New Zealand Housing Information

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If you’re looking for a property to suit your growing family, a tidy rental for your time at University, a spot with more play room, or simply a place without garden maintenance, New Zealand has a full range of options. Christchurch is certainly no exception; we have a wide variety of properties to suit your needs!

The majority of houses in New Zealand tend to be constructed on one level and are usually detached, low density housing. The “average” New Zealand home has three bedrooms, separate kitchen and living areas, one bathroom, a garage/carport (or off-street parking), and garden/lawn area around the house. The majority of New Zealand homes are less than 100 years old, and many were built after the 1950s.

New housing types

There are a range of property and housing types in Christchurch and across New Zealand. Some of the most common property types are:

  • Suburban homes (standalone houses) – the most popular of New Zealand housing, a standalone house will usually be located on a piece of land with grass and garden.
  • Townhouses – These homes usually have two stories (floors), are built of permanent materials, and are designed in a modern, contemporary style. They may be freestanding, or attached to the second townhouse on the property.
  • Flats – “Ownership flats” are usually single level and attached to one or more other flats on the same property. Ownership flats were mostly built in the late 1960s–1980s. More modern properties of similar attached design are normally referred to as units. Some unit developments may have been built as “over ‘60s housing” which is built specifically for people over the age of 60 or with a disability. There are different regulations for “over ‘60s housing” which allows for a higher density development.
  • Apartments – Apartments are becoming increasingly more common in New Zealand, with many large apartment blocks popping up in urban areas near to schools and universities. This is especially the case in Christchurch.
  • Rural homes and lifestyle blocks – Generally these types of sections will include a standalone house and an implement (tool) shed for storage. Often these properties will be a formally recognised rural address, and therefore have a rural delivery (RD) postal address. You can find out more about RD here.

Types of residential housing construction in New Zealand

New Zealand housing is most commonly constructed using the following exterior building materials:

  • Aluminium (e.g. doors and window frames)
  • Concrete
  • Copper guttering and flashing
  • Corrugated iron or Coloursteel (e.g. for roofing)
  • Fired brick and clay
  • Natural stone
  • PVC
  • Steel
  • Timber
  • Zinc-aluminium coated steel

There are strict building regulations in New Zealand, further information can be found here.

Restrictions on housing development in New Zealand

Local councils place limitations on the size of houses that can go on an area of land, known as the “footprint”, which helps ensure there is still a certain amount of garden or lawn around a home. The required percentage of land around a townhouse is less than a normal home, which means there can be a smaller garden and lawn area.

Common housing features in New Zealand

Kiwis love the outdoors, and you’ll find a lot of homes take pride in having a great ‘indoor-outdoor flow’. Most properties, especially standalone housing, will have a yard or patio for socialising in. Other common indoor-outdoor features are things like a deck, garage, sunroom, or balcony.

Heating and ventilation

The New Zealand climate is extremely variable, and is known for having “four seasons in one day”. This can make it difficult for people to plan what type of heating or ventilation they want in their home from day one.

Finding a north facing home that gets a lot of sun is a requirement for many home buyers and renters. Living in a property with lots of sun helps to keep electricity costs down and makes it easy to dry wet clothes in the cooler months.

There are several forms of heating, cooling, and ventilation throughout New Zealand houses. Common forms of indoor heating are:

  • log burners (open fireplace, woodburners and pellet burners),
  • gas fireplaces or heaters,
  • electric heat pumps,
  • night store heaters,
  • oil heaters,
  • electric heaters. 

Heating systems that are powered by electricity, wood or gas are most common in New Zealand and especially in Christchurch. You may also find “wetback” water heating, where an open fire or log burner is plumbed into the hot water cylinder, which can help save on winter electricity bills. Some homes are fitted out with radiator style central heating, but this is very rare. Reticulated gas for heating and cooking is not available in all cities. 

Many places in New Zealand, particularly dense urban areas, have strict rules and regulations around woodburners that require households to comply with low-emission standards. Christchurch currently have a smog reduction plan in place. This means that only certain woodburners and pellet burners are authorised by Environment Canterbury as meeting the emissions and efficiency criteria.

This website has more information on the Clean Heat project in Canterbury. There are government subsidies available to replace open fireplaces and old log burners, and to assist with insulation if necessary. Information on subsidies is available through the Energywise site. Many houses built since the 1980s have electric underfloor heating which is fitted underneath the concrete flooring slab. This can usually be turned on or off for different areas of the house.

Overseas buyers resources