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Top 20 FAQs on building a new house

Building a new house is a big undertaking and there are a lot of factors to consider. From consents and contracts to budgets and warranties, we have the answers to 20 of the most commonly asked questions by homeowners about the building process.


If you’ve never built a new home, read our guide on the biggest home building pitfalls to avoid and make your new build a success.

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How long does it take to build a house?

Various reports from across New Zealand quote between 10 to 12 months to build a home. This includes the initial planning and consent process, the build itself and the final Code of Compliance and selling of an existing property. The build alone usually takes between five to six months.

However, there are a number of factors that can affect the building process, including:

  • Design complexity.
  • The type of build: Custom built homes take longer to build than prefabricated homes or homes built off a pre-set plan.
  • Weather.
  • Number of storeys.
  • Slope of the site: the steeper the site, the more expensive it is to build on.
  • The number of easements required/involved.
  • Amount of land to clear.
  • Building during the holiday season: add about 4 weeks to your timeline.


Read more: Custom build or a land and house package? All your build options weighed up

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What is the cost of building a new house?

The cost of building a new home varies from region to region. In Hamilton, it was last estimated at $2,246 per square metre. Multiply this by the average floor area of new homes at 182 square metres and the average estimate is $408,772.

Keep in mind that this estimate is based on averages, and can vary depending on factors such as:

  • Home design complexity.
  • The type of home build you choose.
  • Where you build.
  • Site conditions (e.g. slope and soil composition).
  • Materials specified.


What are prime cost items?

Prime cost items are features, such as tiles, tapware and doorknobs, that you have not chosen yet. A sum is allocated for these.

What are provisional cost items?

Provisional cost (PC) items are features or materials that have unknown costs. This might be because the builder hasn’t seen the site you plan to build on, or they need your input to get a better fix on price. You’ll often see PC items in the pricing of your:

  • Foundations and earthworks.
  • Site drainage.
  • Connection to power and water.
  • Kitchen.
  • Council fees.


Read more: Financing your new build: what loans are out there?


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How much deposit do I need to build a house?

It depends on where you build and the type of building contract you choose.

Not sure what loan you need? Read this.

Vacant lot: If it’s within 50km of the city boundary, usually 20 per cent of the land’s value as a deposit.

Build only (i.e. just the house): You’ll need 20 per cent deposit of the new build’s final value.

Partial contract: If you plan to self-manage the build, you will need a 35 per cent deposit of the home’s final value.

Turn key: With a fully-managed contract that oversees the total build from start to finish, including your garden, the required deposit is usually 10 per cent.


Read more: No deposit to build a new house? Secure a loan with your existing home equity

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What are the risks of building new?

When it comes to new builds, there are a few risks to be aware of. A few common ones are:

  • Project delays: an increase in building permits, for example, means you may have to wait longer for resources (i.e. builders and subcontractors) to become available.

  • Budget blowout: this is fairly common with new builds, so it pays to budget carefully.

  • Inadequate insurance: there have been instances where builders have failed to file their 10-year guarantee paperwork for a new build project, resulting in the build not being properly covered.

  • Poor workmanship: While it’s true that many New Zealand homes have had issues with poor quality design and workmanship, new regulations and a push from within the industry itself are weeding out “cowboy” builders. Organisations such as Registered Master Builders and New Zealand Certified Builders also supply homeowners with 10-year guarantees to ensure their new home is covered against defects.


Despite this, the benefits of building new largely outweigh the risks. From gaining a home that meets the latest construction standards to capital gain potential, there are a lot of reasons to build.

Read more: 10 home building mistakes to avoid


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If you’ve never built a new home, read our guide on the biggest home building pitfalls to avoid and make your new build a success.

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What is the difference between a titled and untitled lot of land?

When you’re looking to purchase land, it’s important to check whether a title has been issued, as this can have a major impact on your project costs and timeline.

