From ranch-style suburban family homes to high-rise bachelor apartments in the city centre, there are plenty of options for expats when it comes to accommodation in New Zealand. Choices will be determined to a certain degree by location and whether one is renting or buying.
Rent in New Zealand tends to be expensive, though it varies greatly depending on the city and the distance one lives from the city centre.
Types of property in New Zealand
Expats will have a wide variety of choices when it comes to types of housing in New Zealand. The range of accommodation includes free-standing and duplex houses, apartments and home units.
In New Zealand, units are generally used to describe any single dwelling. Home units, on the other hand, usually describe modest homes that are grouped with other similar houses around a driveway. These can be 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 based on traditional English country styles. Houses in New Zealand are often made of wood. As a result of this, and the varied climate, poor insulation is a problem found in many New Zealand homes.
Homes in New Zealand are very rarely rented out furnished. The more bedrooms a property has, the less likely it is that it will be furnished. Typically, it’s only one-bedroom apartments that would be furnished since they tend to be used more for short-term leases.
Finding property in New Zealand
Rental houses or apartments can be found in the classified sections of local newspapers and through various online portals. It is a good idea to become familiar with the main online property resources before making the move to New Zealand. Browsing these websites will give expats an idea of the types of properties available and rental prices in the area they are considering.
Expats shouldn't struggle to find a property to rent in New Zealand. However, those who are pressed for time should consider using the services of an estate agent. These professionals have a knowledge of the property market in their respective areas and are in a good position to help new arrivals find exactly what they are looking for.
There’s a very high demand for good rental properties in New Zealand, so it pays to make contact quickly.
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), 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. Expats should keep that in mind when considering the value of the rent advertised. In the past, rental agents also charge an agent’s fee when a tenant first signed their lease, which usually amounted to about one week’s rent. However, recent legislation has banned agents from charging tenants letting fees.
Expats will also need to pay a deposit or “bond” of up to four weeks' rent in advance. The landlord will deposit this at the Bond Centre at the MBIE, which will issue both the landlord and the tenant with a receipt. A tenant needs this receipt to claim back their deposit once they leave the property. If there is any damage to the property that is determined to be the fault of the tenant, the 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 and cannot be terminated earlier. Fixed-term contracts are typically signed for 12 months.
The tenancy agreement should be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. Both parties should get a copy to keep in a safe place should there be any disagreements later on.
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 prefer to buy rather than to rent property. They usually do so to have a family home rather than as an investment with a view to making a profit. It is a good idea for expats 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 and that homes with a plaster finish will generally not be as secure against the weather as others might be.
The cost of buying a home in a big city, especially in cities like 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 of property in New Zealand can be found at the Ministry of Business’ website, while advice on buying property can be found on the government-run Real Estate Agents Authority's website.
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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