Western Bay house removers are enjoying a boom as old houses are shifted to make way for new developments.

The changing face of Tauranga has translated into $100,000 bargains for people prepared to sink time and money into 'doer-uppers'.

Tauranga decorator Kevin Hart is the new owner of a fine old house in Mission St that was put up for tender to make way for an early childhood learning centre.

"Good ones are in short supply. The market is so good that I bought it on spec," Mr Hart told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend at the removal site opposite The Elms Mission House.


His next task was to find a section on which to put the house, which dates to around the 1930s. In the meantime it was parked at the Te Maunga yard of Bay of Plenty House Removals, owned by 68-year-old Neil Johnson.

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Mr Johnson said business improved dramatically in late 2013 after being so flat for the previous five years that he was on the verge of quitting a way of life begun by his grandfather.

The turnaround came in the nick of time and he now had 60 signed contracts to remove houses.

"We will have shifted seven houses this week ... everyone is really busy."

Subdivision covenants guaranteeing a standard of housing were major obstacles to finding sections, together with the length of time it took to get the shift consented by councils once a site was found. "Dealing with councils is absolutely frustrating."

Prices for houses he bought meant young families could secure a three-bedroom home finished and on piles for under $100,000. A two-bedroom home could cost $90,000 while a four-bedroom or three-bedroom house plus garage might cost $110,000.

Mr Johnson said he paid "bugger all" for brick houses because of all the issues that came with shifting them. A lot of houses were lifted by cranes on to back sections.

Houses he successfully tendered for comprised less than a quarter of all his house shifts. With two gangs working, he was notching up 150 to 200 shifts a year, he said.

Roger Vincent, owner of House Transporters in Te Puke, said they were so busy they were now taking bookings for June and July. He was shifting a couple of houses a week and, unlike other operators, he tended to shift houses once, with most going straight to sites rather than being double-handled through his depot.

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A big issue for his business was shifting houses that contained asbestos. New health and safety rules meant some types of buildings they used to handle were no longer viable to shift.

And with most houses being offered for removal also coming up on Trade Me, he said potential buyers had to be aware the houses could have been used for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Mr Vincent said he was moving away from buying and selling houses because of the issues created by asbestos and methamphetamine, and the risks to his crew. Long delays getting relocated houses inspected was another problem.

The developer and owner of the Elm Tree Early Learning Centre in Mission St, Geoff Tarr, planned to commence construction next month once the house on the neighbouring site had been shifted. He said it would be a single-level building that would not intrude into the landscape of the street.

Mr Tarr said their busy times for traffic would be first thing in the morning and late afternoon when parents dropped off and picked up children. He believed there would be little impact during the time of the day when buses brought cruise ship passengers to The Elms. The learning centre would have parking at its rear, with plans for traffic to enter at Mission St and exit at Brown St.