The Ultimate Guide To House Plans In NZ

Everything you need to know about house plans nz and house designs in New Zealand. You can view the complete guide on this page or you can download a copy of the eBook for free below. Hope you enjoy!

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The Ultimate Guide to House Plans in NZ

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This guide is for those who are planning on building a house in New Zealand.  The Ultimate Guide to House Plans in NZ is your all-in-one resource for everything you need to know before building.

If you are excited at the idea of building your home but a little nervous, too, House Designs has you covered.  We understand that stress goes hand in hand with the thrill.

In his 2018 book, Building Guide, (Aim High Publishing), Mark Graham sums it up perfectly.  He cautions that home builders should be ready to spend a lot of time and money, and that they should always expect the unexpected.  At the same time, Mark explains, “Be prepared to enjoy the experience as well. This is about creating a space in which you and your family will live and love.”

House Designs understands that the most important step to building your perfect home is to have a well-designed and thorough house plan.  Without a complete and all-inclusive plan, you will second-guess every decision you make.  

Taking the time to research and plan before you begin is the only way to ensure a solid and well thought out approach to building your house, and will save you a lot of time, money and aggravation in the long run.

A local company that aims to bring the best services to its customers, can take the guesswork and panic out of building a home.  We take what can be an overwhelmingly daunting task and make it easy for everyone.  Planning your new home can be nearly stress- free when you leave it to the pros.

You’ll only have one chance to get it right.  You need to be prepared if you want your new home built exactly as you dreamed it.

We hope you find this guide to be a valuable tool for your biggest adventure; researching, planning and building your New Zealand home.

What is a House Plan?

A house plan has several parts to be complete. The first is the sketch, or the floor plan.  This is the basic design of the house.

The Floor Plan

A house plan, often called a floor plan,  is a two dimensional model of a three dimensional concept, drawn as it would be seen from above. It is scaled to represent real distances, for instance a square of graph paper may equal a metre in reality.

These drawings will have different kinds of lines and line weights, with each line type/weight representing something specific within the building.

A dimension line is the unit of measurement showing how long or tall the real-life object is.  Floor plans may use different dimension lines, depending on how a drawing must be sized to fit on the pages. Something that is the same size on the page as it is in reality is drawn “full scale.”

Take a minute to make sure you understand how to read floor plans.


The next part of a floor plan is its “orientation.” This explains where the sun rises or sets, or in other words, what direction the house will face when it’s finished. How the house sits on the property is more than just a preference.  

The house’s orientation will give you natural light, help lower your heating costs, and protect it from natural elements such as wind. For a quick guide to understanding how important it is to have your house properly oriented, take a look here.

Who is Responsible for Drawing my Floor Plan?

Your house plan will be drawn up by an Architect, Engineer, or Draftsman.

Architects: Architects are licensed and registered to design spaces. They also will incorporate many other features into the spaces. They are considered a house designer, although they are used in many building projects from libraries to museums. There are several kinds of architects, each with his or her own specialty.

Engineers: Engineers have training in many specialties related to designing spaces. They are skilled in solving technical issues and design flaws in the house plan.

Draftsmen: For the more technical aspects of the design, an architect may call on a draftsman. The draftsman produces the “plans of a product,” or the “how to” in merging aspects of the floor plan. He or she is similar to an architect, there are a few differences. An architect and a draftsman may work together on the final plan.  

Special Considerations

While you do not necessarily need a professional to draft your floor plans, you will still need to take the plans to a licensed professional so they can authorise them. Letting a professional handle the plans may be easier in the long run, though, because he or she will be knowledgeable about local codes and standards.

Your local council has a set of rules and qualifications that must be met before they will allow the structure to be built. It is far easier to let a professional deal with this particular headache of zoning rules and regulations. He or she is trained in making the adjustments needed to allow your dream home to be built.

Preparing Your Dream House Plan


Often the best way to beginning planning is to ask yourself questions, a great example for a planning questionnaire can be found here: House Designs Questionnaire 

Preparing to build your dream home isn’t quite as straightforward as drawing a plan and laying a foundation. There are many questions that need to be answered, and many things to take into consideration.