Untitled land:

  • Has no Certificate of Title, you will have to wait for it to be issued before you can settle and apply for resource and building consent—which can affect your timeline.
  • Has no services (e.g. water and electricity).
  • Is often undeveloped (i.e. there are trees and land to clear).
  • Site access may not exist (e.g. road access up to the site. If you are on a large section, this may also include a driveway, which you will need to build).
  • Often cheaper than titled land.
  • Often sold as part of an off the plan development.


Titled land:

  • Has a Certificate of Title. Therefore, building can commence as soon as the resource and building consents are given.
  • Has services.
  • Usually in an established suburb.
  • Usually has access.
  • Is often developed (i.e. trees cleared and site leveled).
  • May have easements and covenants that limit the use of the land and/or your build.


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What is a soil report and should you get one?

When you’re looking to purchase a section of land, it is important to conduct a soil test to determine the density and makeup of its soil—and if there are any harmful materials in it.

This can help to:

  • Determine the extent and type of earthworks and foundations required—which can help your builder provide a more accurate cost for these.
  • Identify any potential slip and slide risks.
  • Determine where you can build on your site, and where you may not be able to due to poor soil composition.
  • Provide the technical information you need to gain resource and building consent—particularly if the land is untitled.
  • Identify any harmful substances in the soil (e.g. heavy metals and toxic materials/waste).


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Why are some home designs more expensive than others?

Two houses might have the same floor area, but each homeowners’ choice of design and materials can have a drastic impact on the final cost of each home.

For example, homes with monopitched roofs require more exterior cladding on the external walls and their trusses are also more costly. In all, it is a more expensive design to build than a traditional hip roof house.

Similarly, houses with extra storage areas are more expensive to build.  With each cupboard made from a number of components, such as framing, plastering, painting, doors, door handles and shelving, the more you have the greater the cost.

If you’re planning a new build, it’s worth investigating how much the following home design components will affect the cost of your home:

  • Amount and type of exterior cladding.
  • Interior wall area.
  • Window area.
  • Amount of structural support required.
  • Roof pitch and style.


Read more: Custom build or a house and land package? All your build options weighed up.

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What is the difference between an architect, an architectural designer and a draughtsperson?

Simply put, they have different qualifications. While architects have an extensive education behind them, architectural designers and draughtspeople are more than capable of designing a residential build. In most instances, however, homeowners will choose their designer based on their portfolio, not their educational background.

However, what is important to note is that while all architects are licensed building practitioners (LBPs), not all architectural designers/draughtspeople are. If they are not an LBP, then they are unable to provide designs that involve restricted building work.


  • Have an architectural degree.
  • Must be registered with New Zealand Registered Architects Board and hold a current Certificate of Registration to work.
  • Will design to meet the New Zealand Building Code and local council requirements.
  • All are LBPs.
  • May have experience in managing the building process.


Architectural designers and draughtspeople

  • These two titles are used interchangeably, but they are the same role.
  • Are trained in technical aspects of building design and detailing.
  • Will design to meet the New Zealand Building Code and local council requirements.
  • Not all are LBPs—check first before asking them to plan any restricted building work.
  • Usually cheaper than architects.


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What is restricted building work?

Restricted building work relates to work that affects a home’s primary structure, weathertightness, and fire safety.

Primary structure work can include:

  • Foundations.
  • Floors.
  • Roof.
  • Walls.
  • Columns, pillars and beams.


Weathertightness can include:

  • Damp control.
  • Roof and wall cladding systems.
  • Water-proofing.


Fire safety can include:

  • Emergency warning systems.
  • Evacuation systems and routes.
  • Fire suppression and/or control systems.


Any restricted building work must be done (or overseen) by a licensed building practitioner (LBP).

Learn more: Check if your builder is an LBP on the public register.

Important! Not all builders and designers are LBPs, so always check before you have them undertake any restricted building work.


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How far from boundaries do I have to build?

