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BRANZ 2005 House Condition Survey Releases

MEDIA RELEASE

Condition of Our Homes Improves, But Defects Persist: BRANZ 2005 House Condition Survey

19 October 2005

BRANZ’s 2005 House Condition Survey, funded by Building Research, has highlighted the positive impact of recent building activity on the general state of New Zealand’s housing stock, the popularity of pre-WW2 homes for renovation and the tendency for the state of houses to decline with long-term occupancy.

The survey found the overall condition of houses had improved roughly 10 per cent since 1999 – based on the survey’s scoring system.

“New Zealand has experienced high building activity during the past few years. This has lifted the quality of housing stock through both new house construction and renovations to older homes,” explains BRANZ Materials Manager, Mark Jones.

In 1999, 70 per cent of houses had been built earlier than 1970. In 2005, the corresponding figure was only 55 per cent. “These figures are indicative of building sector activity,” says Jones.

The survey also highlighted the popularity of older (pre-WW2) houses as renovation ‘projects’. These older houses have benefited from repairs, modernisation and upgrades to such an extent that the condition of this oldest group of houses is now similar to the condition of houses some 50 years younger. This pattern reflects what we already know about building values – i.e. that values decrease with age up to 50 or 60 years old (with 1950s houses being lowest in value), before beginning to increase with age (pre-WW1 houses being of the highest value).

Similarly, BRANZ found a decline in the average cost to repair more serious house defects – from an average of $4,900 in 1999 (adjusted for price movements) to $3,700 in 2005. The more expensive defects to repair include foundations, subfloor ventilation, windows, doors and roofing.

“If you wanted to put things right, it’s not going to hit you as hard in the pocket as it would five years ago,” says Jones.

Another interesting finding is that houses with shorter-term owner-occupants tended to be in better condition.

“We can not explain this apparent relationship with certainty, but perhaps it is a case of owners selling before conditions deteriorate too far or the urge to renovate and improve one’s house wearing off with time? Perhaps defects and problems become normalised over the years of occupancy,” speculates Jones.

Survey Method

This is the third national House Condition Survey undertaken by BRANZ – with previous surveys carried out in 1994 and 1995. The survey was funded by Building Research.

The survey involved the inspection of a representative sample of 565 randomly selected, owner-occupied houses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and a telephone survey of those homeowners carried out by CRESA. The House Condition Survey is not a detailed weathertightness or structural survey – as it is only possible to gain a general impression of obvious defects within the limited time available for inspections. These surveys provide ‘snapshots’ of our housing stock at different points in time, by investigating a group of houses (and owners) that broadly represent the underlying range of designs, ages and varying conditions of New Zealand houses.

The purpose of the survey was to both get a handle on the state of New Zealand’s housing stock and to raise homeowner awareness of maintenance shortcomings and building defects.

For more information or a copy of the full House Condition Survey report visit BRANZ website at www.branz.co.nz

ENDS


MEDIA RELEASE

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: BRANZ Survey Reveals Many Homeowners Blissfully Unaware of Building Defects

19 October 2005

The BRANZ 2005 House Condition Survey, funded by Building Research, found that many New Zealanders are overly optimistic when it comes to the state of their home. This widespread misperception seems to be driven by the hidden or less visible nature of many common building defects, and possibly the rapid growth in building values during recent years.

Of those homeowners surveyed, 80 per cent believed their home to be in good or excellent condition. Unfortunately, BRANZ inspectors shared that optimism for only 50 per cent of homes.

“In making their own assessments, it seems that many homeowners are not clear what they should be looking for,” explains BRANZ Materials Manager, Mark Jones. “As we know, a fresh coat of paint does much for appearances, but how many homeowners can assess the less visible factors that affect the integrity of the building. The most common defects identified by the survey are, in many cases, out of sight, and it seems, therefore, out of mind,” says Jones.

43 per cent of houses were deemed to have poor or seriously inadequate subfloor ventilation, with more than a third of subfloors having less than half of the ventilation area required by current building standards.

“Sub-floor ventilation, in particular, is not something many homeowners actively think about. Yet, inadequate ventilation can lead to corroding fasteners, timber decay, fungal growth, borer attack in untreated timbers and general dampness.

“We also found most bathrooms and many kitchens are inadequately ventilated, which is a concern, given the amount of vapour generated in these rooms with the potential to damage materials and finish,” says Jones.

Also in the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ category were problems with foundations and foundation fasteners, ceiling insulation and earthquake restraints.

