Closing time for open-plan living?


Is anyone else over open-plan living?

I, for one, have found myself craving walls and doors for the last year or so. Honestly, where did all the walls go?!

The whole open-plan movement seemed like a great idea at the time. It was hailed as the answer to the modern lifestyle, where the kitchen is often the hub of the home.

But it definitely has it drawbacks and they’re starting to become more and more apparent in our household.

“Isn’t this great guys, we can chat while I’m cooking dinner.”

“What did you say? I can’t hear you over the rangehood, TV and little Robbie’s iPad.”

The competing sounds, the unwelcome smells – I’m pretty sure no one really took this into account when we all decided to get out our sledgehammers and let loose on the kitchen wall.

More architects and homeowners are now moving away from open-plan towards split-level or “broken-plan” living with areas that are linked yet separate.

If you’re thinking of the sunken lounges and split-level arrangements of the 70s you’re not far off – but picture that with less orange and garish prints.

Broken-plan living allows for living spaces to be visually linked but have separate, distinct areas that can give families more room for privacy.

Steps, different ceiling heights and contrasting textures are what sets broken-plan apart from open-plan.

Here are some great examples:

                                                                                                                          Novak + Middleton Architects




                                                                                                                                                 Patrick Reynolds

I don’t think this layout hugely helps with the noise-pollution issue but don’t worry researchers are working on combatting this problem.

Quiet kitchens without noisy kettles or deafening range hoods are on their way.

An instant hot water tap could have you kicking that kettle to the kerb and a rangehood with a motor outside the home will mute that annoying humming sound.

Researchers have even come up with a sink with deadening pads to prevent the metallic sound when water hits the bottom.

I’m still not sure that’s enough to bring me back around to open-plan living – but broken-plan sounds like a great compromise.


What do you think about open-plan vs broken-plan living? How do open-plan or traditional living areas work for you? Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.




Chasing cheap rent: Pains, trains and automobiles

Sick of paying through the nose to rent a dank, cramped house in a prime location? How about bunking down for the night in a makeshift camper van or catching some Zs on a train?

Tried out house-sitting for size? Pondering property guardianship?

These are a few of the solutions some people have found to solve their housing woes and save some cash.

With Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland now among the top five least affordable housing markets in the world, it’s little wonder “Generation Rent” is having to be more creative with its choice of digs.

But are these alternatives really all they’re cracked up to be?

And hey, if all else fails, there’s always the less innovative option of moving back in with your folks or in-laws – like this blogger…

Creative housing options: The pros and cons

Carry on camper-vanning

A software engineer in San Francisco took the equivalent of three months’ rent and bought a 1969 VW camper van with “a hole in the floor and a family of spiders” to live in after seeing how crazily expensive it was to rent in the area. She blogs about her experience doing up the van and living in it.


  1. You can live as close as possible to your work/wherever you want to be.
  2. You can (probably should) change which view you wake up to on a regular basis.


  1. You have to find somewhere to store your valuables in case of a break-in.
  2. Get used to brushing your teeth on the side of the road.
  3. You’ll probably need to either have access to a shower at work or a gym/pool membership.
  4. Maintenance/renovations if your van needs work.


House-sitting is a great option for anyone looking to save on rent – whether you’re saving for a deposit on your first home or planning to travel. Renting and saving can be a tough old slog. House-sitting opportunities come up by word-of-mouth or through an agency and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Bear in mind that house-sitting often includes pet-sitting too. A couple who have been house-sitting around the world for years share some of their tips here.


  1. Live rent free often without having to fork out for power, water and internet bills.
  2. Get the chance to live in some amazing properties you couldn’t afford to rent.
  3. Pet-sitting – great for animal-lovers who haven’t been able to own pets while renting.


  1. Potentially lots of moving about if they are short-term.
  2. Having to store or sell off most of your possessions and travel light.
  3. Added responsibility of taking care of pets and maintaining someone else’s house and garden.
  4. You can’t really head off on spontaneous trips away.

