Signature Homes – Do They Build Good Investment Properties? An Honest Review

Thinking about buying a Signature Homes property? Here is an honest review of who this developer is and whether one of their properties could be the right fit for you.

LM b W

Laine Moger

Journalist and Property Educator for 6 Years
Introduction

Signature Homes will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2023. So, not only is it one of the highest performing New Build companies in NZ, it’s also one of the longest running.

So, the company has been around for a while … but are their properties the right option for your investment portfolio?

This is a great question, and one we here at Opes Partners get asked all the time.

So, in this article you’ll learn the pros and cons of Signature Homes, and whether the type of properties they build are right for your property portfolio.

Signature homes

Disclaimer: Here at Opes we recommend New Build investment properties to investors. And right now, we don’t recommend Signature Homes to our investors.

This could mean we have an ulterior motive at play to slag them off. That’s not the case. Even though there is an incentive for us to be biased, we’re still going to be fair, honest, and fact-based. This way, you can decide whether they’re the right fit for you. The answer may be ‘yes’, but it could also be ‘no’.

Who owns Signature Homes?

According to the Companies Register, Gavin Hunt is the owner of Signature Homes.

Are Signature Homes registered master builders?

No, Signature Homes are not Registered Master Builders.

Who is the biggest home builder in New Zealand?

G J Gardiner is the busiest home builder in New Zealand, according to BCI data (June 2022).

Who Are They?

Who Is Signature Homes?

Signature Homes is the 6th busiest builder in New Zealand, according to BCI data. Over the year to June 2022, they consented 593 properties.

This means they build more properties than Jennian Homes or Golden Homes, but less than Mike Greer and Classic Builders.


Next year, in 2023, Signature Homes will celebrate its 40th anniversary. This makes it one of the longest standing in the country.

According to the Companies Register, Gavin Hunt has been a director of Signature Homes since 1995. His wife, Anneta Hunt, became a director in 2008.

But they were also involved with the launch of the original business when it was first started under the ownership of Fletcher Challenge. The Hunts then took the business private in 1995.

Signature Homes is a franchise-based business. That means that each office operates as its own business.

It has 10 offices in the North island, and 4 in the South. Each office is a caretaker of a region (or area), and each region is owned by different franchisees (owners).

For instance, Signature Homes’ West and North-West Auckland office is owned by Dean and Amanda Pritchard, who have owned it for over 20 years.

The Christchurch region is split into North and South. The North office is owned and operated by Adam Baylis, and the South office is owned by Rhys Gould and Kathryn Mitchell.

As well as being known for its residential portfolio, Signature Homes is also a top pick for childhood centres in NZ (voted by Ministry of Education).

Signature Homes also has its own magazine, Signature Style – which features 9 of its homes, told through the real stories behind the families who build them.

Signature homes
What Are They Like?

What Are Signature Homes Developments Like?

Signature Homes primarily build standalone properties, either as design and builds, or a house and land package.

 

A design and build is where the customer designs and prices the property from scratch,

whereas a house and land package is where the purchaser buys a set property (plan) off the developer, along with a parcel of land.

In addition, investors and owner-occupiers can contract Signature Homes to build a property on a piece of land they already own. Under this scenario, you can choose from one of the plans already offered by the company.

These builds are typically offered under a progressive payment contract. As the name suggests, this contract means you pay the amount in increments as the build progresses.

This differs from developers like Brooksfield, Wolfbrook or Williams Corporation, who focus on turnkey contracts, which means they own the land during construction and you own it once the contract settles.

Said another way, if you are going through Signature Homes, you are hiring them to build a property of your choosing, rather than buying a finished already-planned product.

However, unlike other design and build companies such as Golden Homes, Signature Homes does offer some limited turnkey packages.

 
Example

Example of a Signature Homes Development

For those looking to build a property off the plans, there are several types to choose from.

