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  •  Living in New Zealand
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Housing in New Zealand

We have a lot of good things to say about living in New Zealand, but the housing market isn’t one of them.

Buying: The difficulty in buying property in New Zealand starts with finding property. In America they have a nationwide MLS (multiple listing service) list that has almost every property for sale and can be accessed from millions of different real estate web sites. So it’s easy to find out what’s available anywhere. The New Zealand system is much more fractured. You have to find the real estate agents in the area you’re interested in and contact them individually.

Luckily there aren’t many real estate agencies in New Zealand, and you can generally head to any downtown area and easily find their offices where they’ll have print outs of their properties taped to the windows for passerbyers to peruse. We recently drove the length of New Zealand and made a point of studying the window listings in every town we stopped in to find out where the cheapest properties are.

The survey wasn’t encouraging. In America you can find “fixer-uppers” for as little as $30,000 in most cities, and there are rural areas where bare land sells for as low as $1,000 per acre. Obviously, it’s not the best land…in fact it’s the worst, but it is an option. Super low cost property like that is practically non-existent in New Zealand. In our informal, unprofessional survey of New Zealand property we couldn’t find any houses or even bare land for less than $80,000 even in small towns. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, but they’re few and far between.

If you’re looking for property you can generally expect a starting price of $150,000, but the average advertised price seems to be around $400,000. Oddly, this seems to be true regardless of the size of town you’re looking at. Of course, if you’re a millionaire then the sky is the limit; you’ll be able to get a mansion overlooking majestic coastlines. You can even get your own winery. New Zealand is a great place for millionaires.

You can always build your own house, but be aware that there’s very little flat land in New Zealand. So there’s a good chance your cost of building will have to include leveling part of a hill and possibly installing your own rain water collection system and septic tank. And since New Zealand is an island you’ll likely have to buy imported materials, and there’s not a lot of competing businesses to drive the price down.

Building your own home can be an attractive option because many houses in New Zealand were built in postcolonial days when building codes were much slimmer. There are a lot of cold, leaky houses in New Zealand…with gorgeous hard wood floors and elegant Victorian facades. As pretty as they are on the outside, New Zealand really should tear down most of its houses and rebuild them correctly.

I will say this on a positive note. Old New Zealand houses have character. There aren’t many bland, Edward Scissor Hands cookie cutter suburbs, and since a lot of the houses were built in postcolonial days when large families were the norm, houses tend to be really big. Unfortunately, this drives the price up. A lot of the new houses are built in a futuristic, minimalist, cubist Euro style, which is refreshingly stylistic, but again, you pay for style.

Financing your home is going to be difficult. New Zealand isn’t big on credit. I don’t know the average interest rate you’ll have to pay, but I do know you can expect to have to put down a 20% down payment on your property. On the upside, there aren’t 1 million different banks and convoluted finance institutions offering a dizzying array of options for financing your house. This means the process of financing will be a little more straight forward, but it also means there’s not as much competition driving the price down either.

One thing that is confusing and dizzying about buying property in New Zealand is that half the properties are sold at auction or “by negotiation.” So it’s extremely difficult to figure out the true cost of property in any given area. I guess you just have to talk to a real estate agent to navigate the invisible maze of auction costs.

Renting: Since buying real estate in New Zealand is so expensive most people rent, which is unreasonably complicated and expensive as well. The best place to find rental properties is on TradeMe.co.nz. At least that’s simple. But expect to have to fill out an application to be considered to be allowed to rent a property. The application often asks for references, proof of employment and a credit check. This complicates things if you’re a newly arrived immigrant with no local references, but your property manager is likely to understand the situation you’re in and may actually contact your overseas reference. So be sure to bring that contact information with you when you immigrate.

If you’re living in Auckland then you can expect to pay a minimum of $100 per week, and most properties rent by the week, not by the month. It’s hit or miss whether or not your rent covers utilities, and you can expect to share the house with several other people. We currently share a house with two other people. Last year we shared a house with five other people.  If you want your own home you can expect to pay $300-$500 per week.



2 Responses

  1. Hey,
    Thanks for this detailed examination of the housing situation in New Zealand. It’s definitely better to be informed of potential difficulties before actually arriving in a new country.

    On that note, I know of a free website that can help people immigrating to NZ find share accommodation. It’s an internationally friendly site that has a good number of kiwi house ads, and can be accessed in 7 languages.

    If there are any readers making the move to NZ and wanting to share house, then sharemyflat.com can help you find a great flatshare.

    All the best,

  2. This is a great post, so detailed! I’ve started a very amateur blog about property and economics in NZ. Feedback would be great!


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