Auckland house relocating specialists, Easy Moves, is celebrating its 20th year of operation, built around a reputation for doing some big and unusual moves and providing a high level of customer service. Richard Silcock caught up with Troy and Connor Etting between house moves.
It certainly wasn’t easy when Troy and Vanessa Etting decided to go out on their own and begin a house relocation business back in 2003.
“It was pretty tough for the first couple of years until we became better known and had built areputation for making it easy for our customers to relocate houses,” says Troy.
“I’d been working for Haines House Movers, Daverns and Craig Walker for a number of years but decided I wanted to start my own business as I saw an opportunity to set-up a house relocating business in West Auckland.
“I started off working from home with just an old ute and doing re-piling work. I then got a second hand Mazda Titan truck and an old six-wheeler Mitsi trailer before I could afford to buy a proper house moving trailer.
“I heard there was a TRT three axle trailer for sale at Smiths Cranes in Christchurch which was a bit of a kit, so I managed to buy that and hired a tractor unit until I could afford to buy a second hand unit – a 1993 Western Star ex-forestry truck that I set-up for house moving with a shortened chassis and a push-pull ram. It is still going strong. We call her ‘Big Easy’ which is ironic, as it has been our go-to-truck for some larger moves ever since.
“We initially leased a yard in Henderson for eight years and in 2015 I bought our own 13,000 square metre yard in Glen Eden.
“For most of our work these days we run two MTE three axle trailers and a command steer trailer with a clip-on fourth axle, which we pair up with two, 2022 Mack Superliners. We also have a seven year old third Mack Superliner, which I purchased from the previous owner who used it for long haul runs between Auckland Wellington. I installed a king bar and a push pull ram and we use that for house moving as well when needed.
These days the day-to-day operations are the responsibility of Troy and Vanessa’s son, Connor, who, as operations manager, organises and oversees most of the relocations.
Troy has taken on the mantle of managing director, Vanessa runs the office and Stephen Withers looks after house sales. They run their own piloting service and retain a mechanic who looks after maintenance from their onsite workshop facility at the Glen Eden yard. Major overhauls are sent to Truckstop in Albany.
“We’ve got a staff of 10 full time employees and we operate mostly around greater Auckland, Northland, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, although we often do removals from, or to the lower North Island, with the occasional trip down to the South Island,” says Connor.
Over the last couple of years, Easy Moves has relocated around 300 houses – some large and some small. Connor says the moves that stand out for him are the big or tricky ones.
“Dad built a reputation for doing big and unusual moves that other smaller operators did not want to take on. I can recall a time when we moved a large historic villa in Ponsonby to allow for the construction of two subterranean basement levels.
“It required lifting the house up four metres and moving it and the truck and trailer unit up a ramp to the back of the site to allow for an excavator to dig the necessary hole in the ground and the construction of the basement concrete block walls, and then repositioning the house back over the top.
“Another memorable event was when we were filmed for the TV show hosted by Clarke Gayford about relocating houses last year. That was a bit different from our usual operations as it required working closely with the director and film crew to get the pictures they wanted.
“I’ve been involved in the house relocation business since I was at school and would often help dad in the weekends. Apart from playing rugby for a year I have been a part of the Easy Moves team since and now look after the organisational side of the business.
“While the long hours, in all weathers and usually at night can be a bit anti-social and hard on family life, I do enjoy the work as there are always challenges and you could say that no one house move is the same as the last.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the company and the team at Easy Moves has built a reputation for making the relocation of a house as easy as possible by looking after all the details and providing a professional service for the client.
As a member of the New Zealand Heavy Haulage Association, Connor says it is good to have an organisation like this working for the good of the industry and maintaining a presence with NZTA, local councils and central government.
“Like new roads that don’t adhere to basic guidelines, which when it comes to roundabouts, central barriers and signage continue to be the main issue for most in the industry, and it takes a group like the Association to monitor the design of new roads and liaise with the appropriate authorities on behalf of members. I think they do a pretty good job, by and large, but sometimes getting change can be a slow process.
“While Auckland Transport have set up a website notifying road closures and road works, this is unfortunately not always kept up to date and it can be very frustrating when transporting a load to come across road works blocking the way, especially at night when most of our work is done.
“The other night for instance, we came across eight road work sites, of which only two had been notified on the website. It is things like this that can hold us up for hours, especially if the roading contractor is not prepared to clear a passage and let us through.
“Getting consents also remains an issue, and while many councils put the blame on Covid, the last 12-18 months has not been much different. In some cases it is taking up to 12 months to get consent through for even basic foundation work.
“We have a client in Taranaki who has been waiting for a year to obtain consent to move several houses from our yard to properties in Stratford. While we have been paid for the houses, it means we have to hold the houses on our yard, blocking the way for new stock. We’ve got 20 houses on the yard at present, so we can’t accommodate any more until these are moved on or we sell others.”
The company takes community relations seriously and in maintaining a good public profile sponsor a number of local community activities. They are a sponsor of the Massey Rugby Club in West Auckland and regularly support local schools in the district with fundraising and other events.
“We believe reputation can be built not only through doing a professional job, but by what we do outside of the business,” says Connor. “It comes from the little things you do that people don’t expect you to do. We place this expectation on ourselves and go that extra mile.”
When not relocating houses, Conner can be found big game fishing out on the Hauraki Gulf, or helping to prepare ‘Team Easy’s’ two trucks for truck racing events at Manfield near Feilding, or in Christchurch, Timaru and Invercargill.