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Consider which procurement option works best for your site
Different procurement options work better on different kinds of site. Generally, the more complex a site is, the more flexibility you will want in the development of the design.

Custom Design
As you engage a lead designer to design a house specifically to your site and brief, this option is particularly well suited to complex sites. As you can engage the designer before you have purchased the land, you can get them to visit the site and offer advice before you fi​nalise the purchase of the property. They are also able to do some design work to help assess the cost of development, which could influence land price.

Design & Build
A design and build contract does allow for the house to be specifically designed to fit your site, but as you do not pick the designer or have any contractual relationship to them, you may have less influence on the final design. The builder or developer will have building systems and materials they prefer which may have an impact on the design of the building.

It is possible to start a project as a custom design, and at a suitable point (i.e. after getting resource consent) change to a design and build contract to finalise the design and construct the house.

Group Housing
This option uses standard designs, which will work if the site is easy to develop but is poorly suited to complex sites. For example, trying to put a standard plan on a steep site could result in expensive retaining to modify the land to fit the house. If buying a land and house package this step is likely to have already been completed.

Understand site possibilities and limitations
Understanding what the site can offer is essential before making a final decision to purchase. Taking the time to evaluate its possibilities and limitations in terms of context (how it relates or connects to the wider area), public utilities, access, physical characteristics and regulations will pay off later. The process of gathering this information is called ‘due diligence’ and while other people might help during the process, it is ultimately your responsibility to gather all the required information before signing the sale and purchase agreement. Once the offer is finalised you cannot back out of the purchase, even if you find any issues with the site.

Due diligence involves understanding the financial implications of buying the site, doing some research and gathering documents (such as a Certificate of Title) to understand all site conditions, including those that are less obvious.  Resources are available from Auckland Council to assist your research, including zoning rules​, property files and reports, and Land Information Memorandum (LIM) files​. Council information will have a great impact on the project in a number of ways, such as how much of the land can be occupied, where the house should go, how high it can be, and whether there are character restrictions that will affect the way it looks. Any development that does not comply with the rules in the relevant District Plan or other statutory documents will require a resource consent.

The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan is currently going through a hearings process. It will not have legal effect until after the conclusion of the hearings and the release of decisions by Auckland Council (or the resolution of any appeals). This is likely to occur in late 2015 or 2016. This will replace the current District Plans and will change the zoning on your site. It is worth checking the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan to see what effects it could have.

Some parts of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan are already in effect, click here​ for more information.

It can also be useful to look around the neighbourhood at developments on other sites. This may provide some indication of what possibilities there are for development in the area. If the prospective site is a vacant one it may be worth asking the seller why it hasn’t been developed yet.

Another key factor is the soil quality, which is important in determining what is needed for the house to support itself. A geotechnical report can provide this information.

Site servicing, which refers to the availability and capacity of storm water and sewerage pipes to service new developments, is particularly relevant in older areas where such systems may be combined.

It is very important to let the specific characteristics of the site lead the brief for the final design of the house. It is better to design the house to fit the site, and not the other way around - this can be a challenge with Group Build procurement options which tend to use a standard design.
Assess site conditions against objectives​
Use the Design Brief as a benchmark for assessing potential sites. Consider each objective and aspiration outlined in the Design Brief and look at the site’s ability to fulfil them. This will be especially relevant for objectives and targets set around energy and comfort and health. For example, if a warm and comfortable environment inside the house is a priority and you would like the house to remain at a certain temperature year round, you should consider which side of the house will have sunny, usable open space. You should also be aware that choosing a site with limited access to sunlight will prevent you from achieving this objective without investing in heating.

​An architect or architectural designer can give you guidance on making these important decisions.  A designer will be able to assess a section based on your Design Brief to see if it is feasible. Economic constraints included in the Design Brief should also be considered in order to avoid trade-offs in the design by overspending on the land. The Design Brief will need to be reviewed again and finalised after the land is purchased.
Assess the lifestyle it will give you
Priorities regarding the lifestyles of the people who will live in the house should also be documented in the Design Brief and now is the time to assess possible sites against them. Aspects such as the surrounding community, access to transport and amenities are essential to consider. It is important to find balance between what it will cost to buy the land and the possible lifetime savings resulting from achieving lifestyle objectives.

For example, a plot in a central location might be more expensive than one in the outer suburbs but it may allow the people living in the house to walk or cycle to work every day, saving money and time, and therefore helping them achieve balance over time. This choice could also pay off if their hobbies and activities revolve around city environments, but may not work so well if they are more interested in outdoor activities available at the city fringe.
Consider infill development

​​If you already own land, you could consider the possibility of subdividing to allow for a new house to be built in the vacant space. Relocating an existing house on the site may improve the quality of both dwellings and increase the possibility of selling the new house faster and at a better price.

In considering this option you should understand that while the cost of moving a house might seem excessive at first, it can be outweighed by the value added to the new site. Factors to consider when undertaking infill developments include providing access to sunlight, privacy, quality private outdoor space and a good relationship with the neighbours. You should ask Auckland Council about the costs involved in subdivision and resource consents, development contributions​ and zoning regulations.​
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