Your carriage awaits

This German student gave up her apartment to live on a train. Leonie Müller has a subscription which allows her to board every train in the country, where she washes her hair in the train bathroom travelling at speeds of up to 300 kmh. [Note: before you throw caution to the wind and make a run for the station – she does also crash at friends’ and family’s places.] You can read more on her bilingual blog.


  1. Apparently this arrangement has worked wonders for her long-distance relationship.
  2. The scenery? (… I’m struggling with pros on this one.)


  1. You have to carry your stuff with you wherever you go.
  2. Anyone who commutes daily knows how annoying fellow passengers can be. Imagine living with them.
  3. Washing your hair in a train bathroom.

Property guardianship

Property Guardian schemes have been a popular option for years for people looking for affordable accommodation in the UK and Europe . I haven’t heard so much of this in New Zealand and Australia though.
It’s a win-win for all involved. A person gets incredibly cheap rent to occupy some form of abandoned building – it could be a hospital, office block, theatre, swimming pool, mansion – you name it. This allows the building owner to avoid having to hire security or install CCTV to prevent damage or squatters.
property guardianship


  1. Ridiculously cheap rent.
  2. You can end up living in some really cool places.


  1. The arrangement is temporary and guardians can be turfed out with only a few weeks’ notice.
  2. Buildings are mostly unfurnished and not always exactly homely.
  3. The Shining anyone?

Are you a seasoned house-sitter? Or have you got your own tips to avoiding extortionate rents? What do you think of these alternative ways of living?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Time to say goodbye to Auckland?

Above: This 3 bedroom Mairangi Bay home is sitting just above the current average asking price of $820,016 in Auckland. View the listing here:

Skyrocketing. Raging. Through the roof. Out of control. INSANE!

All of the above have been used to describe the current Auckland Housing market. It seemed astounding around this time last year talking about the average asking price for Auckland hitting a new all time high record of $732,240.

Now for the first time, that has risen above the $800k mark, with reporting that for June 2015 the average asking price of an Auckland home is $820,016. That’s a $164,003 deposit you’ll need, and thats enough to have First Home buyers in Auckland running for the Bombay hills, which buy all accounts seems to be the case, with claims that Aucklanders are making up about 30 percent of attendance at open homes in Hamilton.

The average asking price suddenly seems less surprising once you start seeing stories like this: A West Auckland property which sold for 2.2million, $900k over its CV.

West Auckland Property

Even being able to access KiwiSaver contributions and HomeStart grants do little when the cap for Auckland homebuyers is $550,000 and anyone who has looked at any properties and been to an auction lately can tell you that there are very limited options under that price.

So… why not just leave? With Aucklanders are flocking to buy property in Tauranga, Hamilton and the Western Bay of Plenty, let’s see what the average Auckland house price (or close) might get you in some of those other regions.

Bay of Plenty
A stylish 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom ex-showroom in Papamoa Beach.

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View the listing

A 5 bedroom 3 bathroom lifsetyle property on 2.86 Acres featuring an entertainer’s kitchen with butler’s pantry, formal dining area and two lounges with bush and waterfall views.

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View the listing

A 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom home with pool and spectacular views over Maungakaramea and beyond to The Whangarei Heads and Hen & Chicks sitting on 6.63ha with 250 Avocado trees.

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Take the 3D HomeView tour 

New Plymouth
Enquiries over $749,00 will get you this fabulous 4 year old, 4 bedroom farmlet on 2.22 Acres.

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View the listing

So what do you think? Comparable, or much better value? Where do you sit? Are you a disillusioned, Auckland First home buyer? Perhaps a retiree, ready to make the most of the high Auckland prices,cash up and move to the regions? Or are you just a non-Aucklander sick of hearing about Auckland House prices?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

Property Report…’Wait and See’ approach from the market.

handshouseIt’s been a funny few months in the NZ property market. The National average asking price (as reported by has remained high since June, when Auckland reached a record high asking price of $732,240, driving the national asking price up to an all-time record high of $490,550 which was a significant increase from the previous record of $685,426 set in April this year. figures for August are still to be released, however July’s National average of $488,711 was only 0.4% down on the previous month’s record high.


