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No. 26 (March 1959)
– 61 –

Some ideas on how to get a good home with little money. The author, who lives in Wellington, is describing her own experiences, and her eventual success.


The conditions in a transit camp are all right as long as they are temporary.

That is how things were with us, but we did have a car on which we had spent our savings.

Some sickness of the children decided us some months ago that a move was essential. Bearing in mind that one cannot live in a car, especially with three young babies as we have, we sold it in the hope that the money would serve as a deposit on a house.

We managed to get £350 for the car. Even with that, it was out of the question to buy even the most dilapidated of dwellings in Wellington.

We then thought of building and approached the Department of Maori Affairs. This department advised us, because my husband is pakeha, to go to State Advances where we were told we would first need a section preferably freehold. We were very lucky to get an almost flat section near a suburban station with our savings.

We then applied for a S.A.C. loan, but were told it was necessary to have an approved plan and a firm building quote for erecting and completing the house. We soon found that these quotes were always well beyond the State Advances limit of £2,300.

I had heard from a friend about some pre-cut houses which were being mass-produced in Putaruru and freighted throughout the North Island. I obtained some descriptive pamphlets about them. I considered that being pre-cut, they would save a builder time and labour and should therefore be cheap to build. A pre-cut house with three bedrooms and a floor area of 925 square feet cost only £707 and the price included all framing, all weatherboards, all flooring, all roof trusses, all inside partition framing, all architraves, all external joinery (unglazed) and all the timber treated against borer. But when we went to a builder with our pamphlets and the plan, we were quoted £2,800 for the complete job. I asked the builder what he expected to spend nearly £2,100 on and he blandy replied ‘things …’.

Picture icon

Mrs Barber and her five-year-old daughter Angela in the kitchen of their new home.
(Dominion Photograph)

I went back to the State Advances Corporation and asked if one could build and just hire the labour. They said we would have to work out a costing sheet with written quotes and if it budgeted within the loan it would be satisfactory.

So off we went once more and managed to get a builder for £495, a plumber for £45, an electrician for £68. These prices were for labour only and meant we would have to do all the ordering of materials we would require. Now this may not sound a difficult task, but it does require patience to obtain various prices and then buy the best that the £2350 budget will permit. Also my husband built our fireplace which is of glazed brick and did the plastering. Another saving we made was in digging our own drains so the drainlayer only had to lay them. We dug out 190 feet of them, including the stormwater. We did a lot of manual work. But it was worth the effort. Now, with the last coat of paint going on, the ultimate cost of the house is £2,380.

One lesson we have learned from our experience is the disparity between our own weekly outgoings of £2/18/- for a new home of this size, and the exorbitant rents being demanded by grasping landlords for dingy rooms. Being the first pre-cut home of this type in the Wellington area, it was put on public display for a short while after it was finished and I hope it has encouraged other people to do likewise.