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Relocatable homes vs prefab homes in NZ: Which is cheaper?

Choosing a new home is a major investment – so you need to do it right. Fortunately, there are several affordable housing solutions to choose from such as relocatable homes and prefabricated houses. But which of these is the most cost-effective solution, and why?

These methods share similarities, with each of them being a type of transportable home, but they aren’t exactly the same. On the surface, they don’t seem that comparable in terms of pricing. Relocatables, for example, are labelled as a lot cheaper when compared to prefab, but is that true of the final move-in cost? 

In this article, we dig into the cost differences of each construction method, and how much you can expect to pay, so you can choose which meets your needs best.

What is a relocatable home?

A relocatable home is a type of transportable home that is moved on a flatbed truck from its original location to a new one. The defining characteristic of a relocatable house is that it is an existing home, often an older home, that is removed from a section to make way for a new build. This is becoming particularly common as suburban sections become less readily available.

With an increasing number of people looking to have all the benefits of a new home but also an easy commute, choosing to remove an older home is becoming increasingly popular. This means these relocatable homes are available to anyone who may be interested, particularly those looking for traditional character, for relocating to a different site.  

While they are often listed at a cheaper price, older homes can come with a few additional costs not displayed on the listing. In most cases, they aren’t compliant with Healthy Homes standards which means they’re unable to be used as a rental property. On top of that, many do not meet the current Building Code so getting them to a liveable condition can be costly. 

Pros of relocatable homes

  • Materials are included.
  • Most of the labour is already complete.
  • More affordable than building on-site.
  • Can include original character features.

Cons of relocatable homes

  • Requires extensive renovations.
  • Limited by availability.
  • Non-compliance with current standards.
  • It can be expensive to transport.
  • Not customisable.

Basic costs of a relocatable house

Depending on size and condition, the average upfront cost of a relocatable home can be anywhere from $16,000 to $100,000. If a bargain pops up on TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace, be wary – by spending less upfront, you’ll probably shell out a lot more to bring the home up to standard. 

Renovating a relocatable home

All relocatable homes will require some level of renovation – often costing more than the house itself. While it can be easy to delay the cosmetic upgrade, there could still be significant remedial work to be done before you can move in. 

One such example lies in the design of a relocatable home. Many were designed to be built in situ, and have widths and layouts that are quite spread as a result. Getting them on the back of a transport truck can often involve cutting these homes into parts to make relocation feasible. Reattaching these sections can be costly and should be factored into your budget.

Other renovations for your relocatable home should be considered, with the following bare-minimum guidance costs:

  • Roof – $20,000
  • Internal paint – $6,000
  • External paint – $10,000
  • Bathrooms – $10,000 each 
  • Deck – $20,000
  • Kitchen – $15,000
  • Flooring – $8,000

The total amount of these estimates is $81,000, but these aren’t the only costs involved.

Hidden costs of relocatable homes

Additional costs for a relocatable home include:

  • Transport - $25,000 to $40,000
  • Consent - $3,000
  • Draftsperson - $5,000
  • Service connection - $25,000
  • Power - $6,000

Along with other necessary services, such as surveying, Geotech reports, engineering, builders and other contractors – it can quickly add up to at least $170,000 on top of the initial price. 

While we’ve included a rough cost for transportation, it won’t be included in the initial quote of a relocatable house because you will generally be responsible for arranging and paying for it yourself. If the house can be moved in one piece, relocation costs will start at around $25,000, and if it must be split into two pieces, it will be at least $40,000. If the home is clad in bricks, the extra weight can increase the price by $7,000.

We recommend using this House Relocation Calculator to work out the estimated cost of your specific project and speak with specialists to get a full understanding of the costs involved. You will have to do quite a bit of the overall management yourself but the specialists you work with can help to guide you.

The relocatable home itself can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $300,000. As a general rule, the more expensive the home the less remedial work is required. Therefore, the estimated price for a relocatable home could be around the $250,000 mark. Add on transport and essential works (but not including renovation), and it may be safe to budget for around $340,000 for a 3-bedroom character home, not including land.

What is a prefab home?

A prefab house is a brand-new house, constructed in a local factory and then moved to its final location. Prefabs are a type of transportable home, but once they are in place, they are permanent fixtures and designed to stand the test of time.

Since they are built in a factory, the building process can be much faster and more cost effective than traditional construction. All prefab houses are automatically compliant with the NZ Building Code and Healthy Homes Standards so you don’t have to worry about anything once it’s on-site. You will also be the first owner of the house, meaning you get a fresh-start experience. 

More than that, the entire build process is project managed in-house, so you don’t have to worry about anything more than choosing your finishes and layout. The prefab home company will manage transport, on-site connections, and more — meaning you'll enjoy peace of mind that experts are handling the entire process.

Pros of prefab homes

  • Cost-effective offsite construction.
  • No hidden fees.
  • Brand new appliances and finishes.
  • Compliant with national standards.
  • Customisable designs.
  • Less on-site work.

Cons of prefab homes

  • Less traditional character.
  • Higher initial quote.

Basic costs of a prefab

The current price of a prefab house in the Genius Homes range starts at around $145,000*, depending on the size and style you choose. 

The average costs of Genius Homes prefabs are as follows:*

  • 2-bedroom house – $287,000
  • 3-bedroom house – $401,493
  • 4 & 5 bedroom house – $471,620

All homes have a fixed-price agreement once the contract is signed. This takes the increased costs of materials and labour into account, ensuring there are no expensive surprises along the way. We also offer free site visits and include groundwork and building consent in your initial quote – so you know exactly what to expect. 

*Please note all prices are accurate as of December 2022 and are subject to change.

The cost of transporting a prefab home 

Depending on the size of the home and the location of the site, transportation costs are between $10,000 and $50,000. There are several factors that determine this cost, including:

  • Pylon or service shutdowns to access the site.
  • The number of sections in which your home is being transported.
  • Pilot vehicle requirements.
  • Distance from the factory.

While this may seem like a long list, the Genius Homes team have delivered hundreds of houses across the South Island of New Zealand and can quickly give you an accurate estimate.

Which method is right for you?

Both relocatable and prefab homes offer an affordable step into the property market, but if you’re considering the long-term value and overall experience, a prefab will be the better choice. The upfront costs of a prefab are typically higher but only because everything you need is included. On the other hand, relocatable homes can become a drain on your time, money, and energy for a long time after the delivery. 

If you’re after a brand new home, that’s fully compliant with all New Zealand building standards, is customised to your tastes, and requires no work going forward then a prefab home is likely the best solution for you. These may be slightly more expensive, but they carry less work, lower running costs and more peace of mind.

Genius Homes prefabs

At Genius Homes, we offer cost-effective quality. Our prefabs are custom-designed so you can have the house you’ve been dreaming of, without the usual hassles of onsite construction. 

The advantages of working with us are:

  • Exclusive prefab financing with BNZ.
  • Compliance, consent, and designs are included in the price.
  • A hands-off, stress-free experience.
  • A wide range of customisable house plans.

For houses that automatically comply with the Building Code, are adaptable, and come at a reasonable price point, get in touch with the Genius Homes team today. 

Or browse our range of prefab designs to find one you like. From a cosy 1-bedroom unit to a spacious family home, you’re sure to find one that fits your needs – all at the fraction of the price of an onsite build.

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