The housing market in Christchurch was severely affected by the 2011 earthquakes, during which many homes were destroyed and about 10,000 more had to be demolished. This resulted in a high demand and a low supply of accommodation in the city. That said, the housing market has since stabilised and thousands of new homes have been built.
Although accommodation in Christchurch is cheaper than in other big cities in New Zealand, prices have risen due to high demand and the realisation of future potential once the city has been completely rebuilt. This has also resulted in houses selling quickly once on the market, which is why expats should act swiftly once they’ve found a property they like.
Another impact on the housing market came after the city centre was effectively closed down following the earthquakes. As a result, many workplaces have relocated to the outer suburbs, as well as into the industrial area around the airport. This has increased both the prices and the number of people living in these areas.
The choice between renting and buying in Christchurch is mainly determined by availability and the long-term plans of expats.
Types of accommodation in Christchurch
Within the city, housing is mainly offered in the form of apartment blocks or townhouses, while the suburbs offer mid-sized homes with gardens of varying sizes. The outer reaches of Christchurch, such as Rolleston, Prebbleton and Lincoln, offer more space, and are therefore popular choices for expats wanting larger homes. Expats looking for a place with a view should explore Sumner which offers a variety of housing options, many of which overlook the sea. Alternatively, villas in Port Hills offer views of Christchurch's cityscape.
The quality of accommodation varies with the age and location of the property, as well as the level of damage sustained from the 2011 earthquakes. Modern apartment blocks offer compact one or two-bedroom properties, usually with private parking (either behind a security gate or in a designated parking zone) and a communal garden area. Modern townhouses provide a larger living space, usually within a group of similar properties, whereas older ones tend to be detached. It is possible to have a garden area within the city limits but, the further from the city centre, the higher the chance of getting a garden and also the bigger the outside areas become.
Owing to design regulations following the earthquakes, new properties are built to a more scrupulous standard than older buildings, many of which have been altered to meet the new codes. Some properties that have been deemed safe to live in may still have superficial damage such as minor cracks, or internal fittings that aren’t completely level. These should be corrected in time and, as a tenant, it may be necessary to vacate the property during repairs. It is best to confirm the likelihood of this happening before signing a lease.
Finding accommodation in Christchurch
There are a number of websites that list properties available for rent or sale, and that provide links to established estate agents.
Estate agency offices can be found throughout Christchurch and expats shouldn't struggle to find an agent with offerings in their desired area. Several of these agencies also produce their own property newsletters which can be picked up for free from their offices.
Renting accommodation in Christchurch
Renting in Christchurch is a fairly straightforward process once a property has been selected.
Making an application
Expats can apply for accommodation by contacting real-estate agents or landlords, or by responding to advertisements. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will handle housing legislation and all official processes involved in renting a property. Once the relevant checks have been done and references verified, a lease can be signed.
Costs and fees
Rent in Christchurch, as in the rest of New Zealand, is usually paid weekly. Although estate agents have traditionally charged a fee for their services, recent legislation prohibits agents from charging tenants letting fees.
Unfurnished properties are more common than furnished properties in Christchurch, and tenants are therefore required to supply their own furniture and anything else they may need. Expats should make room in their budget for furnishing their property, or for shipping their belongings over to New Zealand.
When securing a lease, landlords will usually require a deposit equivalent to one month's rent, as well as the first two weeks of rent in advance.
When using an estate agency, leases tend to be for a fixed term of 12 months, and allow for changes to rental agreements when renewing a contract. If dealing directly with the landlord, lease terms can be more variable and may even be negotiable.
Utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, are not typically included in the renting of a property but will come at an extra cost. Expats should therefore take this into consideration when looking for accommodation.
Buying property in Christchurch
Compared to the likes of Auckland on the North Island, and despite the rising prices, properties are relatively cheap in Christchurch. There are constantly new properties on the market but, due to high demand, these are snatched up quickly, so it’s important to act fast. The housing market has become rather volatile as people are looking to buy properties, resulting in many people overlooking potential problems with a property in the rush to secure it.
Therefore, a property's land classification should be considered before buying it. Land in Christchurch is assigned one of three Technical Categories (TC). These are TC1 (grey), TC2 (yellow) and TC3 (blue). These categories describe the expected performance of the land in the event of another earthquake. Land classified as TC1 is least likely to sustain damage in an earthquake, while land classified as TC3 is most likely to sustain damage and TC2 land holds moderate risks.
►Learn more about living in the city by reading Lifestyle in Christchurch
►For a broader view of the property market, read Accommodation in New Zealand
"New Zealand homes are notorious for poor insulation and single-glazed windows. If you’re looking to avoid hypothermia in the winter, rent a newer home or try to find something that’s been renovated. TradeMe is a great place to look for renting or buying." Find out more about Eve, an American expat, and her experience of moving to Christchurch here.
Are you an expat living in Christchurch?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Christchurch. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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