A fireside chat with Andrew and Karen…
After many years living in Australia, Andrew returned home to Christchurch in 1996. Initially, he worked in the mortgage industry. Not surprisingly, a move into investment property was a natural development, and he soon built his first three houses. Realising he enjoyed working on home builds and structuring property investments for his clients, he set up Strategic Homes and would go on to build more than 750 homes over the next 17 years.
Andrew and Karen had been friends for many years, and they shared an interest in home building. Karen had spent 25 years in the wine industry and was ready for a change. While Andrew’s strength was in finance and planning, he needed a partner who could work with clients on the design elements. With a love of architecture and interior design, and a passion for working with people, it was only a matter of time before Karen came on board and she joined Strategic Homes in 2014 (in 2018, the company would be renamed Touchstone Homes).
A more personal service
As a team of just two, Andrew and Karen have always been determined to provide a much more personal service than that offered by other home building companies. One where the relationship between customer and home builder is much closer and the ‘product’ or home that results is far more focused in the customer’s individual needs and desires.
“We both really enjoy the home building industry, especially establishing a relationship with our clients and seeing their excitement and happiness when they take possession of their new home,” says Andrew.
A building experience with no surprises
“We know some people have had a negative experience when building a new home, caused by broken promises and under delivering on expectations, along with undisclosed costs. This results in terrible stress for people.
We want to change this and give the industry a better reputation, with clear communication and leading clients every step of the way. We deliver a quality product at the expected level of finish, with no surprises on cost for the client. That’s our goal”.
A look at the Christchurch market
During their time building homes, Karen and Andrew have seen the market change a lot, especially following the Christchurch re-build.
“There has been a huge desire for new home builds to the post-quake building code,” explains Andrew. "People want homes with no hidden damage. There has also been a change in demographics, with many empty-nesters looking to downsize and enjoy life. Sections within Christchurch have also become a lot smaller, as the Council looks to increase housing density. This means Lincoln, Rolleston and North Canterbury towns such as Rangiora and Woodend have become very popular with families. Rolleston is especially notable, with a huge rise in population, plenty of employment opportunities and brand-new schools”.
In their spare time…
Of living in Christchurch, Karen says, “The lifestyle here is awesome. Space and recreation is everywhere… skiing… beaches… and access to the rest of the South Island. It’s such an easy place to live.”
When it comes to leisure, skiing is a big part of their winter life. Andrew has been helping run the Children’s Ski Race programme at Mt Hutt (Team Hutt) for 15 years. Summers are spent camping at Kaiteriteri and boating up Tasman Bay.
They travel to Sydney often to visit family (though they normally plan this around a concert they want to see).
When it comes to children, they are certainly busy. Andrew has three step-children and two of his own. Karen has two children. And they have two Birman cats between them.
What clients say…
Client feedback about the Touchstone experience is overwhelmingly positive. It’s perhaps best summed up by Dianne Ladd, who has built two homes with Andrew and Karen.
“Building a new home is always stressful, but Andrew and Karen actually make it enjoyable. Andrew has a wealth of knowledge and very ethical. Karen is a very stylish woman… she’s great with the interior and exterior design, and nothing is too much trouble. They’re the best to deal with – I would absolutely recommend them to everybody and anybody.”
- Dianne Ladd