16 per cent of houses were assessed as having foundations in a poor or serious condition, while the corresponding figure for foundation fasteners (e.g. timber to concrete piles) was 22 per cent (with many houses having no fasteners at all, particularly in the Auckland region). Meanwhile, 10 per cent of houses were assessed as having ceiling insulation in poor or serious condition and 58 per cent of hot water cylinders were without earthquake restraints.

“Perhaps not so out of sight, but apparently very much out of mind, are serious inadequacies with wall claddings,” says Jones. “49 per cent of houses were deemed to have poor or seriously inadequate clearance of wall claddings above adjacent ground – the risks including corrosion, poor ventilation and moisture entry. Increasing priority seems to be given to linking inside and outside at the expense of good building practice, and the newest houses seem to be the biggest offenders,” observes Jones.

BRANZ suspects that different levels of technical expertise explain much of the gap between the assessments of homeowners and BRANZ inspectors. However, it may be that recent hikes in house prices and valuations may also be a factor. In Christchurch, where average valuations have grown most rapidly since 1999, owners were most optimistic about the condition of their house. In Wellington, where valuations have grown slowest (of the three main centres), homeowners were most pessimistic.

“It may be that, in addition to being blissfully unaware of many building defects, homeowners are making assumptions about quality based on value,” suggests Jones.

Survey Method

This is the third national House Condition Survey undertaken by BRANZ – with previous surveys carried out in 1994 and 1995. The survey was funded by Building Research.

The survey involved the inspection of a representative sample of 565 randomly selected, owner-occupied houses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and a telephone survey of those homeowners carried out by CRESA. The House Condition Survey is not a detailed weathertightness or structural survey – as it is only possible to gain a general impression of obvious defects within the limited time available for inspections. These surveys provide ‘snapshots’ of our housing stock at different points in time, by investigating a group of houses (and owners) that broadly represent the underlying range of designs, ages and varying conditions of New Zealand houses.

The purpose of the survey was to both get a handle on the state of New Zealand’s housing stock and to raise homeowner awareness of maintenance shortcomings and building defects.


MEDIA RELEASE

Safety Neglected by Many Homeowners: BRANZ 2005 House Condition Survey

19 October 2005

New Zealanders may love their decks and balconies, but we also have a habit of neglecting them. And we may be increasingly diligent when it comes to installing smoke alarms, but we are not so good when it comes to looking after them. These are two of the more troubling findings from the BRANZ 2005 House Condition Survey, funded by Building Research.

Decks

60 per cent of those homes surveyed possessed a deck (70 per cent in Auckland). Unfortunately, a whopping 78 per cent of deck barriers did not comply with building code requirements. Many of them were missing barriers, had barriers that were too low or just had big gaps in them.

“Decks are an iconic part of the New Zealand house, particularly in Auckland. But we seem to have a rather blasé attitude towards their maintenance. This is definitely a safety worry,” says Mark Jones, BRANZ Materials Manager.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are another area of concern. While more than 80 per cent of surveyed houses had a smoke alarm (up from 70 per cent in 1999), 14 per cent of homeowners admit to never checking them. It is, therefore, not surprising that roughly 10 per cent of those houses with alarms have one that does not work, 5 per cent having none that work.

“There has been a big public campaign to encourage people to install smoke alarms in recent years. That’s great, and has made a difference. But, like any other appliance, smoke alarms need to be maintained. Thankfully, smoke alarms are employed very infrequently. But that also means we need to be proactive and check them once in a while. It could save a life,” says Jones.

According to the New Zealand Fire Service, New Zealand has averaged 21 deaths in residential fires per year since 1995.

On a brighter note, about 45 per cent of surveyed houses had fire extinguishers, a substantial increase from just 27 per cent in 1999.

Hot water cylinders are another problem area. While the temperature of 30 per cent of thermostats was found to be too low (with the risk of bacterial contamination), in the case of 50 per cent it was found to be too high (with obvious burn and safety risks). In addition, 58 per cent of hot water cylinders were without earthquake restraints.

The recommended temperature range for hot water cylinders is 55-60 degrees.

Home Security Measures

The survey also produced statistics as to housing security measures – although there is a question whether these statistics should be deemed a good or bad sign. The number of houses without any security measures has fallen dramatically, from 70 per cent in 1999 to around 5 per cent in 2005 (although the general extent of security measures remains low) and the use of burglar alarms is up from 36 per cent of houses in 1999 to 53 per cent in 2005 (60 per cent in Auckland, 47 per cent in Christchurch and 42 per cent in Wellington).

