Kiwi on the move with kitset and transportable homes

Searches for kitset and transportable homes are up.

Last updated: 19 March 2024

At Trade Me we’ve seen a big surge of interest in transportable and kitset homes in early 2024. According to the creators of these homes, Kiwi are buying them for a variety of reasons. They’re plonking them behind the bach for extended whānau and friends and Airbnb tenants or they’re directing the teens to the funky space as a hangout in the back garden.

For those interested in multi-generational living these separate spaces are a good option for the in-laws, keeping them close to your main home as they downsize and age. For many, a kitset shed or home is a great option as a home office, or an art studio or even a backyard pub. There’s no end to what these transportable, flexible spaces can be used for.

And the price tags range from around $10,000 to over $200,000 so it’s up to you how luxurious you go. If you want to use it all year round and to rent it out at times, then make sure the materials are top notch, that there’s plenty of insulation, thick walls, and the windows are double glazed. Be sure to check early on with your council whether you’ll need building consent for your chosen extra space which will depend on its size and fitout.

There’s all kinds of descriptions for these transportable homes, so make sure you include them all when doing a search from transportable homes, kitset homes, modular homes to portable cabins. And you’ll want to look on both Trade Me Marketplace and Trade Me Property when looking for these beauties.

Fraemohs Mackenzie Mono transportable showhome

Start your search with well established building companies

If you have a bit of money to spend and you want accommodation that you could possibly rent out, it’s worth seeing what reputable house companies have on offer in this space.

Fraemohs Homes, founded 55 years ago by Danish-born Monni Fraemohs, builds full sized Scandinavian-style kitset homes and also has a range of small, prebuilt transportable homes.

Natalie Sisson, who heads up Fraemohs Wellington, has just posted an “as-new” Fraemohs Mackenzie Mono transportable showhome on Trade Me Marketplace, which is currently sitting on her lifestyle block. With a “Buy now” price tag of $208,300 on it, (Mackenzie Mono homes are $235,000 including GST, new) this 32 sq m timber transportable home has a bedroom and a bathroom, and was built with Fraemohs’ interlocking timber system to make it warm, healthy and low maintenance. Plus, up to extreme weather conditions.

This kind of accommodation is ideal for extra family, friends or as an Airbnb or an office, says Natalie. With gas connections and a heat pump it’s ready to go, and because it’s over 30 sq m, (32 sq) you’ll need building consent on your proposed site.

Fraemohs also has a larger transportable home, The Opuha Cottage is a two bedroom 58 sq m cottage priced from $295,000 including GST. A great option for a low maintenance home for ageing parents, teenagers, family and guests.

Natalie explains how the transport part of these homes works. “This one bedroom, one bathroom home is easily lifted from its current site in Whitemans Valley, onto a moving truck and transported anywhere in New Zealand,” she says. There are companies who specialise in coming and putting it on a truck and moving it in a day to your site.

Natalie is expecting to see a good response to the listing given the rise in popularity of kitset and transportable homes.

“The interest in these types of homes is driven by much quicker construction timelines. They take months instead of years, so they cost less, there is less maintenance and they suit a number of different purposes,” she explains.

Kitset homes aren’t always a straightforward DIY project even if you’re a handy person, warns Natalie. “The average home, for example, has over 300,000 components in it for a start,” she says.

And the Fraemohs solid timber system is not a traditional build so people often come to Fraemohs for a full build solution because they realise they don't need the headache of project managing the build from beginning to end.

“Project managing the entire project is a full on job, so we prefer when people just let us do it and they get to enjoy the finished home,” she explains.

The transportable Fraemohs homes are obviously very viable small homes - these solid timber homes are made of sustainable radiata pine, quality construction materials and use thermal modelling which means the build exceeds the current building code. But not everybody needs such high standards with their modular or transportable home.

If it’s for an office space, shed, painting studio or craft space they have portable cabins that range from $30,000 to $100,000 could be a perfect solution, says Natalie.

