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Buy a Property in New Zealand

Buy a Property in New Zealand

Whether you are looking for a house or an apartment, buying a property in New Zealand is a multi-step process that is also subject to certain regulations. Checking to see if you are eligible to purchase a property is your first step if you are a foreigner buying a property in New Zealand. This country has a diverse property market with various options such as apartments, houses, and rural properties. Property investment in NZ can be attractive to certain foreign entrepreneurs, however, our team will be able to guide you to see if you meet the aforementioned requirements for purchasing. Talking to a property lawyer in Auckland from our team, or one of our agents based in other cities is a recommended step before you start the New Zealand property buying process. If you have other questions than those answered herein, please do not hesitate to reach out to our New Zealand law firm.

 Quick Facts  
How to find properties for sale in New Zealand

– real estate websites,

– real estate companies,

– newspapers,

– online forums,

– property auctions, etc.

Who can buy a property in New Zealand?

– New Zealand citizens and permanent residents (ordinarily residents);

– foreigners with residence permit and consent from the Overseas Investment Office

Foreign nationals not allowed to buy property

– individuals with no visa on their name,

– foreigners with temporary visa

Criteria for ordinarily resident for property purchase

– have a residence class visa,

– reside in New Zealand for at least 12 months before purchasing,

– spend 183 days in New Zealand in the previous year,

– be a New Zealand tax resident

Exceptions for Australian and Singaporean citizens

Australian and Singaporean citizens can buy properties (category residential or lifestyle) with no exception if they are ordinarily residents.

Lifestyle properties – characteristics

Often called lifestyle blocks, located in rural areas, but close to cities or towns.

Residential properties – characteristics

Located in cities and towns, where you can build a house or buy an existing one.

Buying property with a spouse or partner

Only one member of the family needs to meet the rules for buying property in New Zealand, even if the other partner doesn’t observe those rules.

Pre-approval from the Overseas Investment Office

Apply for consent early in the buying process, even before you find a property you want to buy. Pre-approval lasts for up to a year and doesn’t cost extra.

Our lawyers in New Zealand can help you obtain consent.

Time for consent approval 10 – 30 working days
Residency by investment program (YES/NO)

NO, the investor visa program was closed in July 2022.

Deposit requirement

Usually around 20% of the property’s purchase price

Local bank account

Our attorneys in New Zealand recommend opening a local bank account for smoother transactions and other payments.

Fees for buying property in New Zealand

– real estate agent fees (around 3.5-5% of the transaction value) + 15% GST,

– public registration fee (80 NZD),

– fee for Land Information Memorandum (varies on location)

 Assistance You can rely on our law firm in New Zealand for assistance in obtaining consent, drafting documents, negotiations, and registration regarding property purchase in New Zealand.
Property purchase by auction  Takes place in an open auction and the buyer needs to win the auction. 

 Buying property by negotiation

The seller negotiates the asking price with the buyers; both parties can stipulate their conditions. 

Multi-offer buying 

When there is more than one offer at a property purchase by negotiation. 

Buying by tender  The buyer makes a confidential offer (with or without a price indication from the seller). 
 Property purchase by deadline

When there is an advertised end date for the sale period. 

Conditional property offer 

 The buyer needs to have his/her financial situation approved before purchase, or other pre-purchase steps are required.

 Unconditional property offer

When the buyer does not need to meet conditions before buying the property. 

 Property research

It is common to perform a title search and make other checks (property inspection report, council information on the property, neighborhood investigation, etc). 

 Property due diligence

Main issues to check about the property itself include ventilation and heating, leaks, or problems with building materials (i.e., asbestos). 

Conditions that can be included by the buyer   In some cases, the buyer can specify some conditions, such as requesting a toxicology report, or an engineer’s report, among others.

Items permanently included in the property (the deck, for example). 

 Movable items

Personal property, not fixed to the property. It is only included in the sale if specified. 

 Tenanted properties

When the buyer purchases a tenanted property, the seller gives the tenant notice to vacate. 

 Legal advice for tenanted properties

It is advisable to seek legal assistance in these cases. 

 Problems with NZ property purchases  If you have a problem during the purchase process, you can reach out to our team of real estate lawyers.

Who can buy property in New Zealand?

Foreigners can buy most types of property in New Zealand but need to meet certain criteria. The Overseas Investment Act sets the rules and, as a general regulation, overseas individuals cannot usually purchase a house or land in New Zealand.

The following categories of foreign nationals can buy property:

  • New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who are “ordinarily residents”;
  • Those who are not yet “ordinarily residents” but have a residence permit and have received the approval of the Overseas Investment Office;
  • Australian or Singaporean citizens who are ordinarily residents and purchase certain categories of properties or land.

Individuals who cannot buy property in New Zealand are those who do not have any type of issued visa in their name and those who have a temporary visa (such as a visa for study, temporary work, or a visitor visa).

