Nov 09 2022

Are kitset homes cheaper than prefab homes?

Kitset houses nzWhen building a new home, everybody wants the best result for the best price. Fortunately, there are many affordable construction methods that you can choose from.


Two such methods are kitset and prefab, which are popular all over New Zealand for their unique benefits. In this article, we dig into the similarities, differences, and costs so you can choose a building method to meet your needs.


Kitset homes NZ


Kitset houses in New Zealand are built on-site from a set design and flat pack kit of building materials. The key feature of a kitset home is that you are responsible for organising the construction of it yourself. The upfront costs are much lower because only the materials and design are paid for — not the labour, consent, and travel. Let’s explore these in more detail:

Project management and labour costs

With a kitset home, each bundle of components and materials will be delivered to your site for the build, stage by stage. However, you will need to account for building time, project management, and subtrades which are not part of the upfront cost.


While some kitset suppliers will have recommended building practitioners available, you are ultimately responsible for arranging this yourself. Remember, most tradespeople will charge for travel time to the building site as well.


Kitset house designs should meet New Zealand building regulations, but you will still need qualified tradespeople to sign off on certain jobs. For example, electrics and plumbing require approval from a certified professional, even if you complete the job yourself. The costs for these checks and site visits can add up, especially if tasks need to be done over.

Kitset house prices

Overall, kitset homes are relatively affordable — especially if you can do some of the construction yourself. The cheapest kitset home will cost at least $58,000 for the materials but will incur many additional expenses as well. But let's look at another example from Bunnings.


Note that these prices are from a 2019 article and both Covid-19 and global inflation have increased many of these numbers since this article.

The following are the minimum costs of a Bunnings Clever Living home in 2019:

  • The unassembled kit: $75,300
  • Building labour: $21,000
  • Plumbing: $5,200
  • Electrical: $8,300
  • Materials delivery: $14,500
  • Kitchen installation: $1,500
  • Heat pump ducting: $900
  • Scaffolding: $4,000
  • Council fees: $4,000
  • Plastering: $4,500
  • Painting, interior and exterior: $9,800
  • Preliminary and general: $6,000
  • Site works: $30,000
  • GST: $23,250
  • Total: $208,250

With these factors in mind, the upfront cost of $75,000 is not the whole picture. In many cases, the kitset won’t even include materials for the internal fitout — only the shell. However, if you are prepared to source these and do most of the construction yourself, you could shave off a few thousand.


Prefab homes NZ


Prefab homesPrefab houses are built off-site, usually in a controlled factory environment, and then delivered to the site for installation. The prefab building company will complete every step of the project, including the design process, building consent, and final touch-ups. Let's take a closer look:

hidden costs

Unlike kitset homes, the labour, compliance, and council approvals are included and organised for you with a prefab. With less travel time, offsite manufacturing is much more economical and efficient. The only time and money spent travelling to the site is during the delivery and installation, which typically takes a few short weeks. In short, you’ll have peace of mind that everything is paid for and taken care of.

build process

Since the majority of the process is done in a factory, prefab home construction is much more efficient and predictable. With access to more sophisticated equipment and no weather delays, a prefab home can be built in a matter of weeks. Once delivered to the site, only a few minor touch-ups and service connections need to be completed before you can move in. You can learn more about the prefab building process with Manor Build here.

The total cost of a prefab house

Prefab homes are taking the construction industry by storm because they are affordable, efficient, and convenient. Depending on the size and style of the prefab, prices with us start from around $221,000. This price is current and includes the increased cost of materials and labour.


With Manor Build, each prefab comes with the following standard inclusions:

  • Internal linings and fitout.
  • Exterior and interior painting.
  • Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.
  • Bathroom sink, shower, and toilet.
  • Floor coverings.
  • Plumbing, electrical wiring, and light fixtures.
  • Heat pump, ventilation system, and smoke detectors.
  • Cooktop, oven, and range hood.
  • Labour and contractor fees.
  • Professional cleaning.

A prefab's initial cost will not include transportation, groundwork, or council consent since these factors are location-specific. Transportation of a prefab can cost between $10,000 and $40,000, depending on the size and distance from the factory. To help with this, the Manor Build team have a network of reliable contractors to recommend in your local area. You can find an estimated delivery cost by requesting a quote for any one of our house plans on our website.

Prefab vs kitset house NZ


Compared to building a home from scratch, both kitsets and prefab homes offer cost savings through offsite manufacturing (OSM). While the off-the-shelf cost of a kitset is much cheaper, the total cost of these two construction methods is fairly similar.


The main difference is that a prefab home is managed for you, right up until you get the keys. A prefab offers complete clarity on pricing, with no hidden costs. Kitsets on the other hand, are best for someone who has the skills and time to take on a big project and a budget that can accommodate unforeseen or unaccounted costs.


Financing for offsite-built homes


Another point worth noting is that financing for these homes can pose a challenge. Unfortunately, banks won’t provide loans without lending security, which often isn’t until the house is on-site and has Code of Compliance. With kitsets, that can take a long time.


Fortunately, offsite manufacturing is gaining popularity and banks are taking note. According to Westpac’s Heiko Jonkers, “a prefabricated house can potentially save you 15%” compared to traditional construction methods. In response to this, select banks are offering specialised financing for some prefab homes. Just speak to Manor Build to find out if you and your house plan are eligible.


While both kitsets and prefabs are relatively affordable, prefabs are usually the most streamlined, efficient, and stress-free homebuilding option.


If you are looking for a new home that is cost-effective, effortless, and made with quality materials, look no further than a prefab. Simply choose from Manor Build’s wide range of designs, make customisations, and have the keys within a matter of months – it doesn’t get easier than that.

Browse our full range of prefab house plans

Tags: Transportable/Prefab home Pricing and Finance