Should you move an old house or a new house? And will it suit the site?

Initial decisions

Reasons for transporting a house

Transporting a house to a new site happens when:

  • A new house is built off-site by a building company that either specialises in building removable homes, or is selling a show home.
  • A house is built in the contractor’s yard and later moved to a new site.
  • An old house is bought, either from a building removal company’s sale-yard, or from an existing section, and transported to a new site for restoration and renovation.
  • A house is moved to a better position on the same site to allow for a subdivision or better use of the section.

New transportable homes

You can find the names of companies that build transportable homes in the Yellow Pages. Some kitset and group housing companies also build transportable homes.

One reason for buying such a home may be the convenience of the house being built off-site. This is often a cheaper option and you can see exactly what you are getting. These houses are popular for baches and holiday homes. The house arrives fully completed but you will need to have foundations built, and engage a plumber, drainlayer and electrician to connect the services.

Old homes for relocation

People choose to recycle an old house rather than building new because:

  • They can acquire a character home which they can renovate.
  • They like the native timbers used in a lot of older homes and which are now becoming harder to obtain.
  • It can work out cheaper than building new.

Will it suit the section?

The location and topography of the new site is important when you plan to move a house onto it. Houses can usually be placed on a hill section provided it is not too steep. They can be placed on poles to raise them up and/or to build a basement beneath. You have to know whether the house you are moving is built for the wind zone in the new location. See the building consent process.

Access is important as the truck has to be able to drive in, although in some cases a crane can be used.

Also be conscious of whether the house you are moving will suit the neighbourhood. A small colonial cottage may look odd in a new subdivision of large, new Mediterranean-style homes. And there may be council planning restrictions on the types of homes that can be built in certain areas.

Moving an old house

What will it cost?

The cost of buying an old house for removal can range from a few thousand dollars for a two-room bach, to over $100,000 for a large home.

The cost of moving the house will depend mainly on the time it takes, which depends in turn on the route to be travelled, the size of the house and the degree of difficulty. It can range from a few thousand dollars to move a single-piece house, with the price increasing for the number of pieces, location and difficulty.

The house moving company will generally be responsible for the moving permits, i.e. the costs of moving the house over public roads, but the homeowner is responsible for building and resource consents.

The cost of placing the house on the new site, the foundations, connections to services, repairs, alterations and renovations will be a large part of your total budget. Note that some house moving companies can have the foundations built for you at the new site.

Objections to the removal of some houses

If you see an old house for sale for removal, there is always a chance the neighbours will object to it moving away from the neighbourhood.

Conversely, neighbours may have objections to an old house moving into a newer development. In this case resource consent will be required.

Steps to moving old houses

These are the steps in a house moving project:

  • Choose the house – it may be on an existing site or for sale in a building removal company’s yard.
  • Check the house - have the house checked by a plumber, electrician and builder. It pays to take care when choosing an old house for relocation. While it might seem cheap, the cost of restoring it could negate any savings you make and cost you far more than buying or building new.
  • Choose the building removal company - talk to people who have done it before and find out who they would recommend. Choose a firm with a good reputation. You can find building removal companies in the Yellow Pages.
  • Contact the building consent authority - find out what you need in the way of building and resource consents.
  • Organise insurance – you’ll need cover for the house while it is being moved and while the renovation work is being done.
  • Moving the house - the building removal company moves it from its yard or its existing site onto the new site and places it onto the foundations.
  • Connecting to services and upgrading the house - you will have to organise for services to be connected, i.e. telephone, electrical, and plumbing. Then you can begin the necessary alterations, renovations and decorating, making sure you obtain the right consents from the council and your building consent authority.

Getting ready for removal

Talk with the removal company and consider the following:

  • What is needed to get the house off the existing section - trees and other structures may have to be removed.
  • If you haven’t already done so, have the building structurally assessed before it is moved to ensure it can be safely transported.
  • An Overdimension Permit will be needed to transport the house by road. These are issued by the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA). The permit will normally be taken care of by the building removal company, but make sure this has been done. For more information about these contact the LTSA Helpdesk on 0800 699 000 or visit their website.

Issues with older homes

Some of the issues associated with older houses, which will come up when they are to be transported, include:

  • The bearers are often undersized and inconsistent for floor layout, usually because older homes have had many alterations done over the years without any attention given to the bearers.
  • Brick claddings will have to be removed for relocation and new claddings installed - this is an opportunity to install insulation.
  • Foundations don’t always match up with what’s on the plan.
  • Plumbing and wiring will often require replacement.

Consents required

When you relocate a house you will have to apply for:

  • Building consents to uplift the house from its current site and to re-establish it on the new site.
  • A Project Information Memorandum (PIM) for both the origin and destination.
  • Resource consent, in most cases.

Talk to your building consent authority before you start, and ask for details of their application requirements.

It is best to apply for the building and resource consents at the same time so that building and environmental factors can be considered together.

Building consents

At the place of origin you will need building consents for:

  • Lifting the building off its foundations and separating it from the services.
  • Any necessary temporary strengthening or separation of the building into parts for transportation.
  • Loading the building onto its transport vehicles.
  • Any necessary demolition of the existing foundations, services and subsequent work to restore the site.

At the new site you will need building consents for:

  • Constructing foundations and services.
  • Unloading the building and connecting it to those foundations and services.
  • Re-connecting any parts of the building which were separated for transportation, and fixing any damage done during transportation.
  • Doing any renovation work on the house.

