Builders say bigger is better

By Kieran Nash

Janice and Kieran Fitzsimmons are building big. Photo / Janna Dixon
Janice and Kieran Fitzsimmons are building big. Photo / Janna Dixon

It's the Kiwi dream: a modest home with a section big enough for the kids to play cricket.

But that's all changing, as New Zealanders build bigger and bigger new homes and eat into their little-used backyards.

A new report from Australian company CommSec indicates New Zealanders now have the second-largest new houses in the world, smaller than Australia homes but larger than the the United States, the country that invented McMansions.

The latest figures from Quotable Value shows the average new Kiwi house has a floor area of 205sq m. The CommSec report showed new Aussie houses had climbed in size to 215sq m, while the average new American home was 202sq m and getting smaller.

The palatial homes of today tell us more about ourselves and our lifestyles than about the housing market.

In 1974 the average new home was 109sq m.

But those building and developing new homes today say the typical Kiwi outdoors lifestyle is giving way to the digital age, making staying inside a more attractive option.

Kieran and Janice Fitzsimmons agree. The couple are building a new 223sq m, four-bedroom home in the back yard behind their Remuera villa, sacrificing outdoor space for indoor floor area.

Kieran, who is the general manager of Auckland Film Studios, said his family didn't use the yard. "They play cricket on the computer now."

The spare space in their basement will be used for a rumpus room with kitchenette and smaller bathroom. "I didn't want to have a family lounge or anything like that," he said.

The master bedroom would have an en suite bathroom, he said, which is what the market demanded.

The availability of credit, low-cost production and market demands created larger homes, he said.

"In the 70s the ability to attract debt was difficult. Now the availability of money is easier - now we can borrow more money and get more in debt and build bigger houses."

Sentinel Homes boss Stuart Shutt plans to build 60 homes this year, most of them around 200sq m.

He said people wanted four good-sized bedrooms, a study, living areas such as media rooms or family areas so the kids can be in one place and the family in another. "It's more common to see kids on a PlayStation than kicking a ball round."

Earlier this year Auckland Council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley warned that at current development rates, Auckland would have a housing shortage of 50,000 homes in 30 years.

- Herald on Sunday

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