Moving Houses: Fifth relocation for couple who say it’s addictive

REVIEW: Some people are beggars for punishment. Tony and Kirsten Samuels are tackling their fifth house relocation – yes, they have already done this four times and have itchy feet to do it all again.

The couple and their children Jack and Grace live in the country at South Head near Helensville, out of Auckland. They already have a very pretty two-storey villa at South Head, near Shelly Beach, which they relocated and renovated.

The property featured on Stuff three years ago when they put it on the market, but they didn’t sell. When they moved that last time, it was supposed to be for good. “It was the last one we were doing. It was genuinely the last,” says Tony.

Here we go again: Tony and Kirsten Samuels are pictured with Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford (centre) outside the old bungalow that will be moved from its Remuera site.

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Here we go again: Tony and Kirsten Samuels are pictured with Moving Houses presenter Clarke Gayford (centre) outside the old bungalow that will be moved from its Remuera site.

So what changed? “We got a bit itchy, and just had to do one more. It’s sort of slightly addictive,” Tony tells presenter Clarke Gayford.

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These two are seasoned veterans, and they know what they’re doing. We see photos of all their other relocated houses, and they are stunning. But they never start out that way, says Tony.

“We look for a house with a bit of size and a bit of character – something that, when it’s all painted up, will look the part. Then it arrives, and you’re just overwhelmed by this house that’s just a wreck, and you have to wreck it even more to bring it up to spec.”

The house, built in 1926, is about to get a new lease of life in the country.

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The house, built in 1926, is about to get a new lease of life in the country.

The couple went looking for another villa, but ended up with a bungalow languishing on a Remuera section that has been bought by a developer who is replacing it with eight townhouses. And, well, it’s a bit average, but there are some lovely original features, such as the bay windows and stained glass.

Kirsten doesn’t like it as much as a villa, but Tony likes it better because bungalows are easier to work on. “No big gable ends you have to paint.”

Tony, Kirsten, Jack and Grace take a stroll over the land.

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Tony, Kirsten, Jack and Grace take a stroll over the land.

Their new project will also be at South Head, which is a relatively short relocation of 85km.

We get to meet their designer Liam Beuth of Archiology, who has worked with the couple on their other projects. He helps them work out the best position for the house – and he doesn’t believe for a minute it’s their last relocation.

Veteran house mover Craig Walker is taking on his fourth move for the Samuels, and he’s pretty impressed with their work. “You always do something well if you’ve got a passion for it,” he says.

Three trucks under three parts of the house wait to move off.

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Three trucks under three parts of the house wait to move off.

They have to cut the house into three because the last part of the road narrows with trees either side.

Moving day

Dave Haskins from Craig Walker Building Removals oversees the work, and Gayford chips in to help demolish the original piles. A former owner turns up to watch, and it’s clearly a nostalgic moment for her: “She’s had a few parties….she’s a dear old lady.”

The first challenge is to get the house and truck up the slope and onto the road. This takes a lot of time. The Samuels family come to watch: “We know they go back together well,” Tony says.

The old house creaks and groans, but gets up to the road. In the meantime a woman has parked her car right in the way of the truck.

Is this your car? This is how close the house came to a car that was left in the way by the driver who walked off. The truck wheels were moved independently, so the truck could be crabbed around the vehicle.

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Is this your car? This is how close the house came to a car that was left in the way by the driver who walked off. The truck wheels were moved independently, so the truck could be crabbed around the vehicle.

“I said, ‘we’re just blocking the road; we’re pulling the house out, you’ll have to go round the block’,” says Haskins. “And she said, ‘why are you pulling the house out?’ And I said, ‘look, I’m a bit busy’, but she’s parked and gone. Crazy.”

Finally, after considerable delay, they are on the way heading out west, and all goes well till they approach an intersection and there is a crashing noise with breaking glass. One of the bay windows has come a cropper, so they hammer ply over the hole.

And there’s another crashing noise when a telephone line is clipped. But again, it’s an easy fix. Then Gayford’s nap is broken by a horrific screeching, which turns out to be the trailer wheels going off the side of the road, scraping the axels – all because they needed to swerve to avoid an idiot driver.

“Gave me a hell of a fright,” says Gayford. “Remarkable how a driver can be so oblivious to what is barrelling down the road towards them.”

Dawn arrives as the lounge and kitchen make their way up the gravel road towards the site.

SCREENSHOT

Dawn arrives as the lounge and kitchen make their way up the gravel road towards the site.

Some spouting falls off, tree branches come down. It’s a really tight squeeze. The Samuels have arrived to witness a few scratches. We’ve said it before – there is so much to admire about these house-moving experts, and it makes really good TV.

The next night they are back in Remuera pulling the rest of the house off the section and onto the road. This is the smallest bit, and it’s a lot easier without a car parked in the way.

Again, Gayford is along for the ride, which is pretty impressive considering it’s two overnighters in a row. It all goes smoothly, but a lot of the hard work is still to come – stitching the house back together.

Each section of the house is moved into position.

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Each section of the house is moved into position.

Grand reveal

One year on, it’s time for the grand reveal, but Auckland is in lockdown and Gayford is stuck in Wellington. However, Craig Walker is there, and he takes over Gayford’s role, and does such a good job of it, you would think he did it for a living.

The interior is mostly remodelled. Every trace of the old kitchen has gone, and Tony – a cabinetmaker – has put his talents to good use with panel cabinetry that works with the bungalow character.

The two children’s bedrooms are revamped, but the Samuels still have to tackle their own bedroom. There’s a large deck out the back catching all the sun and those great views.

“Absolutely gorgeous. I would never ever get sick of that. And there’s a few good snapper to be had out in that harbour, too,” says Walker.

One year on, the house has a new roof and has been freshly painted - a job made easy by the fact there are no high gables.

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One year on, the house has a new roof and has been freshly painted – a job made easy by the fact there are no high gables.

The new kitchen is in keeping with the character of the 1920s bungalow.

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The new kitchen is in keeping with the character of the 1920s bungalow.

Walker almost gets emotional. He is in awe of Tony and Kirsten’s work, and says he feels humbled to be able to work at a job that leads in such a transformation. (This guy is seriously good talent and clearly knows a thing or two about fishing. Gayford had better watch his back.)

And the cost? It was $158,000 for the house and relocation; the 1.2ha site cost $490,000; and there were costs of $150,000 renovating and reinstalling power and plumbing, making it nearly $800,000 all up.

Of course, as Gayford points out, it’s hard to put a cost on the couple’s own time and skills that kept that price down.

But it does seem like a bargain for a fully refurbished three-bedroom house with character on a small lifestyle block with views and a pond.

Moving Houses screens on TVNZ 1 Tuesdays, 7.30pm and TVNZ OnDemand

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