If the place of origin and the new site are in different local council areas, you may need to apply to more than one building consent authority.

For details about what is needed to apply for building consent, see below.

A code compliance certificate must be issued for each building consent after the building consent authority does the final inspection and is satisfied that the work to which the consent relates has been completed and complies with the building consent. Building consent for removal from the old site

Building consent needed to remove a house from the old site is often called demolition consent, and it is your responsibility to organise (not the responsibility of the previous owner or the building removal company). Note that buildings purchased directly from a recognised house remover's yard will not require building consent.

The demolition consent removes any reference to the house from the files on that property (if it is going to a different council’s area). It also requires inspection of the services that were connected to the house.

The building consent authority may do an assessment to see if the house is structurally sound enough to be relocated as part of the removal consent. And the building consent authority may require the building to be upgraded.

Note this is no guarantee that a building consent authority in the other council's jurisdiction at the new location will allow the house onto a new site.

Building consent for placement on the new site

You need to get a building consent and a Project Information Memorandum (PIM) for when the house is relocated onto its new site. Each building consent authority may have different requirements, but generally you will have to provide copies of:

  • A full site plan.
  • Pile layout and cross-section detailing anchor piles.
  • Floor plan.
  • Sub-floor bracing calculations.
  • Proposed drainage plan.
  • Stormwater disposal details.
  • Method of potable water supply.
  • Elevation plans showing heights from original and proposed groundlines.
  • If the building is to be moved in sections, details of how it will be rejoined at the new site.
  • Any proposed internal or external building alterations.
  • Engineering reports where applicable.
  • Sewage and water system where public sewage or reticulated water service is not available.
  • A plan for vehicle access and parking.
  • Bracing information where the building is coming from a lower wind zone or earthquake area.
  • Previous inspection records and the code compliance certificate for houses built since 1 July 1993.
  • Drawings and specifications for any new work to be done such as alterations, additions, decks, etc.

You can draw your own plans but they must meet the standards required for a building consent to be granted.

Building consent fees vary between building consent authorities – check with a building consent authority that deals with the area where the house is to be located. The application should be processed within 20 working days, assuming all information has been provided and is correct. Change of use

If you intend changing the use of a relocated building - for example, moving and converting an old church into a home - it may require special work to bring it in to line with the Building Code which includes requirements like toilet and bathroom facilities, etc. Change of use must be notified to your council.

Building Code requirements for a new house

If the house is new, it will have to meet all the relevant Building Code requirements when it is being built, i.e. it requires building consent, inspections during and at the end of construction, and a code compliance certificate. Because the destination is probably not known when they are being built, these homes should be built to worst case scenario standard, i.e. for location in the worst earthquake and wind zones.

As with old homes, when the house is sold for relocation a new Project Information Memorandum (PIM) and building consent are required for the re-siting, foundations and drainage.

Resource consent

Resource consent may be required if locating the house on the new site is likely to impact on the environment in some way. For example, there may be rules in the district plan about the age, style, or size of the house allowed in some new subdivisions. Or you may need permission to remove native trees. This needs to be applied for at the same time, or before, you apply for a building consent.

When applying for resource consent you will have to provide some or all of the following, depending on council requirements:

  • A completed application form giving details of the new site.
  • The address where the building can be inspected.
  • A dimensioned site plan of the new site showing where the house will go.
  • Elevation plans showing the height of the building relative to the ground.
  • Photos of the elevations of the building to be relocated.
  • A statement of the proposed exterior work such as painting, additions and alterations intended to bring the building up to an acceptable standard.
  • A recent copy of the certificate of title.
  • Details of trees that require removal to get the building off its existing site or onto its new one.
  • A pegging certificate from a registered surveyor.
  • A statement of the work proposed on the house after relocation.

The council will assess the application on the following grounds:

  • The proposed appearance of the house and its compatibility with other houses in the vicinity.
  • The condition and quality of the exterior materials.
  • The period required for the restoration work.
  • Whether to impose a bond to ensure completion of the restoration work to an acceptable standard.
  • The structural integrity, soundness and fitness of the proposed use of the house being relocated.

If the council is of the opinion that the proposal would have a more than minor effect on the environment, then the application will be publicly notified.

If the application does not need to be publicly notified, and if you have submitted all necessary information, a decision should be given within 20 working days of the date of application.

Other matters to consider

Insurance

When the house is in transit from the old site to the new location, you will need to organise insurance for the move. This will provide cover for any damage during the move, for example, if the house falls off the truck. If this happens, you will only get back what you paid for the house. It is unlikely to cover consequential loss, for example, recompense for the cost of the new foundations which are no longer able to be used if the house is destroyed in transit. If this happens you will have to look at your contract with the house removers to see if it is covered. Failing that you might have to look at legal remedies.

The other insurance you should find out about is insurance for the renovation work. The builder should have cover for:

  • Accidental damage to the building (builder’s all-risk policy or contract works insurance).
  • Accidental damage to adjoining property, and in some cases, for personal injury (public liability).

You need to arrange normal cover for your home and contents once the house is on its new site, and make sure your insurance company is aware of the renovation work and extends cover for damage resulting from that work. Damage to the pavement and kerb

Moving a house in a street

You may be liable for any damage to the pavement or kerb when the house is being moved. It pays to contact the council’s vehicle crossing supervisor for a condition inspection of the kerb, footpath and berm before the removal and immediately after so that any damage can be accurately assessed.