Understanding your site
It's worth doing your research before you buy or build on a property.
By taking time to research and understand a property and its surroundings, you'll develop a 'feel' for what it will be like to live there and whether it's right for you.
You'll also find out about any problems or hazards, any conservation or planning issues, and any other factors that will influence your quality of life and the design of your home or renovation.
What to consider
Many factors will influence your enjoyment of a property and your ability to build or renovate the home the way you want:
- climate - sun, wind, rain and temperature
- the site's orientation to the sun
- the site's susceptibility to hazards such as flooding, erosion, earthquakes and chemical contamination from past uses
- the site's slope and existing landforms and waterways
- access to transport
- access to work, schools, shops and other facilities
- the character and 'feel' of the neighbourhood
- town planning requirements
- the size of the property - do you want a small, low-maintenance section close to facilities, or a larger property that will require more care?
- plants and trees - these can make a property more attractive, improve air quality, reduce the risks of erosion and flooding, and provide shelter and shade.
It's worth considering whether you'll be able to build or renovate the way you want without substantially disturbing the site's existing landforms, waterways and vegetation. Substantial earthworks or vegetation removal can be costly and increase the risk of erosion, subsidence and flooding.
While all of the factors listed above will influence the design of any building or renovation, you can still use smart design to achieve a drier, more comfortable home with lower energy costs.
Striking a balance
There's no such thing as a perfect site. Choosing a site will involve balancing one factor against another.
For example, the view or the sun might come from a direction that is also buffeted by strong winds. This will affect the design and structure of any building or extension you put on the site.
By thinking in advance what your priorities are, you'll be able to balance competing factors when you make a decision about buying a property or designing a new home or renovation.
It's worth thinking about the future as well as the present. How long do you plan to live in a particular location, and how is your lifestyle likely to change in that time? Will it be suitable, for example, if you start a family, or if your children leave home, or your health changes? (See Making your home adaptable).
Could neighbouring land uses change in ways that might affect you? For example, might neighbours be able to build out your sun and views, or are industrial land uses permitted?
Evaluating your site
You can get to know a property by visiting it at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. It's also worth looking around the neighbourhood to see how others have dealt with the local climate, topography and what type of plants grow successfully.
Certificate of title
The certificate of title will tell you about: a property's general size and shape; who owns it; whether there are mortgages, leases, or other interests registered against it; whether the land is freehold or leasehold; and whether there are any covenants or easements that might restrict your use of the site - for example, by restricting the size and shape of any building or driveway sharing.
Land Information Memorandum
You can get a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) from your local council.
It should tell you anything the council knows about: the location of stormwater and sewage drains; problems with erosion, land stability or flooding; protected buildings; permits and building consents relating to the site; and information about zoning and what the land can be used for.
All local councils have to produce a District Plan showing how they will control land use within their boundaries.
District Plans may contain restrictions on such things as the height of any new building, how close to the boundary you can build and if specific trees are protected.
The District Plan might also tell you about flood risks and other hazards.
To ensure the property's boundaries are accurate, you'll need to check the survey plan or a Land Information New Zealand aerial photograph.
If you have doubts about ground stability, it's worth consulting an engineer or getting your architect to commission an engineer's report. For new subdivisions, the developer should have an engineer's report you can look at.
From Smarter Homes
- Landforms and waterways
- Rural sites
- Planting and landscaping
- Native plants and wildlife
- Exterior design
- Property - includes information on pre-purchase inspections, real estate agents, Land Information Memorandum reports, and conveyancing.
Note: you may need to be a member to access some of this information.
From other sites
You can obtain Land Information Memorandum (LIM) reports from your local council. Your regional or local council should also have information about flood protection, land management, regional parks, public transport, water supply and local climate and facilities. Visit the Local Government Online website to find contact details for New Zealand local authorities.
For information on estimated building costs for your area, see the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Building and Housing information website.
Maps, aerial photographs and topographical information can be found at the Land Information New Zealand website, as well as property surveys and titles. You'll have to pay for some of this content.
The Statistics New Zealand website provides community profiles of all towns, suburbs and districts in New Zealand. These profiles include information on age, education, ethnicity, income groups and household size.
The Quotable Value website provides information about property price trends, both nationally and locally. You can also order valuation and past sales information for individual properties as well as certificates of title through this site. You'll have to pay for some of this content.
You can order reports about earthquake risks and other hazards for individual properties through the Property Insight website. You'll have to pay for some of this content.