A surge of buyers looking for land to build on

Kiwis here and overseas are looking at buying land to build their dream homes on.

25 August 2020

71B Taiapa Valley Road, Muriwai Beach

It’s always been a dream for New Zealand families to buy some land, build their own home and enjoy the good life. As cities have grown and the population has had less connection with the countryside, this has felt like a step too far for many urbanites.

But the arrival of Covid-19 seems to have reawoken that pioneering spirit once more among Kiwis, who’ve found urban living isn’t giving them everything they want any more.

Real estate agents around the country are noting a surge of interest in bare land. In Auckland, this can be anything from a subdivided section in a leafy Mt Albert street to semi-rural idols in Whitford, Coatesville and Muriwai.

Trade Me Property figures showed a strong surge in audience views of sections for sale during lockdown and beyond – taking listing views of under 300,000 in January this year to around 440,000 (up 47%), by the end of July.

How buyers can prepare for a land purchase

Harcourts Clarks Beach agent, Kim-Maree Osborne, says some of the first questions she asks bare land buyers are, do they have a house plan and have they got a builder. Most of the time, the answers are yes.

Since the lockdown, she’s met a number of Aucklanders who are wanting to be out of the city. In Karaka, Clarks Beach is not far away and there are good schools in the area so they’re not sacrificing much. She’s also seeing people who are moving to Auckland from the Hawke’s Bay and Hamilton following jobs to the city but preferring to live out of town. 

Karaka is a really good option for those wishing to escape city living, says Ms Osborne who’s just finished marketing a 2.15 ha (5.3 acre) piece of land in the area. “It’s a great way to live, it’s a beautiful place and we’ve had really good interest,” she says.

379c Linwood Road, Karaka

When it comes to buying land, Ms Osborne finds people either want five acres (2 ha) which caters well for horsey families, while others prefer one acre (.404 ha). The Auckland city dwellers generally prefer an acre but if they like a five acre block, they can usually find a neighbour who will lease the land from them and use it for stock, she suggests.

Neighbours in semi-rural areas like Karaka are typically very friendly and willing to help out, she says.

You’ve got to have a level of patience when buying land to build on. Best case scenario, after getting resource consent (if you’re working with a good building company) you might have a house ready in nine months, says the Harcourts agent.

Take note of the properties nearby and see what homes and land have been selling for to help determine what kind of investment you’d like to make. But ultimately, it’s your land, you can do anything from a lavish home to a modest house.

Educate yourself on the costs involved

If you haven’t looked at the price of land for a while, you’ll find it’s increased in value ,as homes have, over the years. Bayleys agent, Paul Arundel, knows of a family who bought some land in Coatesville 10 years ago. They come to visit it and have a picnic there from time to time, but haven’t got round to building on it yet. But, in the meantime, the land has gained nicely in value, so it hasn’t been a waste, he says.

As with all property transactions, your biggest concern when buying land is location, says the Rodney agent, who’s noticed increased interest in land parcels over the past few months. Find out how far would it be to commute from on a daily basis, he suggests. Another thing to decide is what you’re planning to do with the land. That extra space can be quite intimidating if you’ve come from the city, even though you love the idea of “rural splendor,” says Mr Arundel.

93 Waymau Lane, Sunnyside Road, Coatesville

A .81 ha (8,111 sq m) Coatesville section he’s currently marketing comes with significant areas of bush, eliminating the responsibility of having stock on the land.

Everybody has a mental picture of what they want with a block of land, and this is invariably a dead flat section with a carpet of lawn, he adds. This is achievable but if you’re on a budget, the more elevation, the steeper it is, the cheaper it will be to buy. A bit of variety can be a good thing, he argues.

Going from buying the land to having a house on there can be challenging if you’ve never done it before. The Bayleys agent says one option is to go with a building company who will give you a turnkey product. This is where everything is done for you, the house, the driveway, the services – plumbing, power, water all set up. Taking this route comes at a cost, around from $1.6 million to $2 million, he says. But it can take a lot of stress out of the situation.

You don’t always have to leave the city for a piece of land

If you’re an urban animal and the kids won’t leave their mates in the suburbs, sometimes, just sometimes, a section will come up in your neighborhood – especially if it’s a residential area with large sections.

A family had missed out on a couple of homes in Mt Albert and have gone instead for a 711 sq m section at the back of a large home. Ray White’s John Covich and Rachel Berry saw strong interest in the section.

“If you can get a piece of land like this that is dead level, you’re in a really good position,” says Mr Covich.

These are very rare, especially when they’re flat and in a single house zone and surrounded by other lovely properties, says the Ray White agent.

The successful buyers – the section is under contract – will be able to build a pretty sizeable home there of their chosen design, says Mr Covich. Homes are selling for over $3 million in the area, so the cost of the section plus the new home will come up to close that amount.

Buying land is quite different from buying a home. Mr Covich advises getting your lawyers to read all the clauses, do the due diligence on title and so on. And to make sure that you’re able to build what you want to build, he adds.

A piece of land might trigger a Grand Design

The decision to buy land can mean the beginning of an ambitious project for you and your family that can last for generations. 

NZ Sotheby's International Realty agent, Greg Dennerly, is marketing an attractive piece of land in Whitford, the 10 acre (4.12ha) block that was formerly the Girl Guides’ Camp Rutherford, and it’s attracted strong interest. People like the mix of green fields, bush, wetlands and the walkway through to the beach, plus the views to Rangitoto, says the agent.

329 Clifton Road, Whitford

It’s in the heart of horse country with bridle trails nearby. Mr Dennerly says it’s ideal for someone who wants to build an eco lodge and he’s seeing interest from returning Kiwis seeking a change in lifestyle. One potential buyer is thinking of it as a venue for a dog rescue centre.

“There are many options for anyone who wants to be in a semi-rural location and yet be 40 minutes (off peak) from the city,” he says.

When people look for land they tend to look in their favourite parts of the region. The Sotheby’s agent advises buyers to explore areas known to hold their value and where you can add value.

Muriwai hobby farm opportunity

For many Aucklanders, the West Coast is where they will look for land, close to favourite beaches such as Muriwai and Bethell’s. And every now and then a well priced opportunity comes up.

Harcourts agent Steve Cotter is marketing a large piece of land close to Muriwai. Bigger than the more normal 10 acre lifestyle block, it’s set over 17.3 ha (42 acres), and has a price tag of $1.275 million.

71B Taiapa Valley Road, Muriwai Beach

The land, which cannot be subdivided, is among premium lifestyle homes on the Taiapa Valley Estate and has views across the Muriwai Valley to the coastline and Goldies Bush. According to Cotter, it’s attracting equestrian – minded families and people who have a real attachment to the area.

The new owner would probably have some kind of cattle or sheep on the land, says the agent who describes the property as a “larger sized hobby farm” with its own high stud barn.

Since lockdown there’s been a flurry of interest, says Cotter. “The nice thing about this particular one is you’re still only 40 minutes from the city, and it’s fully fenced and troughed for any stock,” he says.


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