container homes nz

Container Homes Vs Regular Granny Flats in Auckland

What is the difference between container homes and regular sleepouts/granny flats?

Container Homes

There has been a growing demand for container homes in recent years. They can be made into granny flats, or a fully functioning home by joining several containers together.

They look trendy and have become somewhat of an architectural gem. So, what exactly are container homes? Container homes are just what they sound like. They are large containers which are used to transport goods. With almost 1.4 million ‘out of service’ container homes around the globe, they have become a novelty that can now be converted into homes.

Container homes must be bought and then either shipped directly to your site or it can be built off-site. Internal timber frames are then erected, the structure insulated and then renovated to make it a liveable space. The structure of container homes is sturdy, but the roof is often an issue. This means that a new roof must be put on the container home before it can be used as a living space.

Regular Sleepouts and Granny Flats 

Regular sleepouts and stand-alone granny flats are built from normal building materials. They can either be extended out from your existing home structure or can be built as a minor stand-alone dwelling on your property.

The current economic climate has seen a rise in demand for granny flats, sleepouts and minor dwellings on an existing property. This can be either your need for extra space or as a source of additional income. They can be rented out and can yield between $300 – $600 per week in Auckland.

In this article we will discuss:

This article aims to draw a comparison between container homes and Regular minor dwellings/granny flats for the following factors:

  • The difference in the Consent process
  • Ease of construction and Time taken for construction
  • Average costs in Auckland for container homes and Regular minor dwellings
  • Their relevance in Urban Auckland and your return on Investment

Pros and Cons of Container homes Vs Regular Sleepouts and Granny flats in Auckland

1. Consent Process

What is the consent Process for Container homes?

Container homes can act as a sleepout or a standalone dwelling for properties. However, there is always a consent process when you want to build a container home in New Zealand.

Container homes are a relatively new concept in New Zealand which basically means that the process of consent can vary.

“That’s one thing you find straight away”, said Burne the co-founder of Architecture and Interiors Ltd.  “Many, many, shipping container homes don’t have permits or consents, and they probably wouldn’t get them because they don’t meet the building code”. (2019, February 1st) (Stuff)

This means that a lot of the ‘cheaper’ container homes that you see in New Zealand are not approved by the council. The process or the time taken to approve a consent for a container home in New Zealand is not consistent and the rules are ever-changing. This can prove to be challenging when building container homes as a source of an additional income in Auckland.

This however does not mean that you cannot build a container home in Auckland. We recommend you hire a professional company and not do a DIY job. Yes, the consent process might feel like a grey area, but it is possible.

Regular minor dwelling – Granny Flats and sleepouts

Regular minor dwellings like standalone granny flats or attached sleepouts have been built in Auckland properties for years. This means that the consent process for such dwellings is much easier and straightforward as compared to container homes.

The recent Building Act of August 2020 has made building minor dwellings even easier.

‘Single-storey detached buildings include sleepouts, sheds, greenhouses and other similar structures can be built without a building consent. Kitchen and bathroom facilities are not included in the exemption. Any plumbing work to a new or current building still requires a building consent, and any electrical work will still have to be carried out by a registered electrician’.

The act further explains that the dwelling must be 30 square metres or less to be except from consents. This means that you can easily make a sleepout without even requiring any sort of consent work for your property. This would save you time and money.

However, if you are investing in building a sleepout then we would recommend you include a bathroom and kitchen within the sleepout. This will require consent but it is an easy and straight forward process.

You could rent the sleepout and generate an additional source of income. A newly built 1 bedroom or even 2-bedroom minor dwelling on your property complete with Kitchen and bathroom can yield between $400 – $600 a week in Auckland.

The consent process for all the plumbing and electric work for the kitchen and bathroom is simple. If you are renovating with a professional renovation company then they will handle the entire consent process along with the build. They will have an architect on board who will draw up the plans, get the documents ready and submit it to the council for approval.


The consent process for container homes in NZ is ever evolving which means that the process is more complicated as compared to building a regular minor dwelling on your property. The consent process for minor dwelling has been made easier with the recent Building Act in NZ which allows you an exception for consents for dwellings up to 30m2. If you do want to add a kitchen and bathroom (which will require consent), the process is still easier compared to container homes.

