By Erin Reilly
Frodo Baggins is a huge fan of the Waikato; just ask his mate Samwise Gamgee. But the Waikato isn’t just home to Hobbiton and a tonne of other iconic Lord of the Rings locations; it’s also home to roughly 449,200 New Zealanders.
Measuring a whopping 2.5 million hectares in area, Waikato is the fourth-largest region in New Zealand and stretches from the Bombay Hills and Port Waikato in the north, across to the Coromandel Peninsula on the east, and south to Mt Ruapehu and the Kaimai Ranges. While the Waikato is the country’s largest dairy producer and much of the area is fruitful farmland, 75% of residents live in urban areas.
Hugging the Waikato River is New Zealand’s fourth-largest city, Hamilton. Significantly less industrial and skyrise-dominant than the likes of Auckland, Hamilton boasts more of a relaxed, residential feel than other larger cities around the country.
Lawrie and Mandy Foster are Refresh Renovations specialists based in the Waikato. They say one of Hamilton’s loveliest features is its diversity in housing styles.
“Hamilton is a treasure-trove of building styles,” says Mandy. “The villas of the early 1900s, bungalows of the 1920s, art deco of the ‘30s and the state houses of the ‘40s – you’ve got it all in Hamilton. As the city expanded, so too did the house styles with the more open-plan, internal garaging style of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the town houses of the ‘80s and from then on, we see it all – Mediterranean, modern, industrial, apartment, duplex and everything in between.”
The Waikato is famous the country over for its annual ‘Fieldays’ which harks back to the region’s agricultural history. Farming communities like Morrinsville, Matamata and Cambridge typically feature older, larger-scale bungalow-type homes. But the older they are the less likely they are to be effectively insulated or glazed, which adds up to colder homes and higher heating costs. Many older farming estates use traditional fireplaces to heat their homes, but many more are renovating their homes to incorporate better insulation and more modern, cost-efficient forms of heating like heat pumps and retrofitted double-glazing. The weather impacts the state of the region’s insulation too.
“We have a lot of rain in the Waikato with comparatively mild winters and hot, humid summers,” Lawrie says. “Poor insulation is a problem in a lot of existing houses and this needs to be considered along with suitable building materials when renovating.”
You won’t just find urban areas and farmland in the Waikato region; with more than 1,150 kilometres of coastline plus more than 100 lakes including New Zealand’s largest, Lake Taupo, many permanent and holiday homes are coastal. Seaside communities like Raglan are home to a mish-mash of housing styles: some are the epitome of the classic Kiwi bach while others are brand-new builds with multi-million-dollar views – and sometimes the two reside right beside each other. Regardless of home style, though, any home that’s close to the sea needs to consider the effects of salt corrosion on cladding, roofing and window products.
The Waikato’s housing market might not be as inflated as Auckland’s, but property values – and house prices – are consistently heading north.
“We frequently encounter the dilemma of home-owners who are keen to take advantage of their increased property valuations, but where do they go and what do they buy?” says Mandy. “New sections are small, and prices have escalated so building a new home is an expensive alternative. At Refresh we offer solutions to modernise, add onto and insulate existing homes, to cater for the changing needs of the home-owner.”
North Waikato has seen increased growth in recent years thanks to urban sprawl from the north. Aucklanders who are keen to get on the property ladder but can’t because it’s too expensive are increasingly heading south to the far reaches of the area, often crossing the boundary between South Auckland and North Waikato. As a result, communities like Pokeno, Te Kauwhata, Tuakau and Huntly are seeing an increase in population and housing developments as city slickers choose a slower way of life for the sake of property ownership. Older homes are being purchased and renovated by house-hunters keen to find more bang for their buck and infuse their own personality onto a property that’s much larger than they would have been able to afford further north.
Renovating or extending a home in Waikato is a great way to transform an old, tired property into one that’s modern, warm and suits a relaxed, family lifestyle. To find out how Refresh Renovations could help you take that next big step with your home, contact the friendly team today.
You might be interested in reading: A Contemporary Farmhouse Design
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.