5 tips for selecting and buying a section to build on

If you’re hunting for a section to build your new home on, be careful. While most of the decisions you make will be based on personal preferences like the location or view, it’s important to also understand what is going on beneath the surface.

Section or piece of land to buy
  • 15 September, 2016
  • Section, Building, Tips on buying land

The tips below can help you carefully assess a prospective section and avoid some basic ‘traps’ and save you time, stress, and literally thousands of dollars.


New Zealand is becoming better known as the “Shaky Isles.” From Wellington and the Wairarapa, Napier and Hawkes Bay, down to Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains, there are only a few places around the country unaffected by earthquakes. If your region is particularly prone, you may want to obtain a geotechnical assessment before you purchase.

A geotechnical assessment will tell you about soil stability and ‘strength’ of the section. You’ll be able to assess how suitable the land is for development, predict pile performance and load parameters and determine whether any additional earthquake strengthening measures need to be incorporated into the design of the house.


A stream running through the back of your section may look idyllic, but during winter or heavy rain it could become a flood hazard. Your local council may refuse a build permit if they’ve determined a section to be predisposed to flooding, erosion, or subsidence.

However, if your council decides there is a risk of a natural hazard, but building on the section won’t worsen the problem, they may grant a building consent. In such situations, councils are required to inform the Registrar-General of Land that a consent was issued under section 72. This becomes part of the property’s permanent file, alerting everyone to the fact that there is a flooding, erosion or subsidence risk. This may affect your ability to get insurance and negatively impact the future resale value of the property, so beware of a section 72 endorsement, or a section 36 endorsement under the previous Building Act 1991.


Cliffs and hilltops come with million-dollar views, but the section won’t be worth much if half of it tumbles into the sea, resulting in a precarious drone-led demolition job. The same rules apply with regards to either a section 72 or section 36 endorsement if the section is found to be prone to subsidence or erosion.

Because New Zealand is earthquake-prone, everyone in the country pays a levy to the Earthquake Commission, also known as EQC. This allows the EQC to automatically insure properties against damage from earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruption, tsunami, storms, or floods - provided the property owner has a valid home and contents insurance policy. Subsidence is not covered under EQC insurance, so if a section has potential for erosion, be sure to get extra insurance cover.


Coastal and hilltop sections are generally more exposed to the elements. Properties closest to the coastline are often hit hardest, because there’s nothing to break-up or disperse the wind. Such conditions often require homes to have extra bracing, wind-strengthening and weathertightness measures incorporated into their design. 

Coastal air is also laden with ocean salts, which can corrode and damage some properties. If your home is likely to be affected by such conditions, then avoid copper flashings or guttering, and use corrosion and rust resistant materials. Due to the sea air, your new house may need to be washed and painted more regularly than an average suburban home.


When considering a section – and planning the budget for your build – you’ll need to consider the cost of running services to your property, and what options are available to you. Many land developers will install “services to the gate” and this will be outlined in your sale and purchase agreement. This means that power, water, phone, and internet will be provided to the entrance to your property, but you will need to install the appropriate infrastructure to connect these services to your home.

If your home is a long way from the gate this cost could be considerable, so do your research before you buy. If you aren’t provided with this information as part of the sale, you may need to contact your local council or utility providers to see what services are available for the section. For example, if council doesn’t provide a mains water connection to your area, then you will need to install an alternate system, such as a rainwater tank.

LJ Hooker NZ

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