Converted church put on the market

The former St Patrick’s Catholic Church, in Hawea Flat, with an RV of $1.42m is for sale. Photo:...
The former St Patrick’s Catholic Church, in Hawea Flat, with an RV of $1.42m is for sale. Photo: Supplied
The owners of a historic church in a picturesque rural setting near Wānaka who performed their own Grand Designs renovation on it almost 30 years ago have now put it up for sale.

The couple bought the icon in 1996 and set about converting the former St Patrick’s Catholic Church, at 65 Newcastle Road in Hawea Flat, which had been deconsecrated in the 1980s, into a one-bedroom home.

Harcourts listing agent Eamon Young said: "It was something they always wanted to do – renovate a church and this just came up. It was something that just fitted for them."

The renovation retained the key features of the church including the arched stained glass windows and crafted timber ceilings and wooden floors, while converting it into a one-bedroom home. The kitchen, bathroom and living area are on the ground floor and the master bedroom is on the mezzanine.

The couple moved overseas about 25 years ago and have been renting it out ever since.

Young said the owners have now realised it’s unlikely they will return to New Zealand to live so are selling the slice of history by auction next month.

The church was converted into a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home in the late 1990s. Photo: Supplied
The church was converted into a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home in the late 1990s. Photo: Supplied
The heritage-protected church, built in 1892, represents an important part of the Central Otago region’s history and was designed by Dunedin architect Francis Petre who is linked to a number of Catholic Churches built in the late 1800s.

Part of the section on St Patrick’s Way was sold off in the early 2000s leaving the church perched at the back of the 1.01-hectare site. The property, which is now accessed from Newcastle Road, is spread over three titles and has an RV of $1.42 million.

Young said the circular driveway lined with trees was a real feature and something prospective buyers who might be considering subdividing the land at the front of the property would have to weigh up.

It is now being marketed at "visionaries, history buffs, character lovers and savvy investors" wanting a "truly extraordinary property" with "rustic charm".

So far it has attracted a wide range of interest including people looking at using it as a studio or an events centre, people wanting to develop the section or DIYers looking to pour some love into the property, Young added.

"I think people get caught up in those Grand Designs programmes and it’s the Kiwi dream, isn’t it."

With sections in nearby Wānaka down to around 300sqm, Hawea Flat was attracting people from around the area looking for more space as the street was classed as rural residential.

Properties also tended to be more affordable the farther away they were from Wānaka, he added.

Harcourts Wānaka’s own data showed about 60% of people buying were from the wider area, while the other 40% came from all over the country.

New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty salesperson Guy Alty, who is selling a three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage at nearby 68 Newcastle Road, said Hawea Flat had always been sought after and attracted people who wanted to be in the area but far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the growing Wānaka and Hawea townships.

"It’s got a really like-minded community there that really enjoys the location and the proximity to Wānaka, Hawea and the river and all the associated activities that the region provides." There is also a local school.

Hawea Flat offered semi-rural lifestyle and small properties ranging in size from 2000sqm to 12,000sqm with entry-level properties starting from just under $1m.

The master bedroom is located in the mezzanine. Photo: Supplied
The master bedroom is located in the mezzanine. Photo: Supplied
Alty said properties in semi-rural areas generally took a bit longer to sell than residential homes in the towns, but in the last six months there had been several sales that were bucking that trend.

While most people living in Hawea Flat were permanent homeowners, nearby Lake Hawea has in recent years become a popular holiday hotspot for bach owners with millions of dollars to spend.

A crib in Lake Hawea made nearly $2.5m profit for the homeowners in the 22 years they owned their modest home.

The 90sqm three-bedroom 1960s crib on the point at Lakeview Terrace sold just before Christmas for $2.665m, making the owners of 22 years an almost $2.5m profit.

Berry Real Estate director Graham Berry told OneRoof last month that the price was indicative of the changing buyers attracted to the lakeside town.

He said people were now specifically seeking out Lake Hawea over Wānaka because it was quieter, smaller and had that "alpine hamlet feel".

Meanwhile there are still several other churches for sale around the country after hitting the market last year.

The former St Joseph’s Church at 17 School Road, in Clive, Hastings, is for sale for $799,000. Napier couple Rob Thorpe and Karen McKinley-Thorpe saw potential in the category 2 heritage-protected building and spent three months converting it from an empty shell into a spacious two-bedroom, one-bathroom home.

In Auckland, the iconic St John’s Church at 229A Ponsonby Road, in Ponsonby, has also resurfaced for sale again after last changing hands for $6,817,500 in November 2021. The church has an asking price of $5.4m and is being marketed as a "blank canvas opportunity".

A pair of converted Devonport churches at 95A Calliope Road is also still for sale and being sold by negotiation. The homes were renovated by first-home buyer advocate Lesley Harris who transformed them from derelict shells to beautiful homes that can also be run as lucrative Airbnbs.

 - OneRoof