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Living in New Zealand

If you are considering living in New Zealand, even as a part-time resident, it can be pretty expensive to buy a home, but relatively reasonable to rent. That's one lesson you can take away from the following article. You'll also learn about the various locales and the process of renting or buying.

Buying and Renting in New Zealand

by Tanya Whitehead - 2012

New Zealand, locally known as Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud) and Gods Country. One of the most beautiful countries in the world, with spectacular scenery ranging from black and golden beaches, forests, vineyards, orchards, accessible glaciers, volcanoes, snow, lakes and farmland. With a population of only 4 million, made up of a lot of immigrants, Pakeha (original white settlers) and the native Maori, it is a land that is easy to explore and a wonderful place to buy a house. If you get a job offer, you can apply for a work permit which usually takes 2-3 weeks if all criteria have been met.


Foreigners can buy or rent a house in New Zealand and the process is fairly simple, well regulated, and it can take between 3-4 weeks for it all to be processed. There are certain restrictions if the property is classified as being sensitive land. Farms, certain lifestyle sections, holiday homes and homes near the water, fall under “sensitive” land. Unless you are a resident or citizen, you would have to apply for an OIA (Overseas Investment Act) consent to buy any property that falls under this group. For more information on what you need consent for, or cannot buy, go to this link: Overseas Investment Act.

Even though you have bought a property, this does not entitle you to residency and you would still have to fall under the visiting visa laws. You will have to apply for a visa, unless you are from a visa-waiver country. See a list here: Visa Waiver Countries. A visa allows you to stay for 9 months in an 18 month period.

Furnishings and Appliances

All houses that are either rented or bought are furnished with curtains, a stove and oven, and very often a dishwasher. Most houses have either a heat pump or a wood fireplace. If you are renting, you will often find a house that is either fully furnished or partially furnished.

For some unknown reason, most NZ houses don’t have built in cupboards. Get used to hanging your clothes on a stand alone rail and your clothes folded into chest of drawers. The newer houses do have built in cupboards. Most homes only have 1 bathroom. The newer ones, two.

Types of Property and Houses

Houses are free standing and depending on the area, come with a single garage, double garage, or off street parking. A holiday home is one that is rented out fully furnished from 2 nights to a couple of months. You can usually negotiate the price if you are taking it for longer than 2 weeks. We negotiated down from $790 a week to $350 a week for our rental as we wanted to stay for between 6-9 months, over winter.

Lifestyle Block: This is a large piece of land, from 2 acres onwards, with a house, often a shed. It usually has vegetable gardens, an orchard, farm animals, but is not farmed for money.

Due to earthquakes (not usually felt, apart from Christchurch) houses are generally built from wood. You still get the older ones that are from bricks.

When searching for a house, make sure that it is not damp, has double glazed windows, and the ground surrounding it is not prone to getting waterlogged.


As in most countries, the area you live in usually influences the price of the houses. If you are renting, your rent will have to be paid weekly. In the larger cities it is more expensive, and Auckland and Wellington are much more expensive than Nelson or Christchurch. An average 3 bedroom home with garage and garden ranges from NZ$300-NZ500 a week.

Depending on where you live and the size of the house or flat, you can buy a house from NZ$200,000 to the millions. However, a really decent 3 bedroom house with garage, lovely garden, decks, in a good area will be in the price range of NZ$350,000. That same price will also net you a 5 acre piece of bare land on which to build your dream house. And if you jump to NZ$600,000 you are buying yourself a very classy house or lifestyle block with all the trimmings.

Where to Live

New Zealand is divided into two main islands separated by the Cook Straights. A ferry runs continually between the two, which can take cars, trucks, even trains. The North Island is smaller than the South Island but more populated with ¾ of the population. The upper North is said to be sub-tropical but it rains more than in the South, apart from the West Coast. The Bay of Islands is here, and a great spot if you have a boat and are into fishing. Auckland is the largest city in NZ and very busy. However, like most cities in NZ, within half an hour you can be in the bush walking to a waterfall.

Tauranga is on the East Coast of the North Island and very popular for surfers and beach goers.

Wellington is the Capital and situated on the bottom of the North Island. It is a very hip, vibrant city and a lot of the Lord of the Rings river scenes were shot here. The ferry leaves from here.

Nelson, the top of the South Island, is famous for its weather as it has the most sunshine. Vineyards, beaches, mountains, forests, lakes and 3 National Parks on its doorstep, its no wonder the Aucklanders come here to retire. The Hobbit was filmed here.

The further South you go, the colder in winter, yet very hot in summer, it gets. Cantebury is has the plains and all the lakes. Have a go at Wanaka or Queenstown, where you will spend the summers fishing and jet boating and the winters snow boarding.

In between all these cities are quaint towns surrounded by natural wonderlands.

How to Go About It

Houses are listed in all the real estate agencies, newspapers, and our local online site, Trade Me. If you are wanting to rent, you have to approach the agency and put your name down. As the demand for good quality houses can be high, there is often a waiting list and you usually have to make a quick decision.

A security deposit of 4 weeks rent is usually paid up front, as well as 2 weeks rent in advance. Although it is quoted as weekly, most people pay their rent every 2 weeks. You will have to sign a rental contract with the owner of the house.

For buying a house, you will either go through the agent or the owner if it is sold privately. They will guide you in all your dealings.


Editors Note: Considering living in New Zealand? When looking at prices of homes or rentals, keep in mind the exchange rate. It changes continually, but as of May, 2012 the exchange rate for the NZ dollar is $1.23 for each U.S. dollar. That makes a NZ$300,000 house $244,000 in U.S. dollars.

Other Relevant Pages:

Living in Malaysia
Rentals in Israel
What You Need to Know about Living Abroad
International Real Estate (This is the index page for all our articles on other countries.)

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Houses Under Fifty Thousand | Living in New Zealand