Franchised group house builder G.J. Gardner is New Zealand's busiest new housing business, putting up 1462 new residences valued at more than $531 million in the past year.

Data from BCI New Zealand showed G.J. Gardner built more than double the number of new dwellings of its nearest rival, Mike Greer Homes, which built 750 new places worth $214.2m in the July year.

G.J. Gardner's average new dwelling cost $363,790 and was an average 190sq m. It's business equates to 5.1 per cent of the New Zealand new-housing build by dollar value, BCI's data showed.

Mike Greer's average house size was 163sq m and its average price was $285,612.

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Classic Builders ranked third with 613 residences worth $190m, an average 169sq m and $310,145 average price. Fletcher Building ranked fifth with 386 residences worth $110m, an average area of 183sq m and average price of $285,575.

Fletcher Living last week unveiled its house-in-a-day at Hobsonville Pt, built using a panelisation method: the floor slab was laid before the components were placed on the site. The house would take some time to finish, Fletcher acknowledged.

Fletcher's Steve Evans said the technique could change the sector and significantly speed up house building.

Grant Porteous, managing director of Deacon Holdings which is the master franchise holder for more than 20 G.J. Gardner building franchises, said he and wife Ellie Porteous never set out to have New Zealand's biggest house builder.

But its size gave the business considerable power, the ability to negotiate prices with suppliers and "pulling" weight with tradespeople in the midst of high housing demand and a severe construction-sector skills shortage.

"We give them continuity of work and they can build their business based on ours. Plus we pay them every seven days," Porteous said of the contractors, telling how that engendered loyalty among skilled tradespeople and helped those other businesses expand.

"We've built more than 14,000 homes in New Zealand. No client home has never been unfinished so consumer confidence and support is justified. We have been New Zealand's number one builder for close to two decades," he said.

The vision was to have every customer recommend the business to their closest friend and Porteous said 96.7 per cent of customers would do so "even in this hectic market".

"An adage we often use is 'it's never just another house, think of it as a house for your own mother and be the builder she'd recommend'. We don't build spec homes. We contract build and design home for client's needs, site and budget. Speculative housing is about maximising builder profit and is not best for client," he said.

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Grant and Ellie Porteous of G.J. Gardner are New Zealand's biggest home builders.
Grant and Ellie Porteous of G.J. Gardner are New Zealand's biggest home builders.

Statistics NZ building consents data shows that in the year to June, more than 30,000 new homes were consented, up 4.7 per cent on last year.

"Annual new home numbers are nearing those last seen in 2004, although they remain well below the all-time peak of the mid-1970s when consents reached about 39,000 a year," said senior manager Jason Attewell of Statistics NZ.

One-third or 10,364 of all new homes consented nationally were in Auckland in the June year.

"Auckland accounted for three-quarters of national new apartment units and nearly half of all townhouses, flats and units," Attewell said. Auckland's increases in these home types were partly offset by a fall in the number of new stand-alone houses in Auckland in the past year.

Registered Master Builders chief executive David Kelly said collaboration and innovation were important for the industry.

"The recent all-of-industry Constructive Forum focused on how we can work better together to deliver the quality and scale of building New Zealand needs today and for its future," he said, noting how Auckland's Unitary Plan envisaged 400,000 new houses for Auckland by 2030.

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