The money being spent on major home renovations is declining in Auckland and Canterbury but rising in Wellington, with results mixed in other centres

The money being spent on major home renovations is declining in Auckland and Canterbury but rising in Wellington, with results mixed in other centres

By Greg Ninness

Aucklanders' love affair with home improvements may be on the wane with the amount they spent on major renovations down 9.1% in the year to June.

According to Statistics NZ building consents were issued for $735.8 million of dwelling alteration work in the 12 months to June this year, down 9.1% from the $809.9 million of work consented in the previous 12 months.

The decline in value was caused by a fall in the average value of the work consented, which declined from $146,966 per consent in the 12 months to June 2018 to $133,643 in the 12 months to June this year. This was the first time it has declined since 2013.

However the number of alteration consents issued was almost unchanged at 5506 in the 12 months to June this year compared to 5511 in the previous 12 months. This comes after an almost uninterrupted period of increases in the number of alterations consented each year since 2010, apart from 2017.

A building consent is usually only required for major renovation work involving structural alterations such as adding a room or removing structural supports in an existing dwelling, so minor redecoration work such as repainting or fitting new cupboards would not normally need a consent.

The most likely reason for the decline in the average value of alterations is the peaking of Auckland property prices that occurred in 2016. With no capital gains for the last three years and a risk of capital losses, home owners and investors will both be cautious about spending too much on renovation work because of the risk of over capitalising.

Value down in Canterbury

The value of alteration work consented has also been falling in Canterbury, dropping from $211.7 million in the year to June 2018 to $180.5 million in the year to June 2019 (-14.7%).

However the fall in Canterbury is less surprising because the total value of alteration work consented in the region has been in decline since it peaked at $312.2 million in the year to June 2014, as post earthquake remediation work is completed and the number of homes being renovated heads beck towards a new normal.

In other major centres the changes in alteration work were more mixed.

In the Waikato the number of alteration consents increased from 2109 in the year to June 2018 to 2231 in the year to June 2019. The average value per consent declined from $60,476 to $58,881 over the same period, which resulted in a 3% lift in the total value of alteration consents to $131.4 million.

In the Bay of Plenty there was a big jump in the number of consents from 1359 to 1575 (+15.9%). This was accompanied by a 15.2% decline in their average value, leading to an overall 1.7% drop in the total value of alteration work consented in the year.

Wellington consent volumes & value of renovations rises

In the Wellington region the number of dwelling alteration consents was the highest it has been since 2008 and their average value of $79,460 was a record high. This pushed the total value of alteration work consented to a record $226.7 million in the year to June.

That probably reflects the relative tightness of the Wellington housing market where there is a shortage of properties for sale in some areas, which would increase the attractiveness of doing up an existing home rather than selling it to buy a new one.

In Otago the number of alteration consents surged from 1848 in the year to June 2018 to 2077 in the year to June 2019 (+12.4%), while the average value of $48,320 remained near it's all time high. That pushed the total value of alteration work in the region to a new record of $100.4 million, up 12.7% compared to the previous year.

Over the country as a whole, $1.78 billion of alteration work was consented in the 12 months to June this year, down 3.2% compared to the previous 12 months.

The comment stream on this story is now closed.

You can receive all of our property articles automatically by subscribing to our free email Property Newsletter. This will deliver all of our property-related articles, including auction results and interest rate updates, directly to your in-box 3-5 times a week. We don't share your details with third parties and you can unsubscribe at any time. To subscribe just click on this link, scroll down to "Property email newsletter" and enter your email address.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


A $2.6 mill property in St Heliers Auckland pays $5900 rates. A $1.35 mill property in Sumner Christchurch pays $8000.00. If you take the latter, close by in the same street a property of the same sized house and land, is valued at $670000 & pays rates $3900.00. The difference between the two properties is one is a EQ rebuild. Both properties use exactly the same services. Not much incentive to improve your house in Christchurch is there.

Wow 8K, that is brutal.

Well then think about this. In the same subject street a $2.65 mill value property, pays $14000.00 rates pa. Yep over a thousand dollars a month for exactly what? That is virtually paying rent. That party in Christchurch is paying $8000 a year more than the above Auckland example for the same value of property.

Someonne will soon tell you that CHCH is still the best buy in the country, but I'm afraid it's a NO from me..

Yes of course Auckland retailers are finding it difficult to make and profit. Guess what, this city has had the business life chocked out of for the last ten years with the extremely high cost of living. Since they were so focused on selling property to foreign buyers, now that the off shore buyers are gone its now very difficult for local wage earners to afford over priced goods for the homes they can't afford. Similar thing happened in the GFC in 2008 in the UK. Large home retailers such as MFI went in to administration due to property prices declining. And yes people won't improve their homes if they can't make that money back through capital gain on selling their home, no surprise there.
The reason why Wellington is doing well is because they still have an affordable property market (But only just affordable), and a lot of business moved from Auckland to Wellington because of the lower cost of living for their staff, hence why people can still afford to buy goods for their homes.

High Street recently got its first $2 store. People must be getting a bit skint if even High Street is following the path of malls in low cost suburbs.

I have noticed a couple of my local stores having some pretty big price rises over the last year. 20% on some items, 30% on others, up to 50% even on some of them. All imported items. I guess this is a symptom of the RBNZ's debasing of the NZ currency. Given how much stuff we buy from overseas and how little wages are rising in comparison it seems like people will be able to consume fewer things.


Man oh man, renovations are expensive in NZ. Holy sh#t. I've been pretty shocked by the fees involved just getting the consents.Topographical land survey, geotech engineer, architect, council fees. I am trying to be realistic about my Wellington renovation because I know it will be very expensive and include major engineering for a driveway etc. Also, how long it takes to get anything done! Instructed the geotech engineer back in May and he still hasn't even been onsite.

