Leaky building stigma stalls sale

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2012
Martin Wall

NOT SO SWEET HOME: Martin Wall's house has been tarred with the leaky building brush.

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It's got great views and it's never leaked, but retired Auckland builder Martin Wall has had his Orakei home on the market for six years with no result.

And that's in a city with a claimed shortage of well-located properties for sale. He blames the leaky building fiasco, which he believes has placed a stigma on many well-built plaster buildings, making them harder to sell.

"I'm angry," he says. "You're not only dealing with me, you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. I don't know how many plaster homes there are in Auckland, but there's a lot, and they're all getting tarred with the same brush. And I just want the truth to come out."

Last week the Sunday Star-Times quoted Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray, who said potential buyers were being pressured by the hot Auckland market, and sometimes agents, to buy leaky buildings without doing the proper checks.

But he also noted that many plaster houses were not leaky, and that past building techniques rather than materials had been at fault.

Wall agreed. A builder for 55 years, he estimates his company built 6000 homes including his own. His Orakei home has a CV of $1.55 million, but his most recent offer was $800,000, a figure that reflected the cost of recladding. He has dropped his asking price to $1.1m.

Wall says there is no need to reclad, but he has become so desperate he has even investigated the cost of doing it himself. Even without labour costs, he says he would be $400,000 out of pocket.

He says his personal housing crisis has cost him a marriage and he just wants to move on.

"Yes, there's a lot of leaky buildings out there and they will have to be reclad. But what I'm saying to you is, if a building is built properly then it will not leak. Plaster is as durable as anything else on the market."

Pieter Burghout, chief executive of the Building Research Association of NZ, says there are a wide variety of plaster houses and the material most associated with leaky homes, monolithic cladding, does not necessarily even have a plaster finish. Rather, it could have paint layers over sealed joints.

However, even monolithic homes, if they were properly built and maintained, "won't leak in the way that is of risk".

Monolithic cladding began being used extensively in the mid-1990s and by 2002 it was used in 40 per cent of new homes. That figure has dropped to 25 per cent, with strict new rules about the need for drainage cavities.

Burghout advises people to get an expert opinion.

"What might look like a monolithic-cladded house from the outside might actually be a plastered concrete block system once you get closer."

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- Sunday Star Times

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