Most share a familiar floor plan of what you would expect in a standalone property, often coming with a garage, and open plan living/dining and kitchen area.

Here is an example of The Kereru plan, which has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a double car garage.

Signature homes

The build is spread over a 171 square metre floor plan. The bedrooms all fit a queen-sized bed, and the master has an en suite and walk-in wardrobe.

Signature homes

In total, Signature Homes offers 168 plan types across four different collections – the Smart, Pacific, Urban and Aspiring collections.

How Much Do They Cost?

How Much Does A Signature Homes Property Cost?

As with everything, there is a scale of what you can expect to pay for a Signature Homes property, depending on what you want to invest.

Obviously, the higher spec your materials, or the larger property size, will equate to a higher price.


House Plans

It’s difficult to give a price indication for building a house off the plans because prices differ between regions. This can be because of different council requirements and the cost of labour. So, we won’t go into them in this article.


House And Land Packages

However, house and land packages are listed on the Signature Homes website with prices.

There is a large range, depending on what and where you are buying.

For instance, at the least expensive end, a small 2-bed property (58m2) in Stratford, Taranaki is listed for $483,530 at the time of writing.

Conversely, a 4 bedroom/3 bathroom home on a 1750m2 section in Weiti Bay, North Auckland is $3.5 million.

Let’s take a look at a few more examples so you can get a feel for what a Signature Homes property costs.


Townhouses

There are several 3-bedroom townhouses available for purchase in the North Shore’s Mairangi Bay, ranging in price from $1,550,000 up to $1,899,999.

signature homes

This is a bit higher than Opes would recommend an investor spend.

As a ballpark, we usually say a 3-bedroom townhouse with a car park will start around $850,000 and head up towards $1 million. The exact price depends on how nice the property is (the spec) and the location.

This isn’t us saying the Signature Homes property is bad, or overpriced. What we are saying is, as an investment, these sorts of prices tend to be too high to make good investments.


Auckland

In Auckland, the only properties under $1m are two, 2-bedroom properties in Manly and Milldale, priced at $977,999, and $989,000 respectively.

 

Both are in Rodney, which is the northernmost district of Auckland.

A 4-bedroom property in North Shore’s Long Bay is almost $2m. Similarly, a 4-bedroom home in Riverhead is $1,930,000.

The largest property is in Weiti Bay, Okura (Auckland) and is a mammoth 4-bed, 4-bath property spread over a 465m2 floor plan, which includes a section size of 1750m2.

signature homes

Again, these property prices would usually be too high for Opes to consider them as investments.

Generally speaking, Opes doesn’t recommend standalone properties outside the Canterbury region. More on the reasons why below.


Christchurch

In the middle ground, there are 3-bedroom homes across Canterbury being advertised in the $700’s.

These are in suburbs such as Rangiora, Sheffield, Woodend, Rolleston and Halswell.

For instance, there are 7 properties available in Rolleston (at the time of writing). All are 3-bedroom, 2-bath, and go for between $707,000 to $790,000.

Similarly, there are 4 properties in Halswell. The cheapest is a 3-bedroom going for $759,000. The most expensive properties in this area are both $799,000. For this you can get either a 3-bed, or a 2-bed. Both have a 400m2+ section, and are 125m2 and 111m2, respectively.

These prices seem good based on our experience in the area. So let’s dig in a little further to see how they stack up.


Let’s Compare – Rolleston

Here’s how a 4-bedroom property from Signature Homes compares with Freedom Built, another building company in the Canterbury region.

In this case the Freedom Built house has a lower price and a larger floor plan. However, the section size is slightly smaller.

It’s also vitally important to note these two properties would also be built under different contracts. The Signature Homes property is a progressive payments contract, whereas the Freedom Built property is turnkey.

That means the Signature Homes property comes with additional risks and interest costs that the investor would need to pay on top of the money paid to the building company.

In this case, the Freedom Built property is likely to be cheaper.

