchase is not one of these.  The poor unfortunates who have one are trying to get the government (local and national) to accept some responsibility (they did approve the design and are supposed to have checked the building process), and help them fix their homes.  The process of compensation/restoration is underway, but is slow and seemingly unsure.


Heating

I've mention heating before, but there are really four types of heating available.
  • Wood Burning Stoves (Some Multi-fuel and coal burning available, mostly West coast of South Island)
  • Gas fired hot-air central heating (Can be either reticulated gas (piped in from gas main in street) or bottled gas)
  • Oil fired central heating
  • Electric (either storage heaters, oil-filled electric radiators, and most common, heat pumps)

Water

When looking at a house before purchasing, look at the water supply.
Most urban areas do have good supplies of piped-in water, but most rural, and many more remote suburbs (especially life-style blocks) depend on collecting rain water from gutters and roofs.  The water is stored in very large concrete or plastic tanks, and is used for all domestic purposes.
Some modern houses do use advanced filtration systems (e.g. Reverse Osmosis), but most just use a simple mesh and gauze filter to cut down on the contaminants.
We lived in such a house for 2 years, and (to be delicate about it ) we didn't need to use bran, syrup of figs or any other type of laxative.  
Ever.

It is not uncommon to pull out dead possums, rats, birds from the tank, nor to find insect parts coming out of the shower head.
In dry weather, and there are a lot of long dry summers (we're not complete idiots, see, I knew there was a reason to come here) many such rain water-dependant  families have to buy in tanked water...I think the cost is about $400 for a large tank.

The piped water in towns is of a good quality, and in some areas, of outstanding quality.  In Petone, a suburb of Lower Hutt, on the coast opposite Wellington, they have tapped into an aquifer running down from the hills.  It is the best water I've tasted, and is freely available via a public fountain in Buick Street.

Waste Water

As in most of the developed world, urban areas use a common sewage system via pipes.  Most rural and semi-rural areas use septic tanks.  
Tradition dictates that a new septic tank is "primed" bacteriologicaly by throwing in a dead possum..
Getting your septic tank and water tanks too close together is widely considered to be a bad move.
Since the rise of the green movement, many mad enlightened Kiwis are using composting toilets, reed beds etc.. to reduce their impact on Mother Earth.
Mother Earth doesn't seem to be that impressed.  I haven't noticed any reduction in earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, bush fires etc.