From ranch-style suburban family homes to high-rise bachelor apartments in the city centre, there are plenty of accommodation options for expats in New Zealand. The options available will be determined, to a certain degree, by location and whether an expat wishes to rent or buy.
Rent in New Zealand tends to be rather expensive, though it varies greatly depending on the city and how far one lives from the city centre.
Types of property in New Zealand
Accommodation ranges from free-standing and duplex houses to apartments and home units. Units are generally used to describe any single dwelling in New Zealand. Home units, on the other hand, typically describe modest homes that are grouped with other similar houses around a driveway. These are either attached, detached or semi-detached, and sometimes share a communal garden.
There is also a wide range of architectural styles available, with everything from ultra-modern apartments to older houses that are based on traditional English country styles. Houses in New Zealand are often made of wood and, as a result of this and the varied climate, poor insulation is a problem found in many New Zealand homes.
House rentals in New Zealand are rarely furnished. The more bedrooms a property has, the less likely that it will be furnished. Expats will find that it’s typically only one-bedroom apartments that come furnished, as they tend to be used more often for short-term leases.
Finding property in New Zealand
House and apartment rentals can be found in the classifieds section of local newspapers and through various online portals. It is a good idea to become familiar with the main property websites before making the move to New Zealand, as browsing these websites will give expats an idea of the types of properties available, as well as rental prices in the area they are considering.
Expats shouldn't struggle to find a property to rent in New Zealand. That said, those who are pressed for time should consider using the services of a real-estate agent. As these professionals have a knowledge of the property market in their respective areas, they are in a good position to help new arrivals find exactly what they're looking for.
The demand for good rental properties in New Zealand is high, so it's also important to make contact early.
Renting accommodation in New Zealand
Whether on a long or short-term basis, renting in New Zealand is a fairly straightforward process. Housing legislation and official processes are centrally administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). This is a government agency that provides standard contracts outlining the responsibilities of both tenants and landlords in New Zealand. The agency also holds rental deposits, oversees landlord and tenant disputes, and provides information such as the average housing prices in different areas on its website.
Costs and fees
Rent in New Zealand is usually calculated weekly, and expats should therefore keep this in mind when considering the value of the rent advertised. In the past, real-estate agents used to charge a letting fee when a tenant first signed a lease, which usually amounted to one week’s rent. Recent legislation has, however, banned agents from charging tenants any fees.
Expats will also need to pay a deposit, or 'bond', of up to four weeks' rent in advance. The landlord will then deposit this at the Bond Centre of the MBIE, and the landlord and tenant will both be issued a receipt. A tenant needs this receipt to claim back their deposit once their lease ends and they leave the property. If there is any damage to the property that is determined to be the fault of the tenant, the repair costs will be deducted from the deposit before it is returned.
The official document signed when renting a property in New Zealand is the Residential Tenancy Agreement. Expats will either sign for a periodic tenancy which lasts until either the landlord or the tenant gives notice, or for a fixed-term tenancy which lasts for a set amount of time. Fixed-term contracts are typically signed for 12 months.
The tenancy agreement must be signed by both the landlord and the tenant, and both parties should receive a copy to be produced should there be any disagreements down the line.
The word 'outgoings' is often used when talking about real-estate in New Zealand, and it refers to all of the costs incurred by the landlord, such as rates and taxes. Tenants in New Zealand are usually responsible for any outgoings they use, including utilities such as water and electricity.
Buying property in New Zealand
Locals in New Zealand prefer to buy rather than to rent property but, for expats, it may be a good idea to rent at first, while they explore the property market. Once an expat decides that they are ready to buy property in New Zealand, the process will usually only take a few weeks to complete.
Expats moving from the northern hemisphere should keep in mind that north-facing properties in New Zealand are warmer than south-facing ones. Homes with a plaster finish will also generally not be as secure against the weather as others may be.
The cost of buying a home in a big city, especially in cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is significantly higher than it is elsewhere in the country. Property owners in New Zealand are also charged property rates by the local council. These can be hefty, depending on the area, and are worth looking into before committing to a property.
A list of the current market rates for property in New Zealand can be found on the Ministry of Business’s website, while advice on buying property can be found on the government-run Real Estate Authority website.
"The housing crisis is pretty bad. You will pay a lot for a potentially very average room in an average house, but often you can strike it lucky! The options for housing could include a long-term room at a hostel, or you could go flatting. Flatting is when a group of people live in an apartment or a house together and share communal areas but pay individual rent for their room." Read more about Savannah, a South African expat, and her experience living in New Zealand.
Are you an expat living in New Zealand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to New Zealand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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