That’s why it’s important to not just look at the site plan or the floor plan dimensions. You also want to look at the contract type when thinking about buying a New Build investment property. Because if you buy a progressive payments build there will also be additional costs not factored into the price you see online.

Are They A Good Investment?

Are Signature Homes Properties Good Investments?

All investors need to run the numbers when making an investment decision. And your decision about whether to invest or not will come down to those numbers.

But there are some important things to consider when weighing up whether to use Signature Homes or not.

Signature homes

Location

Signature Homes primarily build standalone properties.

Here at Opes Partners we don’t tend to recommend house and land packages outside Canterbury.

That’s because in the other major centres standalone properties are expensive, and typically the yield doesn’t stack up.

So standalone houses in other large centres often don’t earn enough rental return to be viable.

So, if purchasing an investment through Signature Homes we’d recommend considering investing in the outskirts of Christchurch and its satellite towns (think places like Rolleston, Kaiapoi and Woodend), parts of the country where family-sized houses are still a popular option for some investors.

This is because relatively cheap land means investors can purchase a standalone house at a reasonable price that makes sense.

Growth Vs Yield

Signature Homes tend to build family-sized houses, which are considered ‘growth’ properties for investors.

That means they’ll likely grow in value more quickly than an investment like an apartment, but will have a lower rental return.

So, Signature Homes properties will be a better fit for those investors looking to grow their wealth rather than earn significant cashflow from their properties today.

But, if a yield property is what you are looking for, then you need to look for properties like dual-key apartments, in which case Signature Homes is likely not the right company for you.

To see if the dual-key is right for you, head to our article.

Signature homes


Turnkey vs Progressive Payments

Signature Homes primarily focus on progressive payment builds.

While there are certainly pros to signing up for a house under a progressive payments model, it is not without its share of risk.

Let’s start with the pros.

Because you are starting to draw down the loan straight away, there is no risk of having to reapply for your finance – which you have to do with turnkey properties.

In this instance, turnkey investors carry the risk of you having to reapply for finance and having that application rejected.

To be fair, usually this isn’t an issue. However, if you’ve had a change of circumstances (a baby, redundancy) it is possible your finance would not be re-approved.

However, under a progressive payments build you have to pay the interest on the mortgage while the property is being built. This isn’t included in the price you see online. Whereas under a turnkey build, the developer pays the interest and includes the cost in the price.

Similarly, if your builder goes under halfway through a progressive payments build, you are stuck with half an unfinished house.

In a turnkey contract, you usually take your deposit back and walk away.

A registration with the Master Builders’ Association is a way to mitigate some of the risk in this situation, because it would mean someone else has to step in and complete it at the same price.

But Signature Homes aren’t registered Master Builder members.

 
Who Are They The Right Fit For?

Who Are Signature Homes The Right Fit For?

For an owner-occupier looking to build a property for themselves to live in, a Signature Homes property could be a great option.

This is because you won’t mind spending the extra bucks on a more quality, higher specced “forever” home.

As a rule, New Build standalone properties tend to be a good fit for investors who can afford to spend a bit more on an investment property.

Because the 4-bed standalone tends to attract a family as a tenant, it could be a good option for an investor who wants security of tenure.

If you are a seasoned investor with a lot of 2-bed or 3-bed townhouses, you might consider your next purchase in the wider context of your portfolio.

Also, if you have a piece of land that you want to build a property on, Signature Homes could be a company to consider.

But if you are just on the cusp of being able to buy your first investment property, then this might not be the right fit.

An investor in this situation might be better placed to sign a turnkey package to have some wiggle room, rather than locking into a progressive payment.

Signature homes
Who Are They The Wrong Fit For?

Who Are Signature Homes The Wrong Fit For?

On the other hand, while there are great positives to Signature Homes, in our eyes many of their properties are not the right fit for investors.