  • Make a clear differentiation between what your home needs and what you want in the house: This gives you a clear set of priorities for the plans. What seems like a great idea may need to be sacrificed for the greater good of the project.
  • Ask questions: Bring your research to the design table with you. Asking questions from industry professionals will give you the most reliable data for your house plans.
  • Don’t expect that your finished home will look like the model show home: The show home is a highly upgraded version of the standard floor plans. They are designed to bring customers in and show off the plans.
  • Check out every reference available when choosing a company: As we said before, you will only get one shot at building your dream home. Check out the references and ratings on the company who will be doing your work before signing a contract.
  • Don’t let the company take over: Make sure your company keeps in contact with you regarding any changes or concerns.  This is your project; they should be making it easier for you, not completely taking over the process.


Keeping these tips in mind before starting any work will help you in the long run.

Steps To Getting A House Plan Completed

When you start planning your home, the first step will be to plan your budget. Costs associated with building your home is the largest factor you will face when you begin this process.

It’s an unfortunate rule of thumb, but you should always expect the end project to cost more than you think it will. The more research you do before getting started, the better prepared you will be to estimate your budget.

Budgeting doesn’t only cover money, though. Your budgeting plan should also include the amount of time you will be spending on each stage of the project. Don’t cut yourself short here; just like your finance, plan that your time will also be more than you bargained for.

Make sure to keep your expectations realistic for yourself and others who are involved in the project and never overcommit or overextend yourself.

Your budgeting plan should cover the following points:

  • How much can I afford?
  • How much time can I spend on the different factors that will be involved?
  • How long until the project can be realistically completed?
  • What will I need from my home not only now, but in the future?

Take a look at this great  example of a budgeting plan.

How Much Will Your New Home Cost

While you want a black and white answer to the question of overall cost of your project, it is never as straightforward as you would hope. There are many different factors that come into play, starting from the quality you expect to the type of materials being used. Every home will be different.

There are hundreds of compounds and different products being used for your project. You can’t even imagine what they are all used for or how they will fit together, much less how much each one should cost.  

The best way to get an accurate estimate of your home’s building costs is to take your house plans to builder or quantity surveyor. These professionals have the best and most thorough knowledge of the entire process, start to finish, and can be relied on to give you the most accurate estimate of the total costs of your particular project.  

The price they give you will be given as the home’s “Square Metre Rate.”  The Square Metre rate can vary widely from company to company because each one will factor different things into the costs.

Some of these factors are:

Your Home’s Location: Your material pricing will be different from locale to locale.  It’s influenced by transportation costs to get raw materials to your build site. Sometimes, some locations in New Zealand may require materials to be shipped in by sea or helicopter.

The Section: The physical properties of the lot will play a large part in the Square Metre Rate as well. The way the house will be built will depend on the land and any special considerations affecting the home’s foundation and footings.  

The land may need to be levelled or raised, for example.  Beachfront property and other coastal locations will require different preparation, for instance, like finishes and metals and other materials that resist sea spray.

Design and Shape of the House: A simple square shaped structure is far easier to design and construct. Far less time and labour is required to build a square than something more architecturally complex. Even adding a second level to the structure will increase the price from that of a single storey house. 

Quality of Building Materials: Obviously, higher quality building materials will cost more. Finishes and materials will play a huge part in the final Square Metre Rate of the structure.

The House’s Dimensions and Footage: Larger houses will cost more to build than smaller ones, no matter the materials you choose. Remember that the more square metres your house covers, the more you will pay in roofing materials, as well.

The costs of roofing will vary widely. Different types of roofing have different methods of construction, and a complex roof design will require complex builds. Roofing materials vary in cost, too, from the pitch used to cover the bare roof to the shingles chosen to finish it.

Some rooms within the home will cost far less than others, such as garages and unfinished storage spaces. Many times, these areas won’t require extras such as floor covering or finished walls.

Budgeting Final Considerations: One pricing factor that is often forgotten is the ongoing maintenance costs.  You may choose to cut corners and use lower quality materials, but remember the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” Choose your materials and companies wisely and stand by them.

