For many homeowners and renters anticipating a change of scenery in 2020, the global COVID-19 outbreak quickly put a stop to their international moving plans. However, the New Zealand Government’s quick response and containment strategy have brought a lot of attention to this island nation. As a result, it’s considered one of the most eligible and in-demand places to buy property right now.
Would-be expats with an eye on New Zealand will need to prepare for the current seller’s market, as well as the logistics of making an international move. If you’re interested in buying or renting property in NZ as an expat, this guide should help you become familiar with New Zealand’s regions, housing options and how you can settle down in this South Pacific paradise.
Popular areas to live in New Zealand
Wherever you choose to live across NZ’s North and South Islands, you can be sure you’ll enjoy a high quality of life with the great outdoors as your backdrop. Easy access to beaches, mountains and other natural wonders are some of the top reasons why NZ is an ideal place to call home.
New Zealand’s diverse and family-friendly culture, low population density and active job market are a few other reasons it’s where you’ll find some of the most liveable cities in the world. From the northern tip to the southern coast, here’s a quick look at what makes a handful of these cities so appealing to expats:
- Auckland: As New Zealand’s most populous city, more than one-third of the Kiwi population calls Auckland home. Expect a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere and all the perks of city life.
- Wellington: A dynamic university town, local business hub and capital city all in one. Expats of all ages appreciate how welcoming the locals are and how easy it is to get around.
- Napier: This charming seaside town features striking art deco architecture and a Mediterranean feel due to its sunny climate and vineyards. You’ll find successful tourism and farming industries as well as quiet residential spots.
- Taupō: Expats interested in buying or renting property in NZ, and enjoy a small resort town lifestyle will love Taupō. Right in the centre of the North Island, it sits along Lake Taupo and is a mecca for water lovers.
- Christchurch: With a reputation as NZ’s Garden City, Christchurch has much to offer to the outdoorsy expat. It’s the largest city on the South Island but still offers a comfortable residential feel and a thriving tech industry.
- Dunedin: Known as the Scotland of the South, Dunedin is dotted with Victorian architecture and contemporary cultural spots for locals and tourists to enjoy. Here you’ll find NZ’s main medical school and the country’s only castle.
- Nelson: Nelson is comfortably nestled between the Tasman Bay and the Marlborough region’s world-renowned wineries. Here, residents embrace mountain biking and the bustling city centre.
- Queenstown: Life is good in Queenstown thanks to the city’s striking beauty and limitless offerings of activities and events. As New Zealand’s Adventure Capital, it’s a highly popular spot for expats so you’ll feel right at home.
Of course, these are just a few of the many unique and exciting locations to consider. Exploring a variety of factors such as career options, school considerations, lifestyle preferences, and hobbies will help you pinpoint the right place for your upcoming move.
Types of properties to consider
When looking to buy or rent a property in NZ, you’ll find that there are residential options in quite literally all shapes and sizes, from compact urban dwellings to sprawling country estates with land for livestock. In general, housing types include:
- Flats and townhouses
- Suburban single-family houses
- Lifestyle blocks (properties with an average of four hectares)
- Rural properties (typically with more land than lifestyle blocks).
Choosing the right type of property based on your needs comes down to your desired lifestyle and location. If you’re eager to live in the city centre, you might consider buying a flat or renting an apartment. If you’re hoping to raise a small flock of sheep, a lifestyle block would be more to your taste.
Renting is a great way to get started as an expat in NZ, but keep in mind that rental rates are calculated weekly rather than monthly. The cost will depend on whether you’re aiming for a rural or urban location, a furnished or unfurnished unit, or a small apartment versus a large single-family house. Depending on your wish list, you might pay anywhere from about NZ$400 to $2,500 per week to rent.
Average property prices in NZ
With New Zealand property availability trailing behind current demand, prices are on the rise. The national asking price in July 2020 was NZ$697,100 — a 9% increase compared to July 2019. Three regions in particular experienced record-high average asking prices:
- Northland: $630,650
- Hawke’s Bay: $605,900
- Manawatū-Whanganui: $453,600.
Meanwhile, other popular areas experienced higher averages this July compared to last year:
- Auckland Region: $943,950
- Auckland City: $1,088,250
- Wellington: $688,200
- Canterbury: $513,050.
While demand was up 20% year over year, supply was reportedly down 4% in the summer. Pent-up demand from the lockdown days earlier in 2020 resulted in sales volumes being driven up by 24.6% compared to the previous year.
Tips for navigating the seller’s market
Given the increased demand and limited supply, house hunters hoping to secure property in NZ will need to act more quickly and consider making offers above asking price. Start browsing properties below your budget so there is room to bump up your offer. Consider submitting an offer with fewer contingencies as well, to help improve the likelihood of acceptance.
Partnering with an experienced real estate agent will undoubtedly help, whether you’re interested in buying or renting property in NZ from outside the country. Find someone you trust to visit properties on your behalf, send you photos and video tours and answer all of your questions. In general, revisiting your needs and wants to arrive at more flexible search criteria could open up additional housing possibilities.