This trend towards increased home security has coincided with a decline in burglary numbers, according to the Official Police Statistics, which indicate recorded burglaries are down 25 – 30 per cent since the late 1990s. Interestingly, however, where security measures remain least common, Wellington, is where the sharpest recent decline in reported burglaries has been experienced – almost 30 per cent since 2002/03.

“We at BRANZ are building experts and scientists, not experts in social or crime trends. But you can not help but observe that Wellingtonians appear to be less security conscious or perhaps feel more secure than Aucklanders,” says Jones.

Survey Method

This is the third national House Condition Survey undertaken by BRANZ – with previous surveys carried out in 1994 and 1995. The survey was funded by Building Research.

The survey involved the inspection of a representative sample of 565 randomly selected, owner-occupied houses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and a telephone survey of those homeowners carried out by CRESA. The House Condition Survey is not a detailed weathertightness or structural survey – as it is only possible to gain a general impression of obvious defects within the limited time available for inspections. These surveys provide ‘snapshots’ of our housing stock at different points in time, by investigating a group of houses (and owners) that broadly represent the underlying range of designs, ages and varying conditions of New Zealand houses.

The purpose of the survey was to both get a handle on the state of New Zealand’s housing stock and to raise homeowner awareness of maintenance shortcomings and building defects.

For more information or a copy of the full House Condition Survey report please contact Mark Jones at BRANZ on (04) 2371170 or 0274 376 275 - or visit BRANZ website at www.branz.co.nz

ENDS


MEDIA INFORMATION SHEET

BRANZ House Condition Survey – Summary of Findings for Media

19 October 2005

The condition of the Kiwi home has improved thanks to high levels of building activity. However, many building defects persist, home maintenance is inadequate and contributing to deterioration, many houses have safety risks, and all too often, homeowners are blissfully unaware. In addition, Aucklanders feel less secure in their homes than Wellingtonians; Christchurch is the undisputed capital of double-glazed windows; decks and ventilation remain a national shortcoming.

These are some conclusions that might be taken from BRANZ’s latest national House Condition Survey (‘the survey’).

The survey is the third of its kind undertaken by BRANZ, the building industry’s leading research and testing provider, and funded by Building Research – with previous surveys in 1994 and 1999.

The purpose of the survey was to both get a handle on the state of New Zealand’s housing stock and to raise homeowner awareness of maintenance shortcomings and building defects.

New and Improved Housing Stock

* The survey found the overall condition of houses had improved roughly 10 per cent since 1999.

* New Zealand has experienced high building activity during the past few years, which has lifted the quality of housing stock through both new house construction and renovations to older homes.

* In 1999, BRANZ found that 70 per cent of surveyed houses had been built earlier than 1970. In 2005, the corresponding figure was only 55 per cent.

* The survey also highlighted the popularity of older (pre-WW2) houses as renovation ‘projects’. These older houses have benefited from repairs, modernisation and upgrades to such an extent that the condition of this oldest group of houses is now similar to the condition of houses some fifty years younger. This pattern reflects what we already know about building values – i.e. that values decrease with age up to 50 or 60 years old (with 1950s houses being lowest in value), before beginning to increase with age (pre-WW1 houses being of the highest value).

* Similarly, BRANZ found a decline in the average cost to repair more serious house defects – from an average of $4,900 in 1999 (adjusted for price movements) to $3,700 in 2005. The more expensive defects to repair include foundations, subfloor ventilation, windows, doors and roofing.

Defects and Problems Persist

* Despite this overall improvement, many of the old problems and defects persist – notably, poor subfloor ventilation, inadequate clearance of wall claddings from the ground, poor or missing subfloor fasteners, poor ventilation of bathrooms and kitchens, and lack of earthquake restraints on hot water cylinders and header tanks.

* 49 per cent of houses were deemed to have poor or seriously inadequate clearance of wall claddings above adjacent ground. Increasing priority seems to be given to linking inside and outside at the expense of good building practice. According to the survey, newest houses seem to be the biggest offenders.

* 43 per cent of houses were deemed to have poor or seriously inadequate subfloor ventilation, with more than a third of subfloors having less than half of the ventilation area required by current building standards. This can lead to corroding fasteners, timber decay, fungal growth, borer attack in untreated timbers and general dampness.

Meanwhile:

* Foundations and foundation fasteners - 22 per cent of houses’ foundation fasteners (e.g. timber to concrete piles) and 16 per cent of foundations were assessed as being in poor or serious condition (with many houses having no fasteners at all, particularly in the Auckland region).

* Ceiling insulation - 10 per cent of houses were assessed as having ceiling insulation in poor or serious condition.

