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Buying a Section











Just a bit of research and planning when buying a section can save you stress, time, and literally thousands of dollars, when it comes to building your home.  That's because despite looking similar, there can be big differences in sections on offer.   Homebuild Homes offers a free appraisal of sections, so if you are considering buying a section, talk to us.  Outlined below are a few of the pitfalls to be aware of, many of which we can assist you with.


Sloping Sections: As we say in the trade, there is flat, and there is 'builders flat'. A section that looks quite flat may in fact have a slope that adds to your subfloor costs. As little as 1 metre drop over a total site makes a difference.  Sloping sites sometimes have building platforms that are too small for a concrete floor, single level home, meaning additional costs of poles and/or two levels. We can quickly assess the 'fall' on a site and alert you to potential impacts.


Flooding, Erosion, Subsidence: Councils can refuse to grant building consent to land at risk of a natural hazard. In addition, it may be difficult or more expensive (or impossible) to get insurance on such a site. A Section 72 endorsement on the certificate of title will alert you if the section is at risk.


Wind: Some house designs exposed to high winds may be at greater risk of becoming leaky buildings, so need to be designed and built appropriately.


Corrosion: If the section is near the sea, your house design should be one that minimises the risk of corrosion. You may also need to include corrosion resistant features in some parts the house (eg. Roofing, joinery), and may require more maintenance.


Sub surface conditions:  Homebuild can do an initial basic test on a section, and where you propose to build, to let you know if there are any obvious soft spots, but the sub surface condition can only be assessed by a certified engineer. Often it is only after construction has begun that the need for an engineers report and design is discovered. Get a PIM (project information memorandum) from the local council. It is their record of the section conditions – it may not be complete but it may be the only record available, and can reduce the risk of the unknown.  


Fencing: Many people forget to allow for the cost of fencing in their budgets. If the section has no fencing, and no neighbours (or the developer is the neighbour), you will need to allow for fencing costs. Urban wooden fencing starts from $130 per lineal metre.


Covenants: Many new developments have covenants - usually to protect the quality of the development - which can cover anything from the type and size of dwelling, to time restrictions on how long you can wait to build. Ask the vendor or real estate agent about covenants. Seek legal advice.


Services: The type of services and their location are an important. The distance of services from a building platform adds to final costs, eg. in a back section where services need to go down a long driveway.


Rural sections (and those on the city fringe): May not have town water or septic services. Providing these to your house adds an estimated cost of between ten and twenty thousand. Other services that may not be provided include gas and broadband.


Legal Boundaries and Title: Is Title available at the time of purchase? Sometimes sections are sold prior to Title being given. The Title process can take months (even years) - are you prepared to wait? When Title does come through, ensure that you understand the implications of any conditions (eg. Section 72) - and ensure that if you don’t like them you have legal ‘out’. If the section is in a new subdivision, sometimes sections are sold “off the plan” and final boundaries are not clear, and often contracts are written allowing the developer to make changes to the final site.


Do the usual checks for a section that you would when buying a house.


Many of the decisions you make will be based on personal preferences (eg. location, view), others may be based on budget, or a trade off between features of different sites. In order to make the best decision, you need to have as much information as possible.


Assess the local area; check what amenities are in the area, the school zoning, and the tone of the general neighbourhood. Is this the sort of area you would like to live in? What zoning applies to nearby land or buildings? For example, it may be zoned industrial – is this ok? Consider asking for a registered valuation of the section.


Bear in mind your total budget – including the house.


Your budget only stretches so far. Before signing a contract on a section, you should have a good idea of the total costs involved including; the house, the cost of getting services to the house, driveways, paths etc. Don’t guess - get some advice or to be certain, a fixed price quotation from Homebuild.


You may want to add a clause to the section sale and purchase agreement making it subject to you obtaining an acceptable house plan and building contract.


Features of the section and your preferred home.


Some features of the section are about what is important to you. For example: Is it windy? Is it sunny? Is it swampy? How will your house sit on the site to make the most of its features? This is an especially important question to consider on a smaller or sloping site, as there are restrictions on how the house can be placed on the site.


Whilst it’s not necessary to know exactly what house you will build, you do need to have some basics in mind. There’s a big difference between a 150m2 home and a 350m2 home – both in terms of budget, and how (or even whether) the house will fit on the site.  



    CASE STUDY: “The Todd Family”

    The Todd family bought a section in a new subdivision ‘off the plan’. When the fences were put

    up, following the final boundaries, the shape of the site had significant differences from the  

    original site on paper. As a consequence, the Todds had to get permission from the neighbour to

    build their new home – whose plans were well under way – closer to the new  boundary.



Make sure you compare ‘apples with apples’.


When considering two similar sections, the cheaper one may not necessarily be the best value.

There’s usually a reason why a section costs less: it may be smaller, it may have more difficult access, or it may have a difficult building platform that could add thousands to your final building costs. Make sure you weigh up all factors – and costs – before making your final decision.



A final tip: get advice before you buy!

Often a lower priced section does not mean that you will save money, as it may require additional engineering and foundation work that adds tens of thousands to your final bill. There are plenty of other traps too, like the one the Todd family fell into in the case study below:

Section LBP_2



This information is prepared by Homebuild Homes, the director of which is a Licensed Building Practitioner.  It is intended as a general guide only.  For more expert advice, ask us to assess your section. We provide a free, no obligation service.


Seek professional advice before entering into any legal contract.


For further information visit the following website, developed by the Department of Building and Housing, and the Consumer Institute: