Bunnings is selling houses for $60k … just not to you

Written by realestateview.com.au in National on June 28, 2019

A trip to Bunnings can now end in home ownership.

On a regular Saturday, prospective property owners can pick up a snag, buy a few succulents and buy a tiny house for just over $65,000.

The catch? They’re only available in New Zealand.

In a challenge to traditional house-building methods, Bunnings has begun selling flat-pack homes into New Zealand under its own Clever Living Co. brand.

Prospective property owners can pick up a snag and this house. Prospective property owners can pick up a snag and this house. Photo: Bunnings

The hardware chain has already sold 50 of its affordable homes which come in two sizes – a two-bedroom, 60-square-metre for $65,000 and a four-bedroom,  106-square-metre for $107,000, excluding GST (which in New Zealand is 15 per cent).

Christchurch-based licensed builder Richard Trent says they’re receiving at least two enquiries a week to build the flat-pack homes.

“While in most cases a buyer will still have the land purchase cost – the entry price for the actual build, coupled with the pre-consent certification, makes this range highly attractive to a variety of buyers,” he said in a press release issued by Bunnings New Zealand.

You can buy this a two-bedroom 60 square-metre for $62,4000 You can buy this a two-bedroom 60 square-metre for $65,000. Photo: Bunnings

“We can currently build a three-bedroom Clever Living Co. home in six to eight weeks.”

Micro homes have become a trend in high-density area across the world, from Hong Kong to New York.

They’ve been billed as the answer to the property affordability crisis and the future of urban living.

But in Australia, the tiny house movement is wrapped up in red tape, making it less accessible, advocates say.

Micro homes have become a trend in high-densities across the world. Photo: Tiny Homes AustraliaMicro homes have become a trend across the world. Photo: Tiny Homes Australia

There are two types – a fixed tiny house, which is much like a granny flat and a tiny house on wheels – which is where the regulation gets tricky.

“There’s a lot of red tape,” sustainable housing consultant Rikki Pieters said.

“Tiny houses on wheels are treated as caravans, but they’re not a caravan because they’ve got characteristics of a traditional dwelling. They’re set up for living in on a permanent basis.”

Because they’re treated like caravans, in states like Queensland and Victoria, there are strict rules about who can live in them and for how long, says Ms Pieters.

A fixed tiny house, which is much like a granny flat. Photo: Tiny Homes AustraliaA fixed tiny house, which is much like a granny flat. Photo: Tiny Homes Australia

“In Queensland, you’ve got occupancy restrictions around who lives in them, it needs to be members associated with people in the main dwelling. You can’t just rent it out to people who aren’t related to you.

“Some of the states have relaxed theses regulations – in NSW and South Australia its easier.”

There are around 300 people living in tiny homes across Australia, says Heather Shearer, a research fellow at the Cities Research Institute at Queensland’s Griffith University, most of them illegally.

“In very few local governments in Australia are tiny houses on wheels actually legal,” she said.

Tiny Homes Australia have built 22 houses since starting 18 months ago. Photo: Tiny Homes AustraliaTiny Homes Australia started 18 months ago. Photo: Tiny Homes Australia

If tiny houses were more accepted and regulated by local councils, they could be part of the answer to address Australia’s housing affordability crisis, Ms Shearer argues.

“One way they can be beneficial, not in the inner-city ring, because the land value is too high, but in the middle ring if someone has a tiny house on wheels theoretically, you could rent part of someone’s backyard.

“That’s one-way affordability can be addressed with tiny houses.”

Indi Hangan started building tiny homes 18 months ago and in that time his business, Tiny Homes Australia, has sold more than 22 dwellings.

Tiny Homes could help address the housing affordability crisis, say advocates. Photo: Wood & Heart Building Co.They could help housing affordability, say advocates. Photo: Wood & Heart Building Co.

He says that number would have tripled if there were fewer restrictions in Australia.

“We would have sold three times as many if the regulations weren’t so tight and scary,” he said. “The fear of getting kicked out is the biggest one for a lot of people.

“There are so many loopholes you can use. If people want to use it as a holiday house, then it’s fine but the laws about the period of time can be confusing.”

Despite the red tape, there’s still a lot of demand for tiny houses, as they offer so many benefits, says Mr Hangan.

“Cost is one of the biggest ones, but they offer that minimalist lifestyle that people are chasing. Movability is a factor; you can be living on one side of Victoria and then move to the other.”