Renovating in Auckland

While renovating rather than buying is becoming increasingly popular, Auckland homeowners should thoroughly investigate their options to avoid potential pitfalls.

Auckland city skyline at night.
ARTICLE Erin Reilly IMAGES Scott Espie

Auckland is fast becoming a ‘rainbow city,’ with more than 200 nationalities now calling New Zealand’s largest city their home. Inner-city streets are a melting pot of colour, vibrancy and language, while some suburbs are known for their unique ethnic concentration and personalities.
In much the same way, renovating in the Auckland region is incredibly diverse too. Every suburb has unique geographical factors to deal with. Between and within suburbs, homes look and feel incredibly different. Much of the Auckland residential-scape is characterised by heritage buildings. And none of those considerations begin to scrape the surface when it comes to code compliance.
Renovated Auckland home kitchen.
An Auckland-based Refresh Renovations builder, says the most eye-opening realisation Auckland homeowners have to understand is that there’s no cookie-cutter solution for every renovation project in the city. The key word here is diversity.
“Auckland is incredibly diverse – and it’s not just one suburb being different to another,” say our renovations builders. “You can have two completely different properties sitting side by side. You could have a driveway with five cross-leased sections around it, while next door could be an old-fashioned quarter-acre section. Half the street could be in one residential zone and therefore have to abide by one set of regulations, while the other half could be in another.
“You have to take every Auckland property on its own merit – and you definitely need professionals to help you navigate that criteria.”
So what kinds of anomalies could the average Auckland renovator expect? Land type, residential zoning and heritage status are just a few.
Auckland is personified by different land types which bring with them different codes of compliance. For example, if you are building in a ‘sea zone’, like the inner harbor or further up the North Shore, you’ve got to consider the building materials you use because they’re likely to get covered in corrosive sea spray.
Renovated master bedroom in an Auckland sea zone.
“When you head inland, there are a lot of old volcanoes to contend with. One house on an Auckland street could have fabulous soil, but you could go six houses down the street and hit tonnes of volcanic rock. And if you look at suburbs out west or slightly south, you head into the hills and encounter different regulations again.
“The diversity of Auckland’s land comes with their own issues. We’re not like Wellington where you definitely know it’s an earthquake zone and quite hilly so renovations need to be treated as such. Anything could happen in Auckland.”
Diversity doesn’t stop at land type though; style of housing differs all over Auckland too. There are classic villas and bungalows, state houses, brick and tile homes, right through to apartments and modern developments popping up all over the city. Many of Auckland’s suburbs are also characterized by cultural ‘community pockets’ that often drive the look and feel of those areas. An area’s affluence should also be taken into consideration. A project that might work well in Devonport might be completely out of place in Mangere.
“There are also a huge number of heritage buildings in Auckland, which come with their own rules and regulations,” say our renovations specialists. “In Auckland, buildings built pre-1944 can’t have more than 30% of the site demolished, otherwise heritage and local board consultants are brought in. Unless you’re in the industry, many people mightn’t be aware of a regulation like this.”
Renovated boy's room with green walls and boy playing on carpeted floor.
Auckland’s large geographical area means that some renovation-related regulations are different depending on where in the region the project is.
When you go into different zones – for example, Franklin versus Rodney – you need to look at each project through the eyes of that region and the applicable bylaws. The amount of legislation out there is phenomenal. We deal with town planners, council, regulations and bylaws everyday, so we understand what needs to be taken into consideration, even if it’s just a small renovation.
The Auckland Unitary Plan could come into play with future renovations too.
“If the Unitary Plan comes into play next year, people should find what its implication for them are. For example, a building site might have only be allowed 35% site coverage under the old Unitary plan but with the new plan allowing 40% coverage, so worth taking this into account when planning your renovations.”
So what makes Auckland’s renovation market so unique, compared with other regions around the country? Our renovations builders say one factor could be our inflated housing market.
The Auckland market is very tight and very expensive, and it’s suggested that the building and renovation industries have become very big because of that.
Many of our clients have looked at moving but struggle to find somewhere they like or can afford. They might not want to move two or three suburbs away from where they currently live because of community, schools or location preference. Renovating gives them what they’re looking for without having to move.
While renovating rather than buying is becoming increasingly popular, Auckland homeowners should thoroughly investigate their options to avoid potential pitfalls and treat their projects as a one-of-a-kind renovation – because they probably are.
“Do your research and hire the appropriate professionals who can help you navigate it all", say our renovation builders. “Even being in the industry it can sometimes be confusing because regulations and bylaws are always changing, so for someone who’s never done it before it can become very challenging – and very expensive if it’s not done properly.
“Get it right first time.”
Renovated living room in apartment with a view of Rangitoto.

What questions should an Auckland homeowner ask themselves before putting hammer to nail?

  1. What part of Auckland am I renovating in? What unique regulations and bylaws apply?
  2. Is my renovation close to the coast, on top of volcanic rock or in the hills? What implications does location have on my renovation?
  3. Is my home a historic building? How much of the building do I want to demolish?
  4. Could the Auckland Unitary Plan impact my renovation?
  5. Is it worth hiring a professional to help me navigate all the legislation that’s out there, and manage the project once we’ve been given the go-ahead?
      #### You might be interested in reading this Refresh's case study: Auckland Bungalow Revamp. Renovate Magazine Logo This article by Erin Reilly featured in Issue 018 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page. ### Get in touch with Refresh to discuss your home renovation project If you would like to discuss options and ideas for renovating in Auckland, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too. *All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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