We often noted the (to us) crazily low reno costs in both the British and USA home reno shows. The quakes have made Councils rush into CYA mode on every possible aspect of a reno, they have a natural monopoly on consenting and the like, the materials suppliers are a cosy duopoly, and everything has to be CodeMarked or BRANZ'ed because even if it's fine in Cornwall or Oregon or WA, it might not suit our Godzone Uniqueness - we're diffrunt.....

The two primary areas of New Zealand where property values are dropping so why would you waste money improving them. More price reductions to come in both locations as the economy runs out of steam.

The difference is one of the areas is dropping from an absolute high, the other has been dropping for many years now. One is New Zealand's economic powerhouse, the other is shithouse.

A graphic adjective for Christchurch indeed. As it is my home town, as much as I might agree with the sentiment, it would be unpatriotic to use it myself. Christchurch was struggling with its CBD pre EQ’s. When the first priority post EQ’s was a $30mill plus redesign of the one way system, rather than, say for instance, what about the city’s underground services and some driveable roading for the poor plebs out East, that Messrs Grandiose & Pretentious we’re in the drivers seat. For heavens sake, they knocked down a brand new post EQ commercial building, in order to make Manchester Street completely impossible. Go figure!

... yes , it is a shame that Christchurch is NZ's economic powerhouse no longer ...

Thank goodness for Orc Landers inability to upgrade or improve their lot , that city still is NZ's faecal pit ...

Especially in South Auckland.

Median house prices in Christchurch are up 4.6% or to $450k from $430k YOY.

It's actually 3.4% YOY according to the REINZ monthly report for July. It was -1.6% in May. +1.7% in February.

Possibly 4 reasons for the drop:
Confidence or lack thereof, construction costs, consenting and the lengthy process from go to whoa, and the big capital gains have diminished.
On a slightly different topic a friend is working on a 9 unit block which is due for completion in November and has already started the groundwork for a similar block next door to it. All quality fitout and good views. He didnt bother with renovating the old 60s homes originally there.

Geez there are some people on that should not be contributing on here as they have no idea what they are talking about!
Christchurch property prices have not been dropping for years at all, in fact it is the most stable real estate market in the country!
The most desirable place to live in NZ will continue to gain popularity as it continues to develop.
You can say anything you want about ChCh but at the end of the day it doesn’t affect us a we know where the money is to be made I. The past, currently and into the future.

Yes those who have concentrated their investing in Christchurch have certainly done themselves and their poor families a disservice. Values going backwards each year and before inflation bites. Just imagine if they had bought in Dunedin or the two Bays. But that takes a certain amount of ability and guts. People with little ability always go for the easy choice and that generally is the one that pays off the least if at all.

Huh? Gordon I dont know where you're from apart from youre not from Christchurch. Why is it that you have such a lot of vitriol towards The Man? He works for what he has and has achieved well for himself and family whilst doing his bit for others. What is there to not like about that. I think I read a post from you that you have a lifestyle block. Apology if that is incorrect.

Median house prices in Christchurch are up 4.6% or to $450k from $430k YOY. Sharpen up.

You are being selective with your information which is typical of spruikers like you who are in denial. Have a look at the five year graph for Christchurch and then add in inflation and it looks pretty awful. Dunedin and the Lakes kill Christchurch in comparison.

... maybe people are just getting hacked off with the onerous costs and complications of councils consenting processes ... and are simply getting alterations done on the sly .. and who can blame them for that , when the jumped up little power crazy prats in city hall push you too far ..

Vive! The Brown Cardigan Brigade. “Omnes Auctoritatis, Nihil Praestaret.”

Indeed, GBH. A back section, a word to the neighbours (who may need the favour returned), and no tradie parking on the street.

I re-did a bathroom a couple of years back: needed to reduce the window width to get in a 900mm tiled flat-floor shower. Not structural as such (filling in a void) but took the precaution of getting a waiver of consent from the Council. Made sure I drew everything up in builder's pencil on A3 paper. Main thing they were interested in was the design considerations: as everything was in the same spot, no 'design' as such. But to keep their tiny minds focussed on Giving Me the Damn Waiver and the boxes ticked, dug up the specs for the tiles involved, and made the Design Point that they were the highest grade of non-slip when wet. Phew, actually, because we had already bought 'em all...

The waiver came through, and cost about as much as the replacement window.....Jeez Louise

Funny thing was, the house is old-school 25mm cement plaster over cement board on timber frame. Reducing window size could have introduced a weathertightness requirement, but Them Wot Hand Out Waivers were silent on that...... I hard-plastered the new section, and then spatter-gunned the roughcast onto it and back across into the old stuff after knocking the tops off with a stone wheel in the battery grinder. Perfect melded finish, and weather-tight. No thanks to the Consent Wallahs, who should not have missed That opportunity for Mo' Modest Fees and an Inspection......

Its interesting driving around our city looking at houses in what were once nice neighbourhoods,and observe how some of the houses have deteriorated in condition.
This is mainly due to costs.Even though we have more plumbers,builders,electricians etc the cost of repairs and renovations is astronomical.
That is why we see houses pulled down and replaced with 3/4 apartments.

You can spend stupid amounts working on the character homes but they probably still cannot be brought up to meet the much higher standards of healthy homes level. It's sad losing the charming homes and generous sections.

Two old-house certainties:

  1. Not level
  2. Not square

I will do renovations in Spring next year, nothing major as there will be a shortage of work so labour costs will be lower than they are now. And I will pay in cash. It's looking like 2008 all over again. In Bush Rd Albany there are 9 'For Lease' signs within 200m of each other, commercial leases are slow at present it seems. This was 2008 also.

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are diving so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.