A first-time buyer says living in a ‘commune’ got him into the real estate market

Amey Bell-Booth loves living in her 92m² prefab house in a section adjacent to her parents – and “totally” recommends the moveable house option to others.

Her first house, on a section of around 700m² in Tokomaru, Horowhenua, cost $200,000 delivered when she bought it in 2019, with the cost of the section, terrace and connection to services in more of that.

Bell-Booth, 44, is happy to be in the real estate market, but says for her the tiny house is not a stepping stone to something bigger.

“I didn’t go into the real estate market to make money. It meets my needs and it’s a place where I like to be,” she says.

Amey Bell-Booth lives in her own 92 sq m prefab house on a section adjacent to her parents' house.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Amey Bell-Booth lives in her own 92 sq m prefab house on a section adjacent to her parents’ house.

The family bought the land in one section and subdivided it into two sections of around 700m² to 750m² each. Living close to family is a big part of Bell-Booth’s appeal.

She cooks for her parents twice a week and they cook for her twice a week. There’s no fencing between the properties, and even Bell-Booth’s dog, Frida, a 12-year-old chocolate lab, shuttles between the houses.

“My parents come all the time. My dad parks himself on the couch and watches a little Netflix,” she says.

“The dog is the only one who is maybe a bit confused. She knows her home is here, but if she gets bored, she goes there, barks until they let her in, and sneaks off to the laundromat to mock the cat’s cookies.

Bell-Booth, a dental office manager, loves that her brother and sister, along with five nieces and nephews, treat her home as a meeting place. They jokingly call the two houses “La Commune”.

“My brother and my sister are coming out, and it’s just great. Everyone simply moves between the two properties. If one of the kids screams, I take them home, get out the Lego, put on Disney Channel.

“I am a very involved aunt. It’s really important to me that it’s an environment that kids enjoy being in. We go to bed late and watch movies or play Lego.

Getting a home loan for the portable prefab house was not easy.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Getting a home loan for the portable prefab house was not easy.

The 92 sq m house is perfect for Amey Bell-Booth and she doesn't plan to use it as a stepping stone to something bigger.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

The 92 sq m house is perfect for Amey Bell-Booth and she doesn’t plan to use it as a stepping stone to something bigger.

“My parents are in their 60s, so it’s not like I care about them. But it’s company for both of us.

His parents’ house is a more conventional new construction, around 150 m² with three bedrooms and two living areas.

Bell-Booth has become a real housewife and has furnished the house with pieces collected over the past 20 years as an apartment or as a family.

“It was the first time I had all of this together in a space that was mine. I didn’t know it would mean so much.

“I love seeing how people feel when they come here, like my nephew and his two little siblings… there’s just that joy.”

Bell-Booth is a day dental practice manager, and also an artist.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Bell-Booth is a day dental practice manager, and also an artist.

She loved indulging her taste for color, with a pink bathroom, for example, and with her favorite splurge – the $700-a-roll Designers Guild wallpaper.

Owning her own home meant she was finally able to wall mount an upholstered headboard she’d had for about 15 years.

She now has a home for furniture that belonged to her grandparents, including dining chairs, a mute waiter and a small pedal organ that her grandfather Anglican minister took from church to church around the district from Rangitīkei, and which his grandmother played during services.

Bell-Booth has chosen Designers Guild wallpaper for years.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Bell-Booth has chosen Designers Guild wallpaper for years.

Everything in the house has a story and Bell-Booth loves being able to display them in her own home.

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Everything in the house has a story and Bell-Booth loves being able to display them in her own home.

Bell-Booth recommends the prefab housing option for people trying to move into their own home and was impressed with the company she used, Presidential Homes in Palmerston North.

It was, however, a challenge to get a mortgage on a portable house, with his bank saying there was too much risk associated with it. However, a mortgage broker eventually helped her secure a loan from ANZ.

Bell-Booth says a 92-square-foot house is just perfect for her and doesn’t feel tiny, especially for a single person. “I have friends with children who live in apartments of around 80 square meters in Auckland.”

Bell-Booth's parents living in the black house adjacent to hers: The family calls both houses

WARWICK SMITH / Stuff

Bell-Booth’s parents living in the black house adjacent to hers: The family calls both houses “La Commune”.

Joan D. Boling