Minimum setbacks from roads*

  • From local and collector corridors/roads: 3m or 5m depending on what residential zone you are building in.
  • From arterial transport corridors/roads: 5m, unless the garage/carport faces the road directly, then it is 8m.
  • From the Waikato expressway: 40m from the edge of the expressway, or 35m from the proposed boundary if the expressway boarding your section is still under construction.
  • From a shared driveway: 1.5m


Minimum setbacks from neighbouring property*

Residential buildings must be set back at least 3m from the nearest part of any other residential building, unless:

  • The two properties are attached (i.e. a duplex).
  • The home is designed to avoid views between properties (through window positioning and glazing). In this instance the minimum distance is 1.5m.
  • It is an upper-level balcony or elevated deck—then the minimum distance is 5m.


All rear boundaries have a 1.5m minimum setback.

*These setback minimums may change depending on your residential zone, particularly if you’re in a special character zone. For the most up-to-date information, refer to the Operative District Plan on the Hamilton City Council website.


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Who is responsible for the building consent process?

It depends on who is managing your build. Some architects and design and build companies can organise the entire process, while others will require you to make the submission. Therefore, it is important to check what is and isn’t included in your building contract.

Read more: How to get building consent in Hamilton | How to find a good builder in Hamilton


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How much will my consent cost?

As of April 2018, building consents in Hamilton cost:

  • One-storey dwelling: $4,550
  • Two-story dwelling: $6,100
  • Three-storey or more dwelling: $9,500


In addition to the cost of the building consent, you should also factor in other council related costs, such as:

  • A Project Information Memorandum ($255 for all new dwellings).
  • Associated levies.
  • Associated fees (i.e. to amend your building consent application if you make changes to your plan).


To see a full list of all building and consent fees, visit the Hamilton City Council website.

Read more: How to get building consent in Hamilton


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What should I concentrate on first when choosing a home design?

Deciding on a home design that you like starts with a list—a list of why. Why are you building new? Is it for more or less space? Greater comfort? Or for a home that better suits your lifestyle? Answering this question should help uncover what your needs are, both on an individual level and as a family (or investor). Once you’ve got your list of needs down, you can then start thinking about the physical aspects of the house itself.


Orientation and position

Look at your section and consider how your home will be orientated to the sun, how you might position it on your section to take advantage of any views, and how its position and orientation may affect privacy (yours and your neighbours).


Floor plan

There is more to assessing a floor plan than checking it has the right number of rooms and bathrooms. Also consider:

  • Interior flow.
  • Indoor to outdoor flow.
  • Accessibility.
  • Storage.
  • Size.


Tip: When choosing the size of your rooms, measure up any current furniture that will move in with you and consider where you will place it in your new home.



Once you’ve decided on your home’s site position and floor plan, start to look at various style-related elements, such as the type of roof you’ll have, how big your windows will be, and what cladding you’ll use.

Read more: Custom build or a house and land package? All your build options weighed up


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Should I use a Master Builder, a New Zealand Certified Builder or Licensed Building Practitioner?


Registered Builders and New Zealand Certified Builders—what’s the difference?

Registered Builders belong to the Registered Master Builders Association (RMBA) while a New Zealand Certified Builder (NZCB) belongs to the NZCB Association.

Both these trade associations have set standards that their members must meet. This is designed to ensure that their members provide high-quality building services to their clients.

Both offer their own 10-year building guarantee.


Licensed Building Practitioners (LBP)

Not all NZCB builders or Registered Master Builders are licensed building practitioners. This means that they are not able to undertake any restricted building work, for example, structural work, such as your new build’s framing.

You can check if your builder is a licensed building practitioner on the public register.

Read more: How to find a good builder in Hamilton


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Can a builder increase the contract price?

It is not uncommon for some quoted prices to change during the course of a new home build. This is usually due to:

  • Unforeseen earthworks.
  • Changes to your new build plans.
  • A rise in material costs.
  • A rise in labour costs.
  • The homeowner choosing features outside the contract’s provisional sum allowances.


To reduce the risk, you may opt to negotiate your contract to have any price increases capped (e.g. up to 5 per cent). However, keep in mind that many builders are often reluctant to do this. As Cavell Leitch Lawyers puts it, “it may end up being an unavoidable risk that you need to account for.”