Need Help?

 Please fill in our Questionnaire and one of Experts will be in touch.

Council Information

Get In Contact With The Council That Governs Your District

You will need to be in contact with the local council governing the location of your new build as soon as possible before digging in. Each council has different and very specific documents regarding building within their zones that will influence your build before you even get started.  

Resource and building consents are different all over the world and are governed by extremely different laws and restrictions.

You must be familiar with New Zealand’s consents and building regulations. All work must adhere to the standards set by the Building System Performance branch within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. These standards are known as the New Zealand Building Codes.

In New Zealand, builds are governed by the Land Information Memorandum (LIM) and the Project Information Memorandum (PIM). These contain details of properties that you will need to know before beginning your new build. There are costs involved in nearly every step of your planning, including submitting files to the local councils.  

These councils will govern your home’s design, including restrictions on structure and land use. You must get clearance by these councils for any work you are going to do to make sure that all requirements and financial obligations are met.

The sooner you get in touch with the councils, the better for your time and finances. Different councils will have different regulations. See here for a complete list of the local councils in New Zealand.

Building and Resource Consents

Any work done has to meet both building consents and resource consents.

Building Consent: A building consent covers the physical construction of the building and any physical work needed for construction of it.

Resource Consent: How the physical presence of the building will affect the land that it is occupying and everything around it, including animals, people, and the environment.

These consents are needed along with the other documents and consents before you can break ground to construct your house. If you don’t have these documents, you are breaking the law.

Per the government’s website:

You may be fined up to $200,000 and, if work continues, a further fine of up to $10,000 for every day or part day during which the offence continues.

Your council can also issue you an infringement notice for carrying out building work without consent. This incurs an infringement fee of $1000. They can remove the building work if it is dangerous or insanitary.’  (

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For the legalities and consequences of not getting the proper consents before building, see this link, and this one, and finally, read here.

A building consent will cover all of the following types of work and structures, per the website:

  • “structural building – additions, alterations, re-piling, some demolitions
  • plumbing and drainage where additional sanitary fixture is created (some repair and maintenance may be exempt)
  • relocating a building
  • installing a wood burner or air-conditioning system
  • retaining walls higher than 1.5 metres (3.0 metres in rural area if designed by a chartered professional engineer)
  • fences or walls higher than 2.5 metres, and all swimming pools and their associated fences
  • decks, platforms or bridges more than 1.5 metres above ground level
  • sheds greater than 10 square metres in floor area
  • some earthworks.”

Some exemptions to the building codes can be found at this link. If you have any doubt that your work requires a consent, contact your local council or a professional builder or architect for clarification. Showing your drafting files, photographs and elevations can help you get the right answers.

What Is A PIM

A Project Information Memorandum, or PIM, is generated by your local council.  It clarifies whether your proposed building will be considered possible or practical. If also explains what other documentation is needed, such as a resource consent or other services, before building.  

While a PIM isn’t required, it is a helpful tool in making sure everything is legally covered before getting started. It will show you every aspect of your property, including things you may not have known.

What Is A LIM

A Land Information Memorandum, or LIM, is a different report from a local council. It lists any data that the council has about your property. This can include things such as previous consents issued for building work on the land. A LIM is a very valuable resource when you are planning your build.

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Choosing The Right Team For You

Once all of the paperwork and documentation is out of the way, it’s time to get on to the fun part of the project. It’s time to get your ideas on paper and watch them come to life.

Choosing the right team for your style is important. By style, we mean two different things.

  • Your personality: If you are a relaxed person, choosing a team leader who is high maintenance will not be a good fit.
  • Your building style: If plain and simple is your ideal style, choosing an architect who specialises in museum and other highly detailed buildings may not be a good match.

Having a team that you can rely on from the very start of your build will make the entire process seamless and cost efficient. These professionals should be reliable for accurate advice no matter what unforeseen issue comes up. The right team will save you a world of headaches throughout the entire process.

