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Band of brothers

With almost military precision two young brothers are making the most of their renovating skills, writes Joanna Mathers.

By: Joanna Mathers

31 March 2023

Sometimes all it takes is a good water blasting. The property’s brick exterior, returned to its former glory.

Two tradie brothers from Auckland are making the most of their skills and renovating their way to a strong property portfolio. Hamish McKenzie (25) is a builder, and his brother Scott (27) is an electrician, and their joint expertise has proved invaluable in their renovate-to-add-value journey.

Their recent renovation of an old former state house in Palmerston North has just been completed and they achieved great results; the weekly rental return being higher than initially expected. And they look to add more value to the property in the near future.


“It’s all in the prep” is an adage often remarked in the trades, and when it comes to painting, good prep is the key to a quality finish. While many painting jobs revolve around colour choice, there are several things that should be considered before talking to a painter, such as:

• With renovations in particular, there’s a huge difference between having a plasterer skim any imperfections first, and simply painting right over them.

• In some cases the additional cost of a builder re-cladding specific areas is well worth the finish.

• A builder may also be needed to repair timber joinery or mouldings.

• Damaged wallpaper can be hard to remediate, and an experienced decorator can give options around removing or reducing the effect this will have on the final paint finish.


Prep work adds cost, so it’s important to define the quality of finish you’re looking to achieve with the tenant or buyer in mind. Consider this:

• If wider renovations have been recently undertaken, investing in preparing the older part of the home which adjoins the renovation will create a “new home” feel in
the entire space. Older parts of the home can simply be skimmed by a plasterer to freshen up.

• If you’re working with a newer home, and simply seeking to freshen up with look and feel, a painter will usually fill small imperfections as part of the re-paint.

• Depending on the amount of prep work undertaken and the quality of finish desired, there are a variety of paints available that work to further mask imperfections.

• Generally the flatter the paint, the better it will diffuse light and hide imperfections. The caveat is, typically the flatter the paint, the less hard wearing; and harder to clean.

builderscrack.co.nz has builders, plasterers, painters and decorators for every type of job across New Zealand.


The brothers’ property adventure began in 2016, when they purchased an inexpensive section on Great Barrier Island, 100km north-east of Auckland. The section cost the grand total of $57,000 and it was purchased with savings from work.

“We spent a lot of time on Great Barrier when we were younger for family holidays,” says Hamish. “We knew it would be a place that would appreciate in value in the future. Our plan is to build a holiday house on it and Airbnb it out as a getaway for people.”

Their first real renovation project, however, was in the small community of Helensville, north of Auckland. The pair purchased the property in February 2020 (a major and minor dwelling bought for $680,000) and spent $250,000 on it. Post-reno, the valuation is now $1.2 million.

“Both dwellings are rented out and the value provided leverage that allowed us to move on to another property, this one in Palmerston North.”


In September 2022, the brothers found an old state house in need of repair in Palmerston North. Built in the 1930s, the home had a lot of potential: “It was structurally sound, but it needed a good tidy up,” says Hamish.

They managed to secure the home for $460,000 (a bargain in today’s market). The three-bedroom home also had a reasonable amount of land (660m2) that could house an additional small dwelling. The home was a deceased estate and untenanted – sold through the Public Trust. Once complete, Harcourts gave a rental estimate of $520-$550 per week.

The Auckland-based pair stayed in the house while renovating it. The wallpaper had to be removed and rooms repainted (they chose Resene Half Black White for the interiors; the carpet was removed, revealing beautiful rimu flooring).

The kitchen and bathroom also needed to be replaced – the new kitchen was a flatpack from Trade Depot, with the bathroom coming from Plumbing World. The brick exteriors just needed water blasting to bring them back to good condition.


It was a simple renovation, says Hamish, with no delays. As the kitchen and bathroom were replaced like for like there was no consent needed, which made the process even smoother.

The home is now complete and being rented out for more than the original estimate, $620 a week. The brothers are moving on to planning for the next stage of the project – adding a minor dwelling. A feasibility report is being prepared, and the aim is to bring an existing relocatable home on to the section and do it up on site.

It would be possible to get a 67m2 two-bedroom relocatable on the property, and the rent expectation is around $470 a week.

“The process will be subject to finance so we will need to get the lending approval prior to going ahead with consents and other aspects of the project,” says Hamish.

They are also investigating the Christchurch market for properties that have enough space for a minor dwelling. They have attended several open homes, but nothing has popped up yet.

“Our focus moving forward is to concentrate on the minor dwelling and once that is [in place] generating cash flow, alongside the increase in value.

“[Once that happens] we will focus our attention on the Christchurch market with the intention of adding a minor dwelling or subdividing.”

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