In some instances, and depending on your contract, a builder may also charge you penalty fees if your payments are late.

Important note: The content of this article is general in nature and is should be substituted or relied on for specific professional advice. Always consult a lawyer concerning your building contract.

Read more: How to find a good builder in Hamilton


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What action can I take if the builder goes over time?

If you’ve purchased a 10-year guarantee from your builder you may find that your new build is covered against untimely completion. Moreover, the implied warranty set out in the Building Act will also cover you—as long as your builder hasn’t gone out of business mid-way through your build.

The act stipulates that:

The building work will be completed by the date (or within the period) specified in the contract or, if no date or period is specified, within a reasonable time.

There are a variety of factors that can delay the timeline of your new build. Weather and unforeseen earthworks are two good examples, and there is relatively little action you can take against minor delays like these. As such, it’s wise to include a time-buffer in your planning to allow for these situations.

Note: Be aware that some building contracts do not specify timelines or finish dates. If you’ve signed a contract in this instance and the builder runs behind schedule, you may find your hands are tied. For this reason, it is important to have a lawyer review your building contract to ensure you’re not leaving yourself open to unnecessary risk.

Read more: Have you checked your new build insurance?


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Can I make changes to the design/plans once construction has started?

In short, yes. However, there is a process to follow, and you may incur additional costs from both the Hamilton City Council and your builder. On the council side, they may need to modify your building consent so that it adequately reflects the property you are building. This is legally required to get your final Code of Compliance.

If the council determines that your change is small, you may not need to follow the formal amendment process. Major variations, on the other hand, must.

Important! Regardless of what changes you want to make, always check with the council first.

Changes to your design and plans part way through construction can also affect the timeline of your project and create additional delays.


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What warranties are available under the Building Act?

Implied warranty

Regardless of the cost of the project or whether you had a written contract or not, the Building Act will see that your home is covered by an implied warranty for 10 years. This warranty covers most building work done. In particular, it provides cover against:

  • Non-compliance with the Building Code.
  • Poor workmanship.
  • Untimely completion of work.

Keep in mind, to activate any implied warranty, you will need to take the dispute to court. However, in most cases, disputes are resolved privately between the homeowner and builder.

Important! If your builder shuts up business an implied warranty is rendered useless. This is why many homeowners choose to also purchase a third-party guarantee (usually through their builder).


12-month defect cover

In addition to the 10-year implied warranty of the Building Act, a 12-month defect repair period covers your new build from the date of its completion. If you find a defect in this timeframe, your builder is obligated to fix it.


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When is a Code of Compliance Certificate issued?

A Code of Compliance certificate is only issued once the builder has completed all aspects detailed in the Council’s building consent. In most instances, the homeowner must apply for a Code of Compliance certificate, however, some design and build companies oversee the final compliance checks as part of their service.

Normally, the Council will issue a Code of Compliance within 20 working days (provided there are no problems with the property).

Note: The window to get a Code of Compliance certificate is two years from the date building consent was granted. Failing to obtain a Code of Compliance can have major ramifications when you sell the property.


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What happens if I notice defects after my build is completed?

Here’s the scenario: you received your Code of Compliance and made your final payment to your builder, but a few months later you’ve found defects in your new home. Now what?

The good news is, if your builder is still in business, you’re automatically covered by the Building Act’s implied warranty. If you notice the defect within a year, you’re also covered by the 12-month defect repair period.


Third-party guarantees

If you’ve purchased a third-party guarantee, such as the 10-Year Certified Builders Homefirst Guarantee and the Master Build 10-Year Guarantee, your home will be covered—even if the builder you used goes out of business. However, keep in mind, that many third-party guarantees have varying levels of cover depending on what you pay.

Important! No matter what insurance or third-party guarantee you choose, always make sure it is in place before you begin building.

Read more: Have you checked your new build insurance?


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Thinking about building new? Check out our free guide on new build pitfalls to avoid so your next home goes up without a hitch!

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