Red-zoned flat-pack house warning

DECONSTRUCTION: A home being deconstructed for flat-packing on Kingsbridge Dr, Burwood.
DECONSTRUCTION: A home being deconstructed for flat-packing on Kingsbridge Dr, Burwood.

Red-zoned Christchurch houses are being saved from the landfill to be recycled as flat-packs.

Buyers pick a house to be pulled apart, packed up, and reassembled on their own section. At least two building companies are buying and dismantling homes in the city.

Real estate agents say the houses are in big demand, while a lawyer is warning people to do their homework before buying.

"It's exciting that we can save some of these and help people out," said agent Murray Wigley of Ray White, who markets the homes.

"I'd like to get my hands on a whole lot more because I have a database of close to 700 (interested buyers). Unfortunately, some of the insurance companies think demolition is a better option."

Mac Developments co-owner Daryl Hodder was salvaging homes from state-owned insurance claims manager Southern Response when he saw the possibility of flat-packing.

"We've devised a way to do it - it evolved from salvage and was a bit of trial and error to see if it could be done. It doesn't work for all houses."

Hodder said most new subdivisions would accept the houses and he is "working on the others".

Another company, Jamon Construction, owned by Andrew O'Neil, will auction a batch of homes through Harcourts next month and flat-pack them for buyers. They are between 200 and 300 square metres, with three or four bedrooms.

Property lawyer Richard Laing from Duncan Cotterill advised would-be buyers to investigate subdivision rules, bank, insurance and council consent requirements, and damage to the home.

"Look carefully at the contract and see what the supplier is agreeing to do. You need to be aware of all the potential costs before you go into it," he said.

"There's no reason these shouldn't be an option for some people but there's going to be a lot more to check out."

One recent buyer of a flat-pack house said that while she and her husband hoped for a good outcome, they had faced unexpected work and costs, plus a legal fight with their subdivision.

The buyer, who did not want to be named, said they still have their house in costly storage while waiting for a delayed section title, struggled to obtain the house details their bank needed and still did not have an accurate idea of the reconstruction cost.

"We hope it will turn out well, but until it's up, we can't really say whether it was worth it. It happened so quickly because there's such a lot of people wanting them, and we won't be saving as much as we thought."

The flat-pack homes are all newer than nine years old, so they meet building codes, and have modern truss-style construction which makes the process easier. Most have minor quake damage.

So far they have sold for $60,000 to $100,000, and buyers might expect to pay about $1100 to $1200/sqm to reconstruct them, compared with $1650 to build new.

Components including frames, roofing, insulation, wiring, kitchens and bathroom fittings go back together jigsaw-style, alongside new foundations, wall linings and some claddings.

Large pieces go on a truck and smaller ones into a container, to be sent with rebuild instructions wherever buyers can afford.

Deconstruction companies don't guarantee everything is packed, but offer renegotiation for missing or unusable items.

The Press