Graphic via

But while sellers (particularly in Auckland) are wanting more for their homes than ever before, the most recent reports show that the real estate market is having somewhat of a lull in what typically should be a time where it picks up in Spring, with many attributing the upcoming General Election as a key factor.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) Chief Executive Helen O’Sullivan says, “The real estate market appears to be ‘idling’ as buyers and perhaps even more so, sellers, await the outcome of the September 20 election”.

With many a carrot being dangled, it’s no wonder sellers & buyers are taking a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach. Here’s a good summary from of what each political party want’s to do, to help Kiwis buy or rent a house…

NATIONAL: Free up land for new sections. Rein in council development charges. Keep interest rates low. Replace the KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy with a KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant, doubling the support for buying a new home, and expand eligibility for Welcome Home Loans. Reformed the social housing sector, facilitating a shift from state housing to a range of new social housing providers.

LABOUR: Under the KiwiBuild policy, 100,000 starter homes would be built over 10 years.The ability of non-residents to buy houses would be restricted, cutting down on speculation. Landlords would have to ensure rental homes were warm and dry. Introduce a capital gains tax, and ensure councils are more likely to approve projects involving affordable housing.

GREEN: Key housing policy is to improve the quality of rental accommodation and the rights of tenants. A warrant of fitness for all rented houses would be introduced, families would be given greater security of tenure, and another 200,000 homes would be insulated at a cost of $327 million.

NEW ZEALAND FIRST: Develop a housing plan which would deal with a range of issues including availability and affordability, rental supply, finance and insurance. Provide government help to first home buyers. Set up an agency to buy land where special housing areas have been designated. Sell sections to first home buyers on a cost recovery basis. Encourage smaller houses on smaller sections.

MAORI: Continue to devolve state housing to Maori and Pasifika community groups for whanau to buy their own homes. Look at better use of Maori land to support whanau housing initiatives.

MANA: Make it a government duty to ensure everyone has secure, safe and affordable accommodation. Stop the sale of state houses and build 10,000 new ones a year. Introduce a rental housing warrant of fitness. At least half the houses in new developments of 10 or more homes must be affordable.

ACT: Support moves to abolish the municipal urban limit in Auckland and similar boundaries which restrict the supply of land. Reduce requirements on local government for complex planning and consenting processes. Support moves to get local government to speed up consenting.

UNITEDFUTURE: Allow families to capitalise Working For Families entitlements for a year as a lump sum to help buy a first home, extend a home, or increase equity. Look at abolishing domestic and commercial rates. Review Housing NZ tenancies each year to ensure housing stock is fairly allocated. Make it easier for Housing NZ to evict problematic tenants.

INTERNET: Adopted Mana’s support for a capital gains tax on property investors.

CONSERVATIVE: Leader Colin Craig has said he would write to developers who had locked up land in Auckland and tell them they had five years to build houses, otherwise the land would be bought under the Public Works Act. Artificial boundaries would be moved.

If the crazy lead up has left you feeling a little disillusioned and undecided as to where your vote is going, then this Election Interactive from might help you find out a little bit more about your electoral candidates and Party Policies.


Election 2014 – Interactive from

With only two days to go before the country goes to the polls, Real estate agents should be able to breathe a sigh of relief soon, with the market tipped to bounce back after the election.

Happy voting everyone!

Could you downsize to a Tiny House?


In November last year we posted a blog about Tiny Houses.

For those that aren’t familiar with the Tiny House Movement, it has been growing in popularity over the last few years, particularly in the United States, where many lost their homes during the recession. Simply put, it is a social movement, where people downsize the space that they live in. However, the movement isn’t only about finance, it’s also about looking at the way you live your life and taking steps to simplify it.

With home ownership seeming to creep further out of reach for many, could Tiny Houses really be a solution to housing affordability for some? Can living in a Tiny House declutter your life? Will it allow you to live a simpler, eco friendly lifestyle?

Well, Bryce Langston and Melissa Nickerson, are embarking on their own Tiny House journey that may just answer some of those questions.