For the purpose of buying a property in New Zealand, a person is an ordinarily resident when:

  • he has a residence class visa;
  • has been living in New Zealand for at least 12 months before the intention to purchase the property;
  • has been physically present in New Zealand for at least 183 days of the preceding 12 months;
  • is a New Zealand tax resident.

If you want to buy property in the South Island, our property lawyers in Christchurch can answer your questions and guide you throughout the process.

What are the essential steps for buying a property in New Zealand?

If you are thinking of buying, the research phase is essential. Here are some of the most important steps you will need to take into account:

  1. Budget: you will need to have a clear understanding of what you can currently afford and what are your loan options and limits;
  2. Location: some of the cities with the highest potential for property investment in NZ are Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch due to their growing economies and populations;
  3. Due diligence: if you are a foreigner buying property in New Zealand, we advise you to engage in a proper research phase, as well as conduct a thorough due diligence verification. This is an essential step, and one that will allow you to check if the desired property has any issues;
  4. Buying: this step will involve your lawyer, as well as the seller’s lawyer, and you will also need to receive approval for your finances (if applicable) before you can conclude the purchase.

If you choose to work with a real estate agent, you should know that this profession is regulated by the Real Estate Authority, and all agents are included in a public register.

When buying a property in New Zealand you will need to focus not only on your available budget, but other related expenses such as the fees for your property purchase consent application (if this is your case) and other expenses. Our accountants in New Zealand can answer any tax-related questions if you are interested.

We invite you to watch a video on this topic:

Once you start looking for your property and need assistance in reviewing the purchase agreement (or for document vetting), our property lawyer in Auckland can assist you.

Regulations regarding the category of properties in New Zealand

You must pay attention to the category of the property you intend to buy. The rules for buying or building a house apply to land that is classified as residential under the Overseas Investment Act. This includes land with a property category of residential (properties in cities and towns) or lifestyle (properties in the countryside, but near cities or towns).

Additionally, if you purchase a residential land property, you need to complete the Residential Land Statement to confirm your eligibility to buy.

Buying a property in New Zealand on sensitive land is more complicated and this requires additional consent. Sensitive land refers to land located on an island (Arapawa Island, Best Island, Great Barrier Island, Rakino Island, Great Mercury Island, etc.), near a beach or river, or adjacent to a conservation area.

Our property lawyers in New Zealand will help you select the right type of property for you.

When to apply for consent

As mentioned above, foreigners can buy a property in New Zealand with the consent of the Overseas Investment Office. In this case, you are only allowed to buy or build a house and it is advised to apply for pre-approval of consent, which can last up to a year and has no additional costs. The entire process of obtaining consent can be very complex, but our property attorneys in New Zealand will ensure a smooth process.

If you find a property you want to buy, you can also apply for consent for that specific property. Obtaining consent for a particular property doesn’t obligate you to purchase it. You will be given pre-approved consent for up to a year, allowing you to consider other properties as well.

If you plan to buy a property in New Zealand and participate in an auction, you must have pre-approval. Buying a property at auction without consent can result in significant penalties, and you may be required to sell the property.

It is possible to sign the purchase and sale agreement before obtaining consent, but the agreement must include a condition stating that it is subject to obtaining consent under the Overseas Investment Act 2005. Failing to do so might result in penalties or the requirement to sell the property.

Consent is usually given in 10 working days for residential-only land. If the application includes land that is both residential and sensitive for other reasons, it may take up to 30 working days to process.

Our law firm in New Zealand includes a team of property lawyers who will handle this procedure for you.

Conditions after consent is granted

After receiving the consent, you can buy a property in New Zealand. However, there are a few conditions that need to be followed:

  • Those named in the consent must live in the property as their primary residence. This means moving into the property within three months of taking ownership or, in the case of building a house, within three months after construction is completed;
  • You must be physically present in New Zealand for at least 183 days every 12 months after consent is granted, to maintain residency status in New Zealand;
  • You must continue to hold a New Zealand residence class visa or maintain your status as an Australian or Singaporean citizen or permanent resident.

Our New Zealand property lawyers will guide you after obtaining the consent.

Statistics about housing in New Zealand

If you are thinking of buying a property in New Zealand, you can find the following statistics of interest:

  • From June 2022 to June 2023 the number of building consents for new apartments in Auckland was approximately 2,700;
  • In the same year and region, there were over 19,000 residential buildings for which consents were granted;
  • In the same year and region, approximately 4,390 new building consents were granted for new houses in Auckland.

Our lawyers in New Zealand provide services to foreign nationals residing in the country who are ready to purchase a house, an apartment, or land. We offer services in the North Island through our real estate lawyers in Auckland, and also in the South Island through our property lawyers in Christchurch.

We also offer additional services for tax-related issues through our accountants in New Zealand.

You can contact our law firm in New Zealand as soon as you decide that you are ready to buy a property.