* Earthquake restraints – 58 per cent of hot water cylinders were without earthquake restraints.

* Deck barriers – 78 per cent of deck barriers did not comply with building code requirements (due to missing barriers, barriers being too low, barriers having openings that were too large), which was significant given 60 per cent of houses (70 per cent in Auckland) had decks.

* Kitchen/bathroom ventilation – most bathrooms and many kitchens are inadequately ventilated, which is a concern given the amount of vapour generated in these rooms with the potential to damage materials and finish.

* BRANZ also found there was a gap between their overall assessments and those of home owners. While 80 per cent of homeowners felt their house was in good or excellent condition. BRANZ inspectors only shared that optimism for 50 per cent of homes.

* Different expectations and levels of technical expertise probably explain much of this gap, but recent hikes in house prices and valuations may also be a factor. Interestingly, in Christchurch, where average valuations have grown most rapidly since 1999, owners were most optimistic about the condition of their house. In Wellington, the opposite trend was evident.

* Another interesting finding is that houses with longer-term owner-occupants tended to be in worse condition. This may be perhaps it is a case of owners selling before conditions deteriorate too far or the urge to renovate and improve one’s house wearing off with time? Perhaps defects and problems become normalised over the years of occupancy.

Security, Smoke Alarms, Double Glazing and Other Housing Trends

The survey also produced a wealth of information as to the characteristics of the contemporary house and recent building/installation trends. For instance:

* Security – the number of houses without any security measures has fallen dramatically, from 70 per cent in 1999 to around 5 per cent in 2005 (although the general extent of security measures remains low), the use of burglar alarms is up from 36 per cent of houses in 1999 to 53 per cent in 2005 (60 per cent in Auckland, 47 per cent in Christchurch and 42 per cent in Wellington)

* Smoke alarms – more than 80 per cent of houses have a smoke alarm (up from 70 per cent in 1999) and 45 per cent of houses have fire extinguishers (up from 27 per cent in 1999)

* Ceiling insulation – almost 70 per cent of houses had fully insulated ceilings and only 6 per cent were without any ceiling insulation

* Double-glazing – double-glazing is still relatively rare in New Zealand homes – although considerable growth has been experienced in Christchurch since 1999 (with the number of houses double-glazed rising from less than 5 per cent to 13 per cent)

* Hot water systems – more than 75 per cent of houses still use electric storage systems (hot water cylinders), 23 per cent of cylinders were more than 30 years old, energy waste is occurring due to the remaining high proportion (25 per cent) of ungraded (inefficient) cylinders, the lack of cylinders using wraps (only 5 per cent), the inadequate storage size of many cylinders, 20 per cent of showers being energy-wasteful

* Hot water temperatures – 30 per cent of thermostats were set below the safe storage temperature (which is intended to avoid bacterial contamination)

* Moisture handling – 22 per cent of houses have dehumidifiers (twice as many as in 1999), and of those houses with unflued gas heaters or LPG heaters (which produce large quantities of water vapour), 47 per cent had at least one dehumidifier.

Survey Method

* The survey involved the inspection of a representative sample of 565 randomly selected, owner-occupied houses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and a telephone survey of these homeowners carried out by CRESA.

* The House Condition Survey is not a detailed weathertightness or structural survey – as it is only possible to gain a general impression of obvious defects within the limited time available for inspections. These surveys provide ‘snapshots’ of our housing stock at different points in time, by investigating a group of houses (and owners) that broadly represent the underlying range of designs, ages and varying conditions of New Zealand houses.

* For more information or a copy of the full House Condition Survey report please contact Mark Jones at BRANZ on (04) 2371170 or 0274 376 275 - or visit BRANZ website at www.branz.co.nz

ENDS

BRANZ & Building Research –
Who We Are

BRANZ Ltd delivers research, testing, consultancy and educational services. While BRANZ Ltd has its own Board, it is owned by Building Research but draws only 40% of its income from investments by Building Research.
BRANZ should not be referred to as the Building Research Association of New Zealand, even by way of explanation. BRANZ Chief Executive is Peter Robertson.
www.branz.co.nz

Building Research is a separate entity governed by a Board drawn widely from industry. Building Research invests in an extensive range of research, technology transfer and scholarship activities, with funds provided by the Building Research Levy.
www.buildingresearch.org.nz

Homeowners can call BRANZ on 0900 5 90 90 for practical building information. Calls cost $1.99/min +GST.

Building Industry Professionals can call 0800 80 80 85 to speak to a technical advisor.

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