With the support of a small design team, they will be designing a tiny house, uniquely built for New Zealand conditions. It will be sustainably constructed, completely off grid, will generate it’s own electricity and capture it’s own water and, will treat it’s own waste materials.

Their entire journey, from design and build, to their first six months of occupying the Tiny Hpuse will be documented on film and also shared on their project’s website

We caught up with Bryce to check in on the build progress and talk about the challenges and surprises so far:

Q. What stage are you currently at with your design & build?

Our trailer is currently under construction, and we are just working out the final few details on our drawings before we begin framing. It’s been an incredibly challenging design process, as we are trying to make the house as eco-friendly as possible, which means we are very limited in regards to the materials we can use. We also have a lot of people following our project and so we feel a great responsibility to really get the design right.

Q. Biggest challenge and/or surprise so far?

There’s no question that the design of a Tiny House isn’t easy. Each and every element has to be well considered and thought out and every millimetre of space has to be well used. Perhaps the biggest challenge has been designing some of the off-grid elements into the house as many off-the-shelf systems are not easily downsize-able. A great example of this is our hot water. From the beginning, I have been against using gas in the house, primarily because I am heavily against fracking, so the use of a gas califont wasn’t really an option for us. As we are electrically off-the-grid (and with a small PV system), it was difficult for us to heat with electricity, and most solar-thermal systems are too large and very heavy. So, when you are creating a small, mobile structure that has to be under a certain weight, there are a lot of limitations. You’ll have to wait and see the system that we have eventually designed for the house.

Q. What do you think will be the biggest adjustment you’ll have to make once you move into your tiny house (compared to your lifestyle / living situation now?)

I think I’m going to have to learn to be a lot tidier. I won’t be able to cook dinner, walk out of the kitchen and forget about doing the dishes. I’ll certainly have to be a lot more conscious of anything that I buy. All in all, there are many minor changes and adjustments that I will have to make, but I think they are all changes that will make a positive impact on the person that I am.


Q. The tiny house movement seems to be just as much about a way of living, as it is about the actual houses. What tips would you give to people who want to try and live a more simple, eco friendly lifestyle, but don’t yet have the resources to make their own tiny house?

One of the reasons a Tiny House helps us to live an eco-friendly lifestyle is that it puts us in a space where we have to be aware of everything that we are consuming, not just in terms of material possessions that we bring into our lives, but also (as we will be off-the-grid) the energy that we use, the water that we consume and the waste that we generate each day. Of course, you don’t need to live in a small space to make yourself aware of these things. Experiment with water and energy conservation, try having trash free weeks, set yourself goals for not purchasing new items. If you do need to buy anything, consider purchasing something second hand, or up-cycling.

Q. In your opinion, what’s the biggest benefit in building & living in a tiny house?

For me, it’s really about freedom and security. I love the idea of owning my own home, and I especially love the idea of being able to accomplish that dream for the equivalent amount of money as a few years rent. The implications of that are of course a lot greater. When you live in a house that is mortgage and rent free (or at least very little land rent), with no utility bills and growing some of your own food, money is no longer all absorbed by the basic necessities of life, but can instead be focused on other things, such as travel, and enjoying life. I believe that’s a huge benefit.

Undoubtably, it’s also about living a lifestyle that is congruent with my values, changing my consumption habits to tread lightly on the earth, and also freeing up my time to do more of the things that I love, with the people that I love.

We look forward to watching Bryce & Melissa’s Tiny House build progress over the coming months. To keep up to date with the latest news on their project, visit the official website

How long before we can 3D print ourselves a new home?

Contour Crafting technology developed by the University of Southern California

Contour Crafting technology developed by the University of Southern California

A few years back when I first heard about 3D printing, and there was talk about being able to print off a new set of lungs or a new heart valve, I just couldn’t visualize exactly how that was possible. ‘Back to the Future’ stuff as far as I was concerned.

Today, for not much more than the price of the latest laptop or iPad, you can buy your own desktop 3D printer and print away at home until your hearts content. Now that I’ve seen them in action, I can fully comprehend the potential…

Want to refresh your home decor? Custom design a new lampshade!

lamp shade

No shoes to match that new outfit? Print some off overnight!