Legally formalise each team member’s role in the project.  This legally binding document is called a contract.  The contract allows you and everyone involved in the build to fully understand their obligations. It also gives you and your team members legal recourse if any member fails in his legal obligations during the project.

Your new build will have many areas that will require your attention and interaction.  Try not to take on more than you can realistically handle, or it will quickly consume all of your time and energy.  Instead of trying to shoulder the entire project, hire on a project manager.  

Project managers can be an architect, an engineer, a builder, or a designer. Project managers can even be a trusted third party. Make sure whoever you choose has experience, organisational skills, and the time to devote to your project.

The right team will provide you with good communication and a clear schedule of events. 

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What Do You Want From Your House

When planning your new home, make sure you keep your wants separated from your needs. Plan with your family in mind, including room to expand if your family will be growing in the future. Include any features of the house that will add convenience or pleasure to your standard of living.  

Be as clear as you can when describing the house to your architect and remember that each new house is different from the next depending on what the owner needed when the plans were created.

Do as much research as you can so you can be prepared for the costs of your build and be clear how much you can spend on the new house. Make your financial budget and try to stick with it as much as you can.

 Choosing Your Style

Look around for other finished projects that have elements that you like and share them with your designer. Stay realistic, though; make sure you don’t choose a thirty-room mansion on a two-bedroom cottage budget.  Visual images from homes in the area or online homes that catch your eye are great ways to show your designer what you have in mind.

Your architect or designer can offer many levels of services, even up to acting as the project manager during the build. A good designer will create plans that are flexible enough to be changed to suit all parties involved in the build in case complications arise during the building process.

The more uniquely designed and well-planned your final project is, the more special it will be for you and your family. A great design also gives it more market value when it comes time to sell.

The final cost of the design will cost between 5 to 15% of the final overall budget. This is because specific consultants and contractors will be required at different times throughout the entire project.

 Think Eco-Friendly

When you consider your new build, make sure to think about sustainability.  While many believe that sustainable and eco-friendly builds are more costly to build than a more traditional home, that’s not the case.  

Sustainability is about far more than just incorporating new technology into the house. It can be as simple as orienting the home to the best spot to harness the sun for light and warmth, or planting trees for shade as a form of climate control.

New eco-friendly technologies are becoming available all the time, and they are affordable to incorporate into the build and will save you money in energy costs in the long term.

For more information on building a sustainable eco-friendly house, see:

Choosing Your Floor Plan

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When you think of your overall house plans, what do you visualise your floor plan to be?  Your house has to be practical before you can worry about aesthetics.

If is far easier to change the exterior design of the house than it is to change the internal floor design. The floor design will not only be the base of the building, they will also be the deciding factor for your building and resource consents. Once these consents have been obtained based on the floor plan, there will be additional fees and costs if they are changed later.

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Open House Plans NZ

An open house plan is a design that focuses on  joining spacious open areas like the kitchen, dining room and living room into a large single space with no walls or doors separating them.

With the floor plan focusing on common spaces, smaller rooms like an office or study will still be enclosed so they can keep their functionality.

Open floor plans are for those home owners who enjoy communicating with each other without walls and physical barriers.  It’s a way for busy families to reconnect, no matter where they are in the home or what they are doing.  

Parents in particular may prefer open floor plans because they allow a lot more freedom to multitask while supervising their children. Because open floor plans allow complete flexibility to designate areas in whatever way the home owner likes, these homes may bring in more money when sold.

These house plans do have a few drawbacks, though. Because of the large open spaces, they may be harder to heat. Normally, homeowners can heat or cool certain areas of the house but without walls, this isn’t possible in an open floor plan. The nature of these designs will incorporate large windows and a stud ceiling for more natural light, but these features result in a loss of heat.  

In addition, open floor plans may be more expensive to build because they lack any internal walls that would normally provide support. Traditional wooden beams may need to be replaced with more expensive steel of laminated timber to add structural integrity.

Finally, a room without walls results in a lowered level of sound control.  A large open space will conduct noise from one end of the home to the other.

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Small House Plans NZ

With the increasing costs of land and construction, many are turning to small house plans.  Small homes mean less upkeep, less hoarding, less furnishings, and a more streamlined lifestyle. Small houses are much easier and more affordable to heat and cool, giving them a smaller footprint and making them better for the environment.  