This is because these more expensive properties, while likely superior in material, won’t necessarily earn a higher rent, which is what investors base their figures on.

Rather than spending $50,000 on a finished product, you could spend that $50,000 doing up a property cosmetically and adding more value on finish.

Similarly, Signature Homes is probably not the right fit for a first time investor.

The reason is that first time investors tend to prefer investing in turnkey properties that place more of the risk on the developer, rather than the investor.

Conclusion

Should I Buy An Investment Property From Signature Homes?

All things considered, Signature Homes can be a great option for an owner-occupier looking to build their “forever” home for their family.

And if you’re an investor with your own land ready to build on, Signature Homes could be the answer for you.

But for investors who are just starting out – or who don’t already own land – in our view they may not be the right fit. This doesn’t mean those homes are bad. Not at all.

All that means is not every property is a good investment. And this is true of most things.

Yes, it is likely a better quality product and this could possibly save you dollars in future maintenance. But you wouldn’t see the benefit of this higher quality in the immediate years of cashflow.

So, whether Signature Homes’ properties are the right investment for you will hinge on the figures standing up and the deal you are evaluating.

That’s why many investors who purchase New Build investment properties use our service at Opes to evaluate many developers and find the right properties to suit their portfolios.

Who are Opes Partners?
Opes Partners

What is the 3-Step Opes Coaching Programme?

1. Plan out your property investment portfolio

The first step in the programme is to co-create a plan using our MyWealth Plan software. We built this software specifically to help Kiwis create a financial plan in under an hour.

You'll leave this 1-hour session with a written down plan. Pen to paper.

2. Pick properties that fit with your plan

Once you've created your plan in step #1 – your property partner will go out and find properties that fit your plan. They'll search through projects from up to 58 developers to find the best ones for you.

When you meet again, you'll review the top picks, go through the analysis, crunch the numbers together, and then decide which ones to hold with the developer.

3. Dig into the details – Confirm it's the right property for you

Once you've selected a property, you'll work for 10 days to make sure it's the right property for you. So you'll work with your Property Partner and Client Relationship Manager to dig into the details of the property.

You'll go and look at the development and be introduced to mortgage brokers, solicitors, accountants, and property managers. Their sole job is to help you figure out if this property works for you.

And you’ll have access to all the resources, tools, and data … so when confirmation day comes, you have confidence you know you’re making the right decision.

Who is the Opes Coaching Programme the right fit for?

  • You understand the concept of property investment, but who wants help putting it into practice.
  • You want a “Done for you” property investment service, so you can be a hands-off investor.
  • You are someone who has at least a 10 year investment time horizon.
  • And finally, you’re ready to become a property investor.

Who is the Opes Coaching Programme is NOT the right fit for?

  • You’re more into the smell of paint or the colour of a wall than the numbers that stand behind an investment property.
  • You only want investments that are hands-on, so you can save a few dollars here and there.
  • You have plenty of time on your hands and want to do the property investment process yourselves.
  • You’re looking for an overnight success and want to get rich quickly.

What does it cost to work with Opes Partners and go through the programme?

It’s free. Complimentary. No Cost.

Why?

The developer pays us a marketing fee when you confirm that the property is the right fit for you. Very similar to the way a mortgage broker gets paid by the bank.

Now it's important to note that we are paid the same fixed rate no matter what property you invest in.

If it’s a $500k apartment in Christchurch or a $1.3 mil 3-bedroom townhouse in Ponsonby – we get paid the same rate.

That's important because then we can recommend the right property for you, and there's no incentive to recommend you invest in a more expensive property, just so we get paid more.

I want learn more about how Opes can help me

Learn more about the Opes Coaching Programme Here

LM b W

Laine Moger

Laine Moger has been a journalist and reporter for the last 6 years. She previously worked for Stuff, The North Shore Times and Radio NZ. She has a Bachelor of Communications (Honours) from Massey University and a Diploma of Journalism from the London School of Journalism.