There are online marketplace’s, like where you can design, print and sell your products:

Endless creations of desk toys, gadgets, knick knacks, oh, and everyone needs a Mobius Strip of Bacon right?

Weird and wacky to one side, 3D printing has impacted many industries with some very useful and practical applications, particularly in the field of medicine, but apart from a bit of home decor & miniature modelling  it’s still very much early days for 3D printing in the architecture and construction industries.

While the potential is huge, the fact is, that in order to print something as big as a house, you need to build a massive printer and this is probably one of the main factors that’s been holding progress back, until now…

Dr. Bahrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California and his team of scientists have been developing new technology that will soon allow giant 3D printers to build entire multi-level houses…in one day.

This technology named ‘Contour Crafting’  is a process by which large-scale structures can be fabricated quickly in a layer-by-layer fashion – like 3D-printing a building. 

So just how long until we can go down to the local hardware store and hire a printer to Contour Craft a new home over the weekend? We’ll that may be a wee way off yet.

In theory, Dr. Khoshnevis and the USC team have the ability to print a whole house in one day right now, but due to a lack of lab space and construction permissions, they are currently only able to print smaller samples (walls etc), but are hopeful that entry-level construction models of the printer will appear on the market within two to three years and with NASA keen on the technology to build structures on the Moon and Mars for human colonisation, we have to hope that we get some traction here on Earth before too long.

3ft wall constructed by Contour Crafting

3ft wall constructed by Contour Crafting

Just recently, a Shanghai Engineering company printed 10 houses entirely out of recycled materials, in just under a day. Although the construction wasn’t one continuous build, rather, the various components were printed separately, then assembled, it’s still a great leap forward in the world of 3D construction. 

China has announced the first 3D printed house project will be launched in Qingdao, Shandong Province. A 3D printed building will be located in the Hi-tech Zone, Qingdao International Sculpture Park, to showcase new technologies.

These buildings are now being used as offices in an industrial park in Shanghai.

These buildings are now being used as offices in an industrial park in Shanghai.

So while there has been much comment online about this technology only enabling the building of ugly little concrete boxes, it’s currently a case of ‘walk before you can run’.

If 3D printing construction fulfils it’s potential, it wont be long until we’ll be seeing something that could look a little more like this:

Dupli Casa by J. Mayer.H

Dupli Casa by J. Mayer.H

or maybe even this?


protohouse by Softkill Design.

March Property Report – Main centres drive national increase to new highs.


While always traditionally a busy time of year, March looks to top records for the property calendar in 2014.

Figures released this week by show that  while over half of the country’s regions saw an increase in asking price, it was the major centres of Auckland, Waikato and Wellington that were the driving forces behind the new record national asking price of $484,263, each region reaching their own record level with Auckland jumping up 12% on the previous year.

Auckland: $683,169  – 1% up from previous month, 12% up from same month previous year.

Wellington: $469,487 – 1% up from previous month, 7% up from same month previous year.

Waikato: $393,612 – 3.6% up from previous month, 10% up from same month previous year.

Inventory levels rose slightly to 28 weeks, but still well down on the long term average of 37 weeks of stock.

New listings increased slightly form last month, up 2%, however overall, March listings were lower than expected. 14 regions reported lower new listings than the same time last year with the most significant falls in Coromandel (down 29%) and Nelson (down 25%).

Canterbury reported 3.7% increase in new listings and Auckland 5% up from March 2013, however the buyer demand in Auckland still far outweighing the number of properties available.

Graphic from

Graphic from

In other Auckland news, Barfoot & Thompson reported an 80% increase in sales from February, with average house prices reaching $725,708 and the marian sales price for the month sitting at $652,000.

March also saw the largest number of premium properties since 2008 to be sold by Barfoot & Thompson in a single month, with homes over the $1 million price bracket accounting for 35% of the total residential sales for the month.

Daunting figures for any potential new home buyer in the Auckland region.

View the full property report for March 2014 here

View Barfoot & Thompson’s latest market updates here