RMBs renovate for Hospice Southland


Stagnant real estate listing garners nearly $700,000 for charity

The idea to renovate one of the older houses that had been lingering on their listings for too long and on-sell it for charity was devised by Sean Bellew and Tom Dowling of Invercargill’s Southern Wide Real Estate City-Lifestyle originally to lift the company’s public profile — but it grew into something much bigger.


The 100-year-old weatherboard bungalow in Russel Street was ideal — a lovely character home in a desirable area of town.


The men decided Hospice Southland would be an ideal charity to benefit and reckoned on making about $30,000 if there was enough community support for the quick once-over — paint, paper and a general clean-up.


With an interest-free loan from the Southland Building Society, they bought the house for $236,000 and set out on what they planned as an eight-week project — “a total make-over from the front gate to the back”.


The pair approached the Southland Times and then spread out to talk to businesses and trade groups for support. RMB and Jennian Homes Southland owner Gary Popham decided this would be a good project to support, and volunteered himself and his wife Vicki for, what they thought, would be a “little renovation”.


The Pophams, along with the local RMB Association, also encouraged other RMBs in the area to get involved, and Ray Harper, an 80-year-old ex-RMB, was approached to take on the role of on-site construction manager.


A board was formed consisting of Sean and Tom (Southern Wide Real Estate), Ray Harper, Gary and Vicki Popham (Jennian Homes Southland), Bridget Squires (McCulloch Architects), Carol Wood (Carol Wood Design) and Fred Tullett and Steve Mason from the Southland Times. They met once a week to guide the project to completion.


Reality hit regarding what they’d actually taken on when, on day two, they discovered a good portion of the house was basically rotten. Tom had figured there might be a bit of a budget overrun but, given they were relying on local business to support them in kind to complete the project, there was no actual budget, so this posed a bit of a problem! An appeal to the local community generated enough funds for a contingency and the job got under way.


Bridget drew up plans and came up with a design that included a new kitchen, a bathroom do-up, creating an ensuite between two bedrooms and demolishing a wall to create one large open plan living area.


The remainder of the house has been painted top to toe, all the electrical wiring and plumbing has been replaced, with new heating, carpet, drapes, landscaping and a new street-front garage included.


While retaining the character and special features from its beginning about 100 years ago, all this work makes it a comfortable home fit for the rigours of family life in the new century.


More than 190 businesses, trade companies and volunteers were involved in the project. Of the 14 building firms involved, 11 were RMBs putting in huge hours to complete the job.


In the end, the rebuild took 12 weeks, mostly due to hold-ups along the way that could not have been foreseen at the outset.


A job like this doesn’t come together without some serious project management. The “little renovation” became a 40 hour-a-week mission for the Pophams. Their skills in project and relationship management proved extremely valuable with the co-ordination and organisation of all the materials and sub-trades over this 12-week period.


“It was a real balancing act and an exercise in diplomacy to ensure everyone turned up at the right time to do their bit, especially as everyone was working for free,” Vicki says.


The best part is that the house was sold for $1,026,000 in a deal that surprised even the two instigators, making almost $700,000 for Hospice Southland.


The buyer has no intention of living in the property, seeing it more as a donation to hospice while recognising the real value of the huge community input. So the two real estate men hope they will get to sell the property again soon to a buyer who will enjoy the benefits of all that effort.


Once again Registered Master Builders showed they are more than just builders. Their community spirit and commitment, together with the dedication of Southland businesses, culminated in the completion of a fantastic community initiative.


What they said:


The Registered Master Builders Association as a guild is, without question, top quality. Not only was the work first class, but the manner in which they went about their trade was inspirational. Ray Harper told me that “all chippies are born in heaven” and now, I’m afraid, I have to agree.


To not only those building companies but all the young fellas employed in your guild, a huge thank you. Without your collective this project would not have succeeded.


Sean Bellew

Director, Southern Wide Real Estate City-Lifestyle


“It was good to do something for the community. With the industry the way it is these days, as builders we don’t get much time to assist with worthy causes so this was an opportunity to do something for the community. The project was well organised and we were happy to be involved.”


Hamish Broomfield Builder Ltd

Cunningham Building & Construction Ltd had no hesitation in donating our services of skilled tradespeople to help out in the renovation of “Hospice House”. The vision to undertake this project by Sean and Tom was a fantastic idea, and the backing from the community to assist such a worthy cause as the Hospice was outstanding. All of us at Cunningham Building & Construction Ltd are very proud to be involved.

Kelvin O’Connell 

Managing Director

Cunningham Building & Construction Ltd


Amalgamated Builders Ltd were always going to be involved with this project once we heard about the concept. There are very few people in our community whose lives have not been touched by a terminal illness, and the work and support the Hospice gives at this time in their lives makes it a most worthy recipient of our support.


We were delighted to be able to offer our company resources and contribute to what ended up being an amazing local project that brought the wider community together whilst benefiting our own community.


Everyone who donated their support to this project can be justifiably proud of their efforts.


We congratulate Sean Bellew and Tom Dowling on having the foresight to initiate a project like this, and the management team that was put in place for the job they did which culminated in such an amazing outcome.


Bruce Middleton

Amalgamated Builders Ltd


• Registered Master Builders involved with the project:

Amalgamated Builders Ltd

Cunningham Building & Construction Ltd

Jennian Homes Southland Ltd

Barry Helm Building Contractor

Barry Stewart Builders Ltd

BJ Carter Builder

Calder Stewart Industries Ltd

D G Archer Construction Ltd

Hamish Broomfield Builder Ltd

Sherlock Homes Ltd

Donaldson Construction Services Ltd

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