Starting a brand-new life in New Zealand? Our guide gives you an insight into how you can buy property in New Zealand as an expat, what rules and regulations you’ll have to follow, and what financing options would be available to you.
June 21, 2021 — 9 min read
Providing easy access to both mountains as well as beaches, New Zealand is one of the most popular destinations for expats, especially those from Australia. Appealing places to settle there include Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, and Christchurch.
If you’re planning on moving to New Zealand, you may be thinking of buying a home there to live in. That’s why we’ve come up with this guide, where we’ve covered key points about how you can buy property in New Zealand as an expat.
To be more specific, you’ll learn how to find the right property, the fees and taxes you’ll need to pay, and the entire purchase process in a nutshell.
The New Zealand government has placed certain restrictions on foreigners buying property in the country.
If you hold a work, visitor, study, or any other visa, or in the rare case where you have no visa at all, you can’t buy a property in New Zealand.
As an expat, the government does allow you to buy a home to live in, provided you:
Have a New Zealand residence class visa
Have been in the country for a minimum of 12 months
Have spent more than 180 days of the last 12 months in New Zealand
Commit to living in the country for more than 180 days in the next year
Get permission from the Overseas Investment Office
Live in the property as your primary home.
These rules and regulations vary, depending on your citizenship and the type of property you want to buy.
For instance, if you’re buying residential land as a citizen of Australia or Singapore, and you’re ordinarily residing in New Zealand (having been there for at least the past 183 days of the 12 months, and being a New Zealand tax resident), you don’t need to apply to the Overseas Investment Office for consent.
Considering the low population of New Zealand (about 4 million, as of 2021), property prices in most places in the country can cost you an arm and a leg. You have the increasing demand for houses and the steadily strong results of the national economy to thank for that.
Ever since 2012, the housing prices have kept rising consistently.
For example, the median house price in Wellington towards the end of 2018 was $615,000 NZD ($443,691 USD). By April 2021, this price went up to $870,000 NZD ($627,661 USD), recording more than 40% growth.
Figures published by the New Zealand government show that house sales are more or less stable, too.
In December 2019, for instance, 8,028 houses were sold in the country, excluding Canterbury and Auckland. Fast-forward to December 2020, and the house sale figures in the same region rose to 10,506.
Before looking up properties to buy in New Zealand, you might want to take a look at your budget. Then, start researching locations accordingly.
Auckland: $829,500 NZD ($598,442 USD)
Canterbury: $544,718 NZD ($392,986 USD)
Northland: $630,650 NZD ($454,982 USD)
Whirinaki, Northland: $127,384 NZD ($91,901 USD)
Wellington: $912,400 NZD ($658,250 USD)
Central Hawke’s Bay: $545,967 NZD ($393,887 USD)
Stillwater, South Island: $123,460 NZD ($89,070 USD)
You’ll find residential options in New Zealand in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. Choosing the right one is all about the kind of lifestyle you want, your needs, and your desired location.
Some types of properties you might want to consider are:
Apartments and units
Suburban houses and flats
Rural properties with land for livestock
You might consider getting an apartment in New Zealand if you wish to live in the city centre.
On the other hand, a sprawling country estate would be more suited to your taste if you’re thinking of setting up a horse-breeding farm there.
You’ll find plenty of national property websites featuring real estate listings from all over New Zealand. Some of the larger ones are:
Enlisting the services of a real estate agent for property purchases in New Zealand is entirely up to you.
As you’re an expat, though, having a property agent on your side can make the purchase process much easier for you.
Make sure your agent holds a licence from the Real Estate Authority (REA) in New Zealand.
Never forget to carry out due diligence checks on the property you’re about to buy in New Zealand. You can have your conveyancer or lawyer do these checks for you, such as:
Check whether the building plans match the actual property, so you can be sure there haven’t been any unauthorized developments of the property site.
Make sure all debts and council rates on the property have been paid off.