Smaller buildings require less materials. These materials can be higher quality than those of a larger home, where the costs may creep up on the owner and require cutting some corners to stay within budget.  

These designs will require imaginative use of the smaller spaces. Things such as storage, bathrooms and living spaces will be designed for optimal functionality while keeping the basic beauty of the design intact.

On the other hand, a small floor plan means smaller living in every way. Children require larger spaces, and if your family is larger, these designs may not be a good fit for you. Privacy and relaxation will be hard to find with a small house plan. Additionally, entertaining and having overnight guests may be problematic in a smaller house.

Still, these house plans can be well worth the tradeoff once the family has gotten used to sharing a smaller space.

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Simple House Plans NZ

A simple house plan can be difficult to define. They fall under many categories and styles.

A simple house plan may have walls that are squared off and easy to construct.  This makes the design “simple” for the builder. Meanwhile, architects may consider house plan that contains less windows, doors and details to be “simple.”

Having a “simple” house plan or design doesn’t always mean that it is cheaper to build. Because all homes are different, each cost of design and building will be different as well. Don’t assume that a simple house plan will always be the cheapest choice.

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Modern House Plans NZ

Modern floor plans are continually evolving into any number of designs and styles. One type of modern floor plan that has stood the test of time is “Minimalism.”

Minimalism has its roots in the 1950’s and 60’s.  It’s described as intentionally bare spaces, lacking in design, ornamentation, and decoration. The biggest draw of minimalism is that it doesn’t allow clutter and embraces simplicity in furnishings. The owner of a minimalistic home can keep their surroundings simple and clean.

Modern home designs are no longer as popular as they once were, and they have changed in definition. Generally, people who want a “modern” home design are looking for a “contemporary” design instead.  Contemporary designs are more relevant today and focuses on the present as well as the future.

One feature of a modern house plan is its use of larger windows compared to traditional designs. Some designs feature windows over the entire house. New ways of manufacturing glass means that glass sheets can be used in larger and larger openings, spanning great distances.  

While the extensive use of windows means an abundance of natural light and natural heating with sunlight, windows can also mean too much sun and difficulty in cooling the house as well as a lack of privacy, especially at night. Glass surfaces will ultimately lead to higher heating bills as well.

Many modern house plans feature newer building materials.  With many modern house plans, traditional timber and brick buildings have been replaced with new, improved forms of steel and concrete.  Using these sturdier materials means almost endless possibilities in modern design without the restrictions of traditional materials.  Technology has become an important part of modern house plans.

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Tiny House Plans NZ

One interesting trend of building is the Tiny House. As land and building materials are increasing in price, houses are decreasing in size. Tiny House plans are so versatile and affordable that some people are using them for holiday homes, at-home offices, and private living quarters.

Tiny House plans are generally 45 square metres, and some are even smaller. They gained popularity as an affordable option for those people seeking to downsize their homes and their costs of living. These homes have an added benefit of being portable. They can be taken apart into manageable pieces, loaded on a trailer or truck and transported to another plot of land.

Because they are small, many Tiny House plans don’t require standard consents. Don’t take this for granted, though; always check with the local council before building any structure, including a Tiny House. Local council requirements, rules and restrictions are different all across New Zealand.

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Luxury House Plans NZ

Many people automatically assume that a luxury house plan is far too sophisticated and expensive to consider. This isn’t always true. A good design can make the all the difference between a costly luxury home and a standard stock house. Many times, some modifications to a standard well-designed home is all that is needed to turn a traditional house plan to a luxury house plan.  

Ultimately, some other sacrifices might need to be made on the original plan to realise the dream of a luxury house. The overall size of the home may need to be smaller so that higher quality materials and luxury items can be used.  

Other luxury elements can include the use of outdoor spaces, including pools, tennis courts, patios, outdoor kitchens and other exteriors living spaces. These will all need to be included in the original design and budget when you are drawing your plans.

