A beginner’s guide to buying a house in Christchurch. Earthquake Houses 101.
This was written for one of my sons, in an attempt to save him some grief. Apologies for the length of this post, this is fraught with difficulty.
I have been watching the ongoing unaddressed issues with “Red Stickered” and “As is where is” houses being passed off as having had full repairs done. Within 100 metres of my house there are at least 5 houses that I know of that have been “tarted up” and on sold to unsuspecting buyers. They are ticking time bombs. It is an issue that both the CCC and the Hon. Jenny Salesa, Minister for Building and Construction urgently need to address.
Do not get me wrong, some of these houses are repairable, but they require extensive and in some cases invasive inspections. The issue is that many inexperienced home buyers are being caught out. The inspections that they are commissioning are often from inexperienced companies with no Licensed Building Practitioners on staff and no qualifications. Or the repairs have been hidden behind concrete, plaster and gib board.
Be very careful what you buy.
This list is by no means comprehensive: errors and omissions accepted. It is only a starting point and not to be relied upon as infallible. Glossary at end.
Things to look out for:
1. Has it been “Red Stickered”. ie deemed unsafe for habitation. Ring Building Consents at Christchurch City Council, to find out.
If yes, have repairs been done?
It is Unlikely to be insured. Also if it has been insured it is unlikely to be re-insured.
Run away quickly.
a) Repairs Consented by City Council? yes/no? If not run….
b) Has building company had “a mate” do a PS4 for it? with no building consent.. If so run….
c) Was PS 4 signed by a CPEng? who?
d) Has it just had a lick of paint to hide problems and is being flicked on to unsuspecting buyer? If so run…...
e) Get Scope of works and all paper work before you buy.
2. Is it an “As is where is house” that is being on sold.
a) This means no insurance review is possible. ie case will not be reopened. If so run….
b) Repairs consented by City Council? yes/no? If no run..
c) had “a mate” do a PS4 for it? If so run….…
d) was PS 4 signed by a CPEng? who?
e) Just had a lick of paint and is being flicked on to unsuspecting buyer? If so run….
f) Get scope of works and all paper work before you buy.
g) It is Unlikely to be insured. Also if it has been insured it is unlikely to be re-insured.
3. Is it prone to flooding?
a) Avoid: Parts Of New Brighton, Flockton Basin, Avon River, Heathcote River and low-lying areas on East side. If so run fast….
b) Anything on east side will need to be raised by 1 metre sooner or later, add $100,000 plus.
c) It is Unlikely to be insured. Also if it has been insured it is unlikely to be re-insured.
4. What is the land status? https://mylandzone.canterburymaps.govt.nz/#/
a) Is it TC3 ie bottomless bog hole, If so run…..
b) Is it TC2 – slightly less bottomless bog hole, If so run….
c) Is it TC1 – solid land. This is GOOD.
5. Has it had a EQC repair?
That means the damage was considered to be “under cap” ie less than $100,000
a) was it “Fletchered”? A new verb. It means that the repair was managed by Fletcher Earthquake Recovery (EQR), often by an unknown out-of-town builder/painter/plumber etc.. ie repairs done by “unknown contractor”, long gone from the city. May be run….. depends on builder.
If so get a Licensed Building practitioner or CPEng to inspect it.
b) Has it been “jack and packed” in foundations? If so run….….. after inspection
c) Have foundations been looked at? If not run…..
Does it have Rubble foundations with plastered over cracks?? Depends on the repair…. may be run
d) Is the under floor area full of liquefaction? If so run very fast….
e) Did it have asbestos? Covered up or removed?
f) Get scope of works and all paper work before you buy.
g) Is it insured?
h) have the repairs been done more than once, If so run….. i) Is roof leaking, has the roof structure been inspected? Check scope of works.
6. Avoid any building with no eaves. Potential leaky building.
a) Avoid some modern plaster finishes.
7. Avoid multi unit buildings “MUBS”, corporate bodies & cross leases.
a) Many of these were owned by multiple owners and multiple insurance companies were involved. Many are still not settled. If so run….
8. At all times get a Licensed Building Practitioner or CPEng to inspect your choice
9. Borrow a friendly CPEng– if you can find one.
10. Ask the REAL ESTATE agent these questions, some are being less than honest in some cases, ie down right evasive. (I had one the other day deny the house was a “As is Where is repair”, it had been signed off by Friendly Engineer with no consent. They do not tell you unless you insist on the information.)
11. Demand all the paper work. “Scope of works” is the terminology. The lawyer is your friend here. Check that the scope of works was accurate!!!! Check LIMS and PIMS. http://www.buildingguide.co.nz/resources-regulations/pims-lims-why-theyre-important/
12. West side is better, newish is better, …..
13. Make sure the company who inspects the building is sending a Licensed Building Practitioner to inspect your choice.
Red Stickered: Means unsafe. Do not enter.
As is where is: A house being sold in a damaged state- ie what you see is what you get. Uninsured.
PS4: Producer Statement, Construction Review: https://www.building.govt.nz/projects-and-consents/apply-for-building-consent/support-your-consent-application/producer-statements/
“Producer statements are typically used for specialist work, such as engineering, or where there is a proprietary product which is installed by appointed contractors. Councils will use their judgement when considering producer statements and how much weight to give them.”
CPEng: (Chartered Professional Engineer), https://www.cpec.org.nz/cpec/what-does-cpeng-mean ” a Government-backed mark of quality indicating the individual engineer has proven their current competence to practice as a professional engineer within New Zealand. These engineers are required to maintain their current competence.”
“To be Fletchered”? Verb. “When homes and infrastructure were damaged in Christchurch’s 7.1 earthquake in September 2010, Fletcher Earthquake Recovery (EQR) was established to manage the logistics of a massive home repair programme on behalf of the Earthquake Commission (EQC). ” www.fletcherconstruction.co.nz/projects/community/earthquake-recovery In short: It means that the repair was managed by Fletchers, often by an unknown out-of-town builder/painter/plumber etc.. ie repairs done by “unknown contractor”, often long gone from the city. This is not the case in all instances, some repairs are good, problem is which ones? May be run…..
“Jack and Pack:” The re levelling of floors/foundations. https://www.building.govt.nz/about-building-performance/news-and-updates/codewords/codewords-issue-74/doing-it-right-with-jack-and-pack/ Unfortunately in Christchurch many of the correct procedures have not been followed.
Rubble foundations: Foundations made of stones and other rubble encased in varying grades of concrete, aggregate and plaster in the 1920s. Google this one, I do not know where to start.
MUBS: Multi Unit Buildings ie multiple flats on one site, often with different owners and different insurance companies. These often have been left by EQC and the Insurance industry in the too hard basket and many are still not settled.
Scope of works: When EQC first assessed your property, we completed an initial Scope of Works. It was a broad estimate of damage and the scope may well have changed since then. https://www.eqc.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquakes/progress-updates/canterbury-faqs
As you can see buying a house in Christchurch is a very long and difficult process, and the horror stories are only just starting to appear as many of these shonky repairs fail.
Sorry son, I tried to help….