Obtain an independent valuation report to understand whether you’ve got a fair price for the property or not.
Examine the condition the property is in, to ensure you don’t need any major works done on the property after buying it. This is where your property inspector steps in.
Go through the seller’s building report (if any), but don’t take any concrete decision based on that. This is because in case the building report turns out to be inaccurate later, you can’t blame your property inspector for a decision you made. Instead, to be on the safer side, you can have your own building report prepared.
Calculate your budget, any mortgage funds you might access, as well as your deposit.
Hire a property inspector and a conveyancer or lawyer to check the condition of the property and help you with the legal paperwork.
Search for a property online, or go to New Zealand on property viewing trips, if you haven’t shifted there already.
Once you’ve identified the property you want to buy, ask for a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) and a title report.
After making an offer to the seller or his/her/their real estate agent, get the property purchase and sale agreement.
Have your lawyer check the agreement thoroughly to see if it’s okay.
Pay a deposit, typically 10% of the purchase price, to the seller.
Ask your property inspector to inspect the property for the final time.
Pay the rest of the purchase price and have the legal ownership of the property transferred to you, so you can settle on the property.
Overseas Investment Office consent fee: $2,040 NZD or $1,471 USD (for land to be used only for residential purposes)
Public registration fees: About $80 NZD ($57.72 USD)
Agent fees: Usually, the seller pays the fees for the real estate agent, ranging between 3% and 4% of the purchase price, along with 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Conveyancer or lawyer fees: The typical fee for conveyancing is $1,500 NZD ($1,082 USD), although it depends on the particular services you’ve commissioned.
You’ll find multiple local, regional, and national banks in New Zealand for expats, with most of them offering home loans and mortgage products.
All mortgage options might not be available to foreign buyers, though, so you can hire a mortgage broker to help you find bank loan or mortgage options suited to your needs.
In order to assess whether you’ll be able to repay a loan or not, many New Zealand banks may require your credit history in your new country. But if you’ve moved there only recently, you might find it difficult to gather the required paperwork for proving your creditworthiness.
If you’re from Australia, though, and you bank with an institution that’s got a presence in New Zealand as well (say, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group or ANZ), you might be able to get a mortgage through your current bank, as they’re likely to have your credit history details.
To push the sale of the property forward, you’ll need to pay a deposit during the buying process. This amount is typically fixed at 10% to 20% of the purchase price, but you should still ask your bank about the down-payment for getting a loan.
In case you need to pay the fees and taxes involved in buying the property, or you want to make a mortgage down payment by sending a huge amount of money to New Zealand from abroad, you might have to make a couple of international payments.
For that, you can always use an online international money transfer provider. And we have a great recommendation for your money transfers….
You can use Xe’s free currency converter tool to check the live exchange rates across different currencies and move straight through the transfer process if you’re ready to send money at that rate. If you’re not ready to send just yet, you can set a rate alert to keep a pulse on your desired currency exchange rates.
Here’s how the money transfer process works:
Enter the amount you’d like to send to New Zealand and the currency you want to exchange to get a quote.
Add your name, New Zealand address, and your New Zealand bank account details. If you plan to send more transfers in the future, you can save yourself as a recipient for quick access later.
Select your payment method and enter your payment details. You can pay by bank transfer, card payment, or direct debit.
Double-check that you’re satisfied with the amount, rate, account details, and payment date, and confirm your transfer. We’ll take it from there.
Sound easy? You can give it a try now.
You can rest assured that your money will be transferred to New Zealand quickly, safely, and at a favourable cost. If you want to transfer money to your old account, you can also send money from New Zealand to more than 130 countries.
So sign up or log in to your Xe account for any foreign transactions related to your property purchase in your new country. That way, you’ll be able to spend more time focusing on moving to New Zealand.
All currency conversions mentioned are based on the NZD/USD mid-market rate from Xe on June 5th, 2021, at 12:00 PM PT.