The larger 50 sq m kitset home by SheShed

Kitset SheSheds became very popular during Covid as home offices

New Zealand company, SheShed is doing a roaring trade in Aotearoa and they’ve expanded to Australia. For people on the hunt for a home office, art studio or sleepout with a budget of $12,000 to $15,000 you’ll be able to get something at SheShed as long as you’re willing to put it together yourself or hire someone to do it. If you want a larger space with thicker walls, it will probably cost you $25,000 to $40,000 and SheSheds typically range from 5 sq m to nearly 30 sq m.

SheSheds became very popular during Covid when people needed home offices, says SheShed technical marketing specialist, Josh Bryant. But they’re also used for musical studios, hair salons, home gyms and backyard pubs.

The kitset sheds are supplied to the property on a pallet with stacks of double glazed windows and doors to unpack. Buyers are supplied with videos of the build process to help along the way. If you build the kitset on a steel or strong timber frame, they become transportable.

The beauty of SheSheds is that as long as you’re not building up against a boundary, they’re a pre-engineered kitset, and designed to be just under the maximum of 30 sq m. At this size you won’t usually need building consent which is a massive time and cost saving, says Josh.

If you decide to add a kitchen or bathroom, then it would be considered a dwelling and you’d need building consent, according to building code, he adds.

A SheShed is usually an accessory to a home and if you’re building a sleepout to building code, there has to be another building on site that has sanitation. Most people will use it as an extension to the main property and if people are staying there, they’ll come inside the home to use the bathroom.

For those using the SheShed as Airbnb accommodation they might build a smaller shed next to it as a dedicated bathroom pod. This is still easier than getting consent for a full dwelling, says Josh.

The SheShed marketer believes the surge of interest over February and March in kitset and transportable accommodation is due to the cost of building, the shortage of housing and the housing crisis. To help meet the housing demand, SheShed is bringing in a larger 50 sq m kitset (pictured above) which is consent-friendly, and has space for a kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms.

“It’s much cheaper to consider a transportable home or a cabin than figure out ways to do an extension to an existing building,” he says.

And the good news is, resale of these sheds is not hard. “Someone bought a Sheshed from us in Blenheim. They wanted to build it too close to the road for the council’s plans and had to sell it. The owner built it, painted it, had it wired and it sold for more than she’d invested it,” he says.

Soho Modern Container Home by Flexicube

Transportable homes are calling for a wide range of ingenuity

The wide range of transportable homes on offer is quite the rabbit hole to go down, so just be prepared when you start your search.

Another prefab option for those needing more space are Flexicube luxury shipping container homes which range from 20 ft or 6m wide to 40 ft or 12 metres wide.

Flexicube homes are “as new” shipping containers and, as containers, they’re obviously transportable, easily moved on or off a standard container truck. They can then be placed on engineering footings, timber or concrete sleepers or piles.

Flexicube homes are ready to move into as opposed to a kitset home and owners can pick a range of designs for the interiors or they can be customised as suits, says Vivette Bradley, Flexicube NZ National Sales & Marketing Manager.

The most popular Flexicube homes are the one bedroom 40 ft Soho Modern and 2 bedroom, 40 ft Coastal Luxe homes, she says. They’re appealing to first home buyers, downsizers and bach owners.

These transportable homes start at $79,000 + GST for the 20 ft luxury studio container and go up to $129,000 +GST for the 40ft Soho Modern container home. The shipping containers are made from Corten Steel and come with a 10 year structural warranty, cyclone-rating and fire-rating. The high end, sustainable spaces come with building code compliance certification which makes it easier for customers to get building consent, says Vivette.

As well as being double glazed and fully insulated with Gold Standard spray foam moisture barrier throughout, there are stylish tongue and groove wall and ceiling panels. Italian appliances and they’re all set up for Smart Home integration, says Vivette.

One option for those who fall in love with the Flexicube container is to have two or three containers which can be configured into a functioning luxury home, she says.

We’ve given you just a flavour of what’s out there. A small home currently on Trade Me Property gives you another idea of what’s possible. Good luck with your search, and be sure to do your due diligence with the company behind the product. Look for longevity, experience and quality in this market and you’ll do well.


Gill South
Gill South