Lifestyle

Moving Houses: Couple buy sight unseen in lockdown, then relocate


REVIEW: Lockdown hasn’t stopped people buying houses sight unseen, and the latest episode of Moving Houses has a Calgary couple doing exactly that.

Except newly retired doctors Marli Robertson and David Johnson, who are living through a Covid surge in Canada, are also relocating their new house from a distance. It will be transported from Cambridge, where it is being built, to their waterfront site on Waiheke Island.

The plan is to demolish the family bach currently on site, and rely on other members of the family to see the project through, while they watch from 12,000km away.

Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford talks with Jan Robertson, the sister of the overseas owner of this old bach on Waiheke Island. Marli and David in Canada are having a new house relocated onto the beachfront site, but they are stuck in lockdown.

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Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford talks with Jan Robertson, the sister of the overseas owner of this old bach on Waiheke Island. Marli and David in Canada are having a new house relocated onto the beachfront site, but they are stuck in lockdown.

Marli, a New Zealander, misses Waiheke Island (as do most Aucklanders right now). The couple bought their property on the island 16 years ago and say there’s nothing like it in the world.

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Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford has offered to help keep an eye on things, as Elevate Homes gets the build underway – Lee and Kristin Turner show us a simply styled 114 square-metre two-bedroom home with a raked ceiling, stacker doors and sliders front and back. The bedrooms are at opposite ends of the house.

Jan Robertson and Gayford chat with David and Marli online in the old bach.

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Jan Robertson and Gayford chat with David and Marli online in the old bach.

Gayford heads over to Waiheke to look at the existing bach. We meet Marli’s sister Jan Robertson, who says Marli’s heart is “breaking” to be back home. Together they chat online with Marli and David in Canada, who say choosing a relocatable new build was the most economical and efficient way to rebuild from a distance. It’s not as expensive or complicated as building from scratch on the island.

Not long after, Marli’s brother Geoff Robertson signs off on the house in Cambridge, while Marli joins him online from Canada – he’s impressed and so is she, viewing it all on his phone.

Troy Etting of Easy Moves is in charge of the relocation – he’s been moving houses for 30 years and still gets a bit of a buzz from it, he says. At least this house has been built with a move in mind.

The roof is wrapped so it won’t be damaged by low-hanging trees. And appliances, blinds and pendant lights are secured – Kristin even places a huge welcome hamper in the sink.

The truck and house take up the full width of Great South Road in Papakura, and it doesn't help to hear the motorway has been closed and traffic is headed in this direction.

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The truck and house take up the full width of Great South Road in Papakura, and it doesn’t help to hear the motorway has been closed and traffic is headed in this direction.

The move happens in two stages. It travels overnight by road to Half Moon Bay, but it has to be off the road by 5am in Auckland. Then the next night it heads across the water.

Coincidentally, when they get to Auckland, the motorway is closed and traffic is diverted onto Great South Road where the truck is rolling. It doesn’t help that it’s raining hard. But fortunately, the traffic thins out towards Half Moon Bay where they can stop over.

There are problems getting the house on the barge – it needs to be jacked up higher to get over the bow of the ferry. With extra bracing, the house goes up 4m, which is a huge height, making it appear very top heavy. Clearly, this is the trickiest part of the move. You wouldn’t want a rough sea.

The house is jacked up a massive 4m to clear the bow of the barge.

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The house is jacked up a massive 4m to clear the bow of the barge.

But the sea is comparatively calm at 3am, and by 4am the house is coming off the barge and up the road. And it’s fascinating how we are still seeing new things each episode – like negotiating a speed hump. Each wheel has to be lifted and lowered over the hump individually.

Manoeuvring the house onto the site is another massive job, with pilots radioing every move. “Holy mackerel, I’m getting nervous. It’s like watching a horror movie,” says Marli in Calgary.

They wait till sun-up before literally wriggling the house around the pōhutukawa on site.

“We now have a new home on site. We just need to add owners,” notes Gayford.

Seven months on the grass has grown and Marli has arrived back in the country – but Gayford is locked out of Auckland.

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Seven months on the grass has grown and Marli has arrived back in the country – but Gayford is locked out of Auckland.

And nearly seven months later it’s time for the reveal. But, as Gayford says, the good news is Marli is back in the country and just out of MIQ, but the bad news is Auckland is now in lockdown and Gayford is stuck in Wellington. So now it’s his turn to watch on a device.

Jan is waiting for the ferry as Marli comes in. “I got on that ferry and then I really felt like I’m home,” she says. “And the amazing thing is I think this time it will be for good.”

And her reaction? “The photos didn’t do it justice. It just looks so much more impressive. This is just perfect.”

Marli arrives out of MIQ and heads straight over to Waiheke to view her new house. At the rear it opens to a sunny deck.

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Marli arrives out of MIQ and heads straight over to Waiheke to view her new house. At the rear it opens to a sunny deck.

And the sea is directly out front - this is the view that has been tugging on Marli's heartstrings.

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And the sea is directly out front – this is the view that has been tugging on Marli’s heartstrings.

Gayford calls up, and she is thrilled – this time she shows him around, and talks through her plans for furniture. Jan has planted out the new vege boxes out the back. It all looks amazing. Marli even has a bed for her first night, as they decided to have a tilt-away bed built into the second bedroom.

And the cost? Cheaper than building on the site, and Marli is grateful for that because the water tank and septic system have cost more than they planned.

The couple spent $500,000 on the build and relocation, not including the landscaping and new garage. And, of course, they already owned the land.

This was another great watch, and as a retirement solution, we suggest, relocating a new build is a pretty enviable option.

Marli has been busy making the house a home.

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Marli has been busy making the house a home.

Marli now has outdoor furniture so she can make the most of the summer.

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Marli now has outdoor furniture so she can make the most of the summer.

There is plenty of space for a garden and "toys".

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There is plenty of space for a garden and “toys”.



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