2. Ease of Construction and Time taken for Built

Shipping Container homes NZ

Container homes have become a popular choice recently due to its durability, architectural appeal, and ease of transport. ‘Ease of transport’ means that they can be bought from a shipping yard and delivered directly to your home or to the factory. Once built and renovated, they cannot however be transported to several sites through the year.

Melissa Burne from Architecture and Interiors says “There are plenty of myths out there about container homes. People think they are classed as portable. They’re not” (2019, February 1st) (Stuff)

Renovating a container home

Once the consent process is completed, you can begin renovating your container home. Container homes do require a substantial amount of renovation to make them fit for habitation. The first thing is erecting a timber frame within the container for the electric wiring and plumbing to be installed. This is also where the insulation will be put into the frame before the walls are erected.

Once the walls are put in, you can start putting heating systems, ventilating systems, and flooring. Most containers have a weak roof which is understandable due to them being stacked on top of each other. Hence you will almost always have to construct a roof on top of your container home if you want it to last longer. Re-cladding the exterior is also recommended to further protect your container home from the natural elements.

Melissa Burne says that it took them 250 hours in labour and 180 hours in project management to renovate a 1 bedroom container home. (2019, February 1st) (Stuff)

Container-home-1024x577, Kitchen Renovation, Bathroom Renovation, House Renovation Auckland

Picture Courtesy of Stuff (2019, 13 Feb)

Regular minor dwellings like Granny Flats and Sleepouts

Standalone dwelling or detached

Standalone dwellings can be constructed on a property depending on whether the property is zoned for such a construction. The time taken to build and renovate a stand-alone granny flat from scratch can be anywhere between 3 to 5 months after consent has been approved. Listed below are the factors that determine the time taken to complete a project.

  1. Excavation of site: When building a dwelling, the ground will have to be excavated to reach the pipes underneath the dwelling. If there is a lot of stones underneath your land, then they will also have to be removed via a more specialised machine.
  2. Pipes and drainage below the land: The pipes underneath your land will have to be checked to see if they are in working order. If they are not, then they will have to be replaced.
  3. The actual built: This will depend on your renovation company and the hours they are going to spend on your site building your dwelling.

Extending your house to make a Granny flat/Sleepout

Extending your house to make a granny flat or sleep out will take a longer time than building a standalone dwelling on the property. This is because there are many things that need to be considered before a house can be extended.

The extension must be done according to the structure of your existing house which can give rise to several complexities. An extension project of your home will take between 4 to 7 months after you have received your consent from the council.


Taking all the factors into account, container homes take lesser time to build and renovate when compared to extending your current house.

However, the time taken to get a consent, build and renovate a container home would take around the same time as making a stand alone dwelling on your property. This is because the consent process of container homes would take longer than a stand alone dwelling.

If you do have a garage that you do not use then converting that into a granny flat is a relatively easier, shorter, and less complicated way of building another dwelling on your property.

Read More

Converting your garage into a granny flat

3. Cost

How much do container homes cost?

Contrary to popular belief container homes are not a cheap housing solution. Low priced container homes are only possible if you are not building in accordance to the code of compliance. We also do not recommend a DIY project as there are some technical complexities involved when renovating a container home which are better left to the professionals.

Melissa Burne a co-founder of Architecture and Interiors recently built and renovated a 1-bedroom container home in Hawkes Bay for the charity ‘Look good feel good’. “People think they can convert one for $60,000 – they won’t if they do it properly and with the necessary consents”.  (2019, February 1st) (Stuff.

They bought a container for $1000 and the final renovation costs came to $127,000 including consents, subcontractors, labour, material, and project management. The container home boasted 1 bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and a laundry.

Asked if she would recommend taking on a container house project, Burne said “There is some sense to them, but for the cost of doing it properly you would be much better spending a bit more and getting a modest timber-framed house. It would give you more flexibility with better proportions. The good thing about a container is that you could pick it up and remove it if you ever wanted to”. (2019, February 1st) (Stuff)

Renovating a container house is just like renovating a normal home. You will require professionals like electricians, insulators, builders, plumbers, painters, and other skilled professionals.

Regular dwellings – semi-attached and detached

As discussed above, standalone dwellings or extensions to include a sleepout to require substantial amount of work. Even if you are merely building a 30m2 dwelling which would not require consent, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

If you are just building a 30m2 dwelling without a kitchen or a bathroom then it can be very cost effective as compared to container homes. You will not need consent to build the structure and will only have to employ skilled electricians to build in accordance to the code of compliance.

