My property story: Tessa’s new build


With two bustling boys in tow, it became clear to Tessa and Matt Benzie that their current home wasn’t going to fit the bill for much longer. The Christchurch family began their house hunting journey more than six months ago and are pleased to have signed on the dotted line for what Tessa calls “a section” near her son’s new school in Opawa.

“The house that’s on the property that we’ve bought is not fit for living in so it’s going to be demolished. Essentially what we’ve done is buy a section and we are going to be building on it,” Tessa told

But the journey to building their ideal family home has been a long one. Tessa and her husband Matt have made many sacrifices over the years, working hard to achieve that Kiwi dream of making it onto the property ladder. This will be their fourth home and the first property they plan to live in long term.

“With our children being so young, we don’t want to have to move again. Previously we’ve always bought a place knowing we wouldn’t be there that long, and so this one has been quite a different journey for us.”

The family have renovated and built before, adding value to past properties in order to slowly make progress climbing the property ladder. Starting small, they are proud to have built up a portfolio of four rental properties. More than 10 years down the track, these investments have made it possible for the family to finally build their dream home.

“Where we are living at the moment is a new house that we built on the back section of our own property,” Tessa explains.

But the addition was only a small one and not feasible for the family of four, and their dog Eddie, to live in long-term. 

Speaking to young couples who may be thinking about purchasing their first property, Tessa advises: “You’re more likely to regret the things you don’t do than the things you do. If you see a deal and you can afford it, then I say ‘go for it’.”

“The younger the better. I mean obviously I see property as a good investment but it works for us. You have to take a long-term view but I think the younger you can get into property the better.”

However, Tessa says, building wasn’t Plan A for the family. After attending open home after open home, it became clear that finding the family home they were hoping for – in their price bracket – could be a challenge.

Tessa explains: “It became an idea along the way [to build]. We’ve looked at many, many houses and it became apparent that anything we could afford wasn’t something that we wanted to take on because that would mean a do-up project.”

The idea of living among a renovation project with four-year-old Raife and little brother Ari, age two, did not appeal to the family. Building, on the other hand, means that the Benzies can stay in their current property, right up until the builder has placed the finishing touches on their brand-new home.

Tessa understands the importance of future-proofing the property, admitting that while her oldest is yet to turn five, this build will take place with her future teenage sons in mind.

“This will be our long-term home, for 15 to 20 years, so we are putting a lot of energy into designing it for the future as our children grow up.”

“But because the site is quite unique it presents its own challenges. We can’t do anything cookie-cutter or off the plans, it needs to be designed with that site in mind.”

As Cantabrians, Tessa says that building from scratch offers a reassuring blanket of security: “In a way we feel more comfortable building than buying because we know that we are going to be building a house that’s engineered to withstand earthquakes, as opposed to one that has already withstood a shake and we don’t know quite what condition it is in.”

The earthquakes have affected house hunters up and down the country, Tessa says: “I think that [the earthquakes] are making a difference nationally. As a person purchasing a property, there’s a lot more to be wary of than you would have considered five or ten years ago.”


Did you know?

First home buyers in New Zealand who have been contributing regularly to KiwiSaver for at least three years maybe be eligible for a HomeStart grant of up to $5,000. First home buyers who opt to purchase a new build home or a property bought off the plans may be eligible for up a HomeStart grant of up to $10,000.  Find out more on the Housing New Zealand website.


Fast facts

The average asking price for a property in Canterbury was $471,628 in March 2017. A total of 1,762 new properties were listed in Canterbury that month, up 15.4% on the same time in 2016.


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