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Building your first home? Try a prefab home

Turning your new home into a reality is an exciting and overwhelming process. From choosing a house plan to deciding on the final touches, there is a lot to learn – especially when it’s your first time. 

Choosing to build your first home rather than buy an existing home can be a challenging but highly rewarding process with many long-term benefits. And fortunately, with streamlined options such as prefab homes available to first-home builders, securing a brand new first home has never been easier.

To simplify the task ahead of you, we’ve outlined each step of the building process so you can be well-prepared, regardless of the construction method you choose. From the first concepts to the day you get the keys, this article has everything first home builders need to know.

1. Choose a construction method

If you know that building is the route you want to take, the first decision to make is which method of construction will best suit your needs. Let’s explore the options available:

Traditional onsite build

If your section is close to the town centre and easy to access, a conventional onsite build may be suitable. Keep in mind that these types of projects are prone to weather delays, delivery issues, and high travel costs for tradespeople. If the site is on a working farm, occupied or a busy property, the build can cause unwanted stress and disruptions. 

Offsite manufacturing with a transportable home

The term offsite manufacturing (OSM) refers to any construction that is completed before being delivered to the location and there are many to choose from. Check out transportable homes, modular homes, and prefab homes for a start. By completing the majority of the work in a controlled factory environment, these methods are more efficient, hands-off, and cause less disruption to the building site, making them a great option for first-time builders.

Build new with a prefab home

Prefab homes are a popular form of offsite manufacturing where the house is built entirely in a factory, transported to the final location, and installed in a few short weeks. With very little site work, this is a convenient option, especially for those eager for a low-stress, hands-off build.

2. Organise your finances

Before construction contracts are locked in and the build can go ahead, you need to arrange your financing. For most first-home buyers, that involves applying for a mortgage, withdrawing KiwiSaver funds, and where applicable, requesting government grants. To help you make sense of it all, we’ve broken the steps down below:  

Budgeting for a new home

Regardless of how much you intend to spend, it’s a smart idea to track your spending habits and use a budgeting tool. This way you can cut down on non-essential items and save money for the features in your home that you value most. 

Applying for a mortgage

To get a mortgage, you need to work directly with a bank or mortgage broker. Use a savings calculator to determine how much you can realistically pay each week and a mortgage calculator to calculate repayments for different loan settings. Remember that the repayment amount will change depending on your interest rate. 

Government support for first home loans 

When building your first home in New Zealand, you can apply for financial support from the government. Firstly, if you have contributed to a KiwiSaver scheme for over three years, it's likely you're eligible to withdraw any savings here to go towards your deposit. You may also be eligible for a KiwiSaver First Home Grant. With a new house, this can be up to $10,000 per person as opposed to the $5,000 offered when buying an existing home.

The other government financial support is the recently introduced Kāinga Ora First Home Loan Scheme which allows you to get a home loan with as little as a 5% deposit. Compared to most lenders who require a 20% deposit, this is far more attainable.  

Get more information on financing a prefab home HERE

3. Design a house plan

Next, it’s time to come up with a layout and design for your dream home. Start by collecting ideas and inspiration from magazines, social media, and showhomes and then speak with your designers, architects, and building company. They will guide you through the process and ask you questions to determine what you need. These questions include: 

  • How many bedrooms do you need? 
  • How many bathrooms do you need? 
  • Do you want an outdoor living space? 
  • Do you have extra requirements like office space or a walk-in wardrobe?  
  • How much storage do you need?  

You will also need to think about which materials you like, such as exterior cladding, joinery, wallpaper, paint, ceilings, appliances, carpets, fixtures, and more. Some of these decisions will come later but it’s wise to have a vision in your head right from the beginning. At Genius Homes all of these features are standard inclusions in every prefab home, incorporated into the final cost so you'll know exactly what the full build will cost you from the get-go. 

3 Bedroom home from Genius HomesDesigning a home from scratch, and using different suppliers and contractors throughout the process can become a costly process, difficult to budget for. By choosing a building company that specialises in prefabricated homes the entire process is managed by one cohesive team of experts and you'll have a wide variety of house plans at your disposal. This helps reduce overall costs and eliminate stressful decision-making while still allowing you the flexibility to customise the house plans to your needs.

Ask about customisations

At Genius Homes, you can customise any of our house plans, tailoring the design to suit you. If an off-the-shelf plan isn’t quite right, just ask how it can be adjusted. With Genius Homes, you can have free, unlimited design revisions right up until the plans are locked in.

4. Getting consent for your new home

One of the most time-consuming and complex steps in the construction of a residential home is applying for consent. For first-time builders, this can be a massive learning curve, filled with complicated rules, hidden costs, and unexpected delays. But don’t let that deter you – the right building company will guide you through each of the following steps: 

Project Information Memorandum (PIM)

Early on in the project, you, your architect, designer, or project manager should apply for a Project Information Memorandum or PIM. Put simply, a PIM is a document issued by the council that provides relevant information for your proposed building project. 

Resource consent

For anything you need to do that isn’t specified in the district plan as prohibited or permitted, you need to apply for resource consent. This includes things like subdividing land, using water, discharging contaminants, and occupying coastal space. 

Building consent

Firstly, your architect and designer will draw the house plans and technical drawings to meet the current Building Code. This includes specifying things like ground clearances, balcony and deck details, cladding and joinery, and guttering. 

Your building consent application forms must then be lodged with the council along with your completed house plans. From there, the building consent authority has 20 business days to process it. If the consent application is not complete enough, they will ask for more information, which will slow the project’s progress. 

Exceeding the minimum standards

While the Building Code is in place to ensure homes are safe and healthy, it is worth designing the house to exceed the minimum standards. This will make the consent process much quicker, as well as result in a more energy-efficient, future-proof, low-maintenance, and comfortable home — just another of the many benefits of choosing to build new!

When building prefab, enjoy taking a back seat when it comes to consents. At Genius Homes we oversee this process for you and with years of experience with local councils throughout the South Island, you can trust us to ensure your new home meets your local requirements. 

5. Project managing the build of your new home

Once you have all the necessary consents and a building contract, work can get underway. During this stage, the usual progression is as follows: 

  1. Site excavation and foundations
  2. Framework
  3. Roofing
  4. Window installation
  5. Exterior cladding
  6. Plumbing and electrical
  7. Insulation
  8. Interior fixtures
  9. Flooring and decorating
  10. Finishing touches and checks

Depending on the building method and contractors you choose, this stage of the process can take anywhere from a matter of weeks to over a year. For a quality home customised to your tastes and minimal hassle, a prefab home is ideal — offering you a hands-off build, delivered fully complete to your site after just 20 weeks.

6. Move into your new home

With months of dreaming, planning, and waiting behind you, this is the step when it all comes to fruition. Once a prefab has been delivered to your site, there'll be final site works to complete and once all the loose ends are tidied up, all there is to do is move your furniture in, add your personal touches, put your feet up and enjoy your brand new first home. 

Prefab homes for first-home buyers

Based in our Timaru factory, the Genius Homes team has designed, built, and delivered homes all over the South Island. With our efficient process and industry expertise, we strive to make first-home builds as straightforward and enjoyable as possible. 

By building with us, you can rest easy knowing that every step is managed for you. All you have to do is let us know what you need and we’ll design, build, and deliver it in just a few stress-free months. Just contact us today or browse our range of house plans to get started. 

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