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First Light house gets hammered (under auction)

The First Light house may be firmly en-route to the US, but the fate of the house upon its return from the US had always been a little unclear. Until now. In their latest blog the First Light team explains what happened when the house went up for auction recently in Wellington. And when you’ve put so much energy and love into a project, saying goodbye is one tough thing to do.  

Victoria University knew that it needed to recoup costs by selling the house but the overhanging question was always “when is best to sell?” For a long time the plan was to sell the house after its return from the US but the overwhelming public response to the house during its time on Frank Kitts Park convinced the University that there was no reason to wait.

The team had been working with Marty Scott from Harcourts for some time on the sale of the house and on 30 June the house went under the hammer at Harcourts auction house in Wellington. It was an exciting night for the team as they watched a number of motivated bidders square off for the chance to own the competition house.

On the night of the sale First Light team member Ben Jagersma told those at the auction that the sale was a bitter sweet occasion for the team because it would be hard to say goodbye to the house. After all, the team had spent so much time and passion thinking up, designing and and helping to build the house. That said, Ben also acknowledged the team would be very happy to see someone living in and enjoying the house.

While the house was designed for the Solar Decathlon competition, the team wanted to make sure the requirements of the competition were secondary in designing the house. The house was designed around the Kiwi lifestyle and most importantly the team wanted to make sure the house was comfortable and liveable.

The bidding started slowly at $150,000. There was a slightly tense moment when the bidding seemed to stall at around $180,000. But it quickly picked up with a phone bidder and then a minimum of three serious bidders in the room fighting it out. The winning bid of $326,000 came from Susan Wauchop, a Wellington woman and graduate of Victoria University, who plans to put the house on a plot of land in the Canterbury plains.

Susan has been following the team and the house for some time and even had a picture of the house as the screen saver on her computer for the last few months. She was clearly very excited to have won the auction and at the thought of starting a life in the house after its return from the US. 

While some people seemed surprised at what the house was sold for—thinking the costs of building the house were higher—the project has never been about making a profit.  The University were happy to see it sold and to have been able to recoup some of the costs put into creating the unique house. Harcourts also waived the commission meaning all of the profits from the sale will go back into the project and into getting the house and the team to the US and back.

Susan has bought herself a one of a kind house which will come to her in containers and flat racks and will need to be assembled along with the building of permanent foundations.  While the house was designed to be transportable the team always envisioned that the house would be able to settle down and retire from its busy life as a competition house once reaching its final home.

But while the houses longer-term future now though there is no rest for the house or the team. The house is currently located half way across the Pacific Ocean and the team is getting ready to head over to Washington for the competition in September.

The First Light house's stay at Wellington's Frank Kitts Park may be over, but you can see all the logistics that went into assembling it—and will likely be repeated once it arrives in the US—in the videos blow.