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Duplex Or Dual Living House Plans NZ

A dual living house, called a duplex, is two homes that are joined together by a single dividing wall, usually a thickened, fire safe wall. Duplexes can have more than just two houses joined together. The homes will be mirror duplicates of each other on either side of the wall, with the same designs and layouts in reverse.

The costs of a duplex are shared by both homeowners, meaning they will be lower overall. They are share installation costs in heating and plumbing because both homes are built at once and share the same design. While duplexes share property, they can build a wall or fence to separate their lands from each other.  

A homeowner may choose to build a duplex because they can live in one half and rent or sell the other half. The homeowner can also use the other house to have family live next door.

Duplexes are only as good as the neighbours that share them, however, and having a bad tenant or neighbour can be problematic. One complaint from a duplex owner is noise; sharing a common wall means a lack of privacy and increased noise from the other side of the wall. Reselling your duplex can also be a problem in the future.

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Two Bedroom House Plans NZ

Working professionals, childless couples, flatmates, and first-time home buyers may benefit from two-bedroom house plans. They are designed with a much smaller building footprint than some other options, they are less expensive to build, and offer a much more versatile use of space on smaller properties.

Generally, floor plans for two-bedroom houses have two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms. One bathroom, or one and a “half” bathrooms, are the most popular choices. Two-bedroom house designs feature open living floor plans for socialising and entertaining. A two-bedroom home is a great compromise between small and large homes. They feature comfortable living areas and are lower in price to maintain.

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Three Bedroom House Plans NZ

Three-bedroom house plans are growing in popularity, and for good reason.  They are far more flexible than other house plan options and allow room for your family to grow, have a home office, a hobby room, a guest room, or any other function you can imagine for the extra bedroom.  

A three-bedroom house plan is a great step up from a two-bedroom plan, without the extra costs of a significantly larger house plan.

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Eco Friendly House Plans NZ

Housing and building sectors are among the highest contributors to carbon emissions. Many people are combatting this by building eco-friendly living spaces.

Eco friendly homes, designed to be environmentally sustainable, are becoming increasingly popular. Commonly known as high performance homes or green homes, these living spaces focus on environmentally building materials and the efficient use of energy and water in the finished home. They are built to provide high quality living spaces while conserving valuable resources.

Eco-friendly house plans are designed with the future in mind. They conserve water, keep the air cleaner, and use sustainable or recycled building materials wherever possible.

By the efficient use of water, power, and energy, eco-friendly houses are eliminating some of the negativity commonly associated with the building industry. These concepts are driving the construction industry and housing markets into more accountable and responsible directions.

The eco-friendly house achieves its reduced ecological footprint through many ways, such as reusing and recycling building materials and getting the materials from sustainable sources. The resulting house is physically and environmentally safe and healthy for your family’s eco-friendly lifestyle.

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Townhouse Units

Townhouses are a great option as they tend to be far more affordable than single family homes. Townhouses are like multi-level apartments without the annoying neighbours above or below you. Townhouses share a wall, like a duplex, that link the houses together.  

The walls tend to be sturdy fire walls to make the homes safer and more secure.  The shared walls allow townhouses to be linked in chains of homes. Townhouses will have shared facilities and shared maintenance requirements, giving them a lower cost of living overall.

Townhouses are usually popular in cities, in medium density populations. They can be semi-detached or terrace. These homes have many levels but a smaller building footprint overall.

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Where To Next

Now that you understand the basics of house designs, it’s time to start looking for your dream home.

 House Designs New Zealand is the perfect place to start browsing through a beautiful collection of independently designed house plans.

When searching online for build options and building companies, it is great to finally find a resource like The website has a great selection of modern house designs and plans, that are completely independent.

John Tosio


5 Key Steps To A Successful Build

Don't settle for a mediocre build, take control with our proven 5 Step Process! 


Browse through our beautiful collection of house designs and select one that best fits. 


We now send out your requirements to 3 leading building companies to get quotes.


When you have received the quotes back you can compare all the details side by side.


Once you have made your comparisons, select a building company and get started with the build.


Using our process you can be confident you are getting the best deal and save money.

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