Jeff Marra - Design Builders

Thinking about a change of scenery, pace and lifestyle? Jeff Marra and Olivia Mael at Design Builders Waikato are creating beautiful one-off homes for Kiwis making the move from city to country. Across New Zealand, urban Kiwis are seeing how going country can be a real breath of fresh air. Let’s shoot the breeze with Jeff and Olivia.

Olivia Meal - Design Builders

When your clients talk to you about a ‘lifestyle section’, what do they have in mind?

Olivia:  Often they want more room for their families. More space for kids to run around. They might have animals like a pony, or they’ll love getting out on a motorbike, or just want a different lifestyle to the one they experienced living in town. They could be looking for a little bit more distance between themselves and other properties, just for that quieter life. Or there are even families that have decided to combine finances so they can create this amazing home that they all get to enjoy. 

And, of course, people can still have all the conveniences of a city.

Jeff:  That’s right. It’s one of great things about about New Zealand. The closeness of rural sections to towns mean there are plenty of opportunities to have a lifestyle section relatively close to a main town. Waikato is a great example. You can live just outside town and enjoy a rural setting, and you’re never too far away from all the amenities and essentials of the town.

Olivia: I think people are also looking at how they commute particularly when they live in Auckland. People are realising that they can enjoy living a bit more rurally, yet their time in the car can be the same – even though they’re further away living on a lovely lifestyle section. It’s a different sort of travel space. 

In fact, Olivia, you’ve got first-hand experience of moving to a lifestyle section.

Olivia: Yes, for us it was about room for our kids, privacy, animals. At the same time, it was important not to be too far from town because our children are older. 

What other factors are driving all this interest in lifestyle sections?

Jeff: I call it ‘the security of your investment’. In town, you’ve got a greater possibility of overcapitalsing if you’re not quite so sure what might pop up next to you. With a lifestyle section, you’ve got a bit more security about what might be happening around you, or with your neighbors.

Olivia: The cost of a lifestyle section is becoming an appealing factor. People look in Hamilton to get a decent sized section, and you’re sort of looking at $750,000, $800,000. Well, you can get good, larger rural sites that are close to that price as well, so they’re becoming much closer in price point.

Jeff: Historically, lifestyle sections have always been a big part of what we do. And I think, it will continue to be the case, if not more so, just with the size of sections or sites getting smaller and smaller in town.

Is there a particular type or age of clients who are after this kind of property? 

Olivia: It varies. Now, more younger families are looking to go out more rural. It’s also becoming popular to have homes set up for extended families. People are looking to build and attach a granny flat for grandparents, or their children as they get older. A lifestyle section enables them to do that. With town sections, there’s not always enough room. 

What’s different about designing and building for a lifestyle section compared with, say, an urban location.

Olivia: There are a few things to be aware of. For example, soil conditions can have a bearing. Foundation types need a specific engineered design. There are also the new firefighting regulations which require 45,000 litre designated water supply for firefighting purposes. These can add costs to the build.

Jeff: At the same time, you haven’t got the same restrictions as you might have on a town site. For example, your site coverage. You’ve got a big site to work with, so you’re not so limited and that means you’ve got more possibilities to explore with your design, which is exciting.

What advantages does a lifestyle project have when it comes to design?

Olivia: You’ve got the ability to create a design that works perfectly for sun and the views. With a residential section, there will be restrictions. On a rural site, we can ascertain which views the clients love, and make sure that they’re really seen and enjoyed – whether from the living room or as much of the home as possible. And you can design for sunshine. If you love the idea of sunshine filling your whole living area all day long, well, we can do that.

Jeff: You can move your driveway or your access to the house. At a residential site you don’t really have that ability. On a rural section, you’ve got more scope, and a lot more options. Even to the point of being free to decide whether you go for a single level or two level. Due to the size restrictions on a lot of residential sites in town, to get the size house that someone might want to achieve, they’re forced to go two levels.

Olivia: Our whole approach is about designing uniquely for each individual client and their site, in the country or in town. The great benefit we offer is that you can really maximise what you can achieve on your site for your budget. Unlike some others, we create unique homes, designed for the site, and for you.

build on a lifestyle block

Can you give us some free advice on what to do, or not do, when thinking about a lifestyle section? 

Olivia: Don’t get set on a particular layout before you’ve purchased your land. Often, I’ll meet people and they will say, “This is the house we want, now we’ve just got to find a section”. You’re better off to find the section that you love first and then design something that really makes the most of its attributes. Otherwise, you’re trying to force a round peg into a square hole, it’s better to work the other way round. My other tip is to understand what some of those hidden costs could be right up front.

Jeff: Also, speak to a professional like a design and build company or an architect prior to purchasing the section.

Olivia: Sit down for a friendly, no-obligation chat with us, I often say to people, why go for a standard plan which only ticks 5 out of 10 of your boxes. Instead, we can design something that ticks all 10 of those boxes. It doesn’t cost you more. It’s just a different journey.

Design Builders, across New Zealand, have designed and built superb rural and lifestyle homes. 

If you’d like to know more about a home designed around you, whether in the country or in town, please get in touch with Olivia at Design Builders Waikato on 027 667 7557, or find your local Design Builders here