If you are however building a granny flat with a bathroom and kitchen then there will be consent work involved. The cost of building a standalone timber framed dwelling will be anywhere between 150K to 180K. This would include costs for consent, excavation, building materials, all skilled professionals, and a project manager to over see the project.


One of the biggest myths about container homes in NZ is that they are cheap. They are only cheap if treated as a DIY project and built without consent. Roughly a 1-bedroom 40 feet container house will start from about 120K. Materials like the type of flooring, kitchen fixtures etc will determine how high the cost will go to.

A minor dwelling like a granny flat with kitchen and bathroom will cost you higher than a container home by about 15k to 20K. However, if you are just looking at making a sleepout of up to 30m2 without plumbing then it would be considerably lower than a container home. This is because you would not require any consent owing to the new Building Act released in August 2020.

4. Urban Auckland Lifestyle and your return on Investment

Container homes in Auckland

Container homes are a unique form of architecture which has a polarising effect on most people. A lot of people find the industrial look of container homes trendy and unique. Others find it an eye sore. The aesthetics of a container home can be a very personal choice for people.

So how do container homes fit into the Urban Auckland lifestyle? A standard container home has the size of 40ft by 7ft. Once the insulation and internal walls are put in, the interior of a container home can be quite narrow. This however can be rectified by adding other containers on the side and cutting one of the sides.

Auckland homes usually do not have that kind of land space to put a huge container home on their property. You can put the container and make it a sleepout to make it less bulky structure. Another disadvantage of putting a container home on your property in Auckland will mean that there will is no continuity in structure or the overall look of your home.

Return on investment for container homes

You can put a container home on your property to generate an extra source of income. You could rent a 1-bedroom container home for up $400 per week or more.

Having a container house in your property however will not add value to your property. You might have a harder time selling your current home in the future with a container home on your land. Buyers might not find a container home to their taste which means that you will have to remove it from the property. It also does not contribute to the over-all perceived value of your current home structure.

Regular dwellings – semi attached and detached

You can build Semi attached and detached dwellings exactly to your specification. They have that advantage over a container home sleepout in terms of aesthetics and continuity. You can build the dwelling with the same or similar materials as your home to ensure continuity.

The return on investment for regular granny flats and sleepouts

The return on investment on an additional dwelling on your property is huge. Even if you are just making a sleepout or granny flat without a kitchen and toilet, it will still add more value to your home than a container home.

If you take the plunge and decide to build one with a kitchen and bathroom then you can rent it anywhere between $400 to $600 a week. Future buyers will also be willing to pay a higher amount for an extra room or a unit on the property.


The verdict for this one is simple. Container homes are just not suitable for Auckland homes as a means of additional income. A container home granny flat on your property will not add any value to your home. Container homes can be great if you have a land and just want to build an entire home out of it. That would still work in form of a container granny flat.

Selling a property with a container home on it is also going to be a problem. Container homes are great for more rural areas or towns. They would also be great as trendy cafes or stores in Auckland.

Regular dwellings suit the urban lifestyle of Auckland a whole lot more. They are great as an investment to add value to your home or to yield an additional source of income.


  1. The real (compliant) cost of a shipping container home: an architectural designer’s experiment (2019, 1Feb), Stuff
  2. Open homes for tiny container house, with auction proceeds going to charity (2019, 13Feb), Stuff
  3. Cover image, credit to:


Further Resources 

  1. Ideas for Bathroom renovations in our bathroom renovation gallery of bathrooms we have renovated in Auckland
  2. Ideas for Kitchen renovations in our kitchen renovation gallery for kitchens we have renovated in Auckland
  3. Featured projects and Client stories to see specifications on some of the projects.
  4. Real client stories from Auckland

What are container home prices NZ wide?

Container homes are not a cheap option as most people believe. A 1 bedroom container home would cost you $120,000 at the minimum. This is if you are building it with proper consent and in accordance to the code of compliance.

Are there many container homes to rent in NZ?

Container homes can be a great source of additional income in NZ if you put it up for rent. You will however not find many container homes to rent in Auckland.

Is container home better or granny flat?

This will depend on where in NZ you live. If you are in Auckland then making a detached or a semi detached granny flat will be better than a container home. This is because a container home will not add any real value for your property and might be an eye sore on your property for future buyers. The lack of abundant space in Auckland homes also makes it a bulky structure for Auckland homes.


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