New Zealand: Finding a place to live

The type of accommodation on offer in New Zealand is different from that in Ireland

Homes tend to typically be in an inner city apartment block, or a fully detached, individually built suburban or rural house.

Homes tend to typically be in an inner city apartment block, or a fully detached, individually built suburban or rural house.

 
The most popular areas for new Irish arrivals in New Zealand are Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, followed by Queenstown and Dunedin.
 
Accommodation to rent or buy costs roughly double in cities compared to rural areas. Auckland is the largest and most expensive city, with prices soaring for properties close to the sea or in sought-after grammar school zones (see schoolzones.co.nz).
 
New Zealand experienced a housing boom between 2002 and 2007, with prices rising between 10 and 15 per cent per year. This was followed by a fall in 2008 to 2010, but the market has been recovering since 2011, with values rising 12.7 per cent in the 12 months to October 2016. There is strong demand for housing in New Zealand, and an ongoing housing crisis in Auckland, resulting in steep prices.
 
Statistics from QV ( qv.co.nz) show that the average house value in New Zealand in October 2016 was NZ$622,309 (€411,00) nationally. Auckland city homes were among the most expensive at almost twice the national average, at NZ$1,209,199 (€795,342), but in smaller cities such as Dunedin, house values were much lower at about NZ$341,566 (€224,662).
 
Renting a home
Buying a home can be a worthwhile investment for those who get permanent residency and intend to stay there long term, but the majority of Irish people arrive on a one- or two-year work visa, and rent a home.
 
Periodic tenancies are common, where no fixed period is specified on the lease. New arrivals uncertain about where they want to live should look out for this type of rental, which will allow you to try out a property or area without making a long-term commitment.
 
Tenants need to give the landlord three weeks’ notice before vacating a property, which means short-term lets are technically possible on a periodic lease.
 
Market rent is described (in the Residential Tenancies Act) as what a willing landlord might reasonably expect to receive, and a willing tenant might reasonably expect to pay for the tenancy, in comparison with rent levels for similar properties in similar areas.
 
QZ has a section on market rent on its website, which compares rent charged for properties of a certain type and size in a given location. The median rent nationally is NZ$260 (€171) per week for a one-bedroom flat, and NZ$520 (€342) per week for a four-bedroom house, though these values can almost double in popular areas in Auckland.
 
Tenants are legally required to pay between two and four weeks’ rent as a bond, which is deposited by the landlord with the Ministry of Housing. Landlords usually request two weeks’ rent in advance in addition to the bond, and if you have found your home through an estate agent, they will charge a fee equivalent to another week’s rent.
 
The costs add up. A flat to rent for NZ$250 (€164) per week could cost you NZ$1,750 (€1,150) upfront, and that’s before you consider buying furniture, appliances and other household items. The majority of rental properties are leased unfurnished, but will have a cooker, fridge, carpets and curtains or blinds.
 
It is possible to rent furniture to fill a modest home for about NZ$200 (€132) per week if you don’t intend to stay long in a property, and second-hand furniture can be found on websites such as trademe.co.nz.
 
Council rates are paid by the homeowner or landlord. Rates vary depending on the particular council and the location of the property, but usually amount to about 0.5 per cent of the property value annually. Water and refuse collection are not covered by council rates, and are paid for by the tenant.
 
Housing is in shortest supply in Christchurch, where major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 damaged about 10,000 homes. Rebuilding and repair work was still going on in 2016. Prices to rent and buy have been pushed up in unaffected areas too, and even architects, engineers and construction workers who move to the city to assist with the rebuild can have problems finding somewhere to live. ContractAccom.co.nz  organises full- or half-board accommodation.
 
Buying a home
Maureen Crowley, a real estate agent and secretary of the Christchurch Irish Society, says the most important thing to investigate if you are considering investing in a property in Christchurch is whether you can get insurance before you buy - some companies insist homeowners have an existing policy with them before offering a new policy on another house.
 
It is also advisable to get an independent valuation and building inspection of any property you are looking to purchase.
 
For about NZ$5 (€3.20), QV will be able to tell you the price fetched for other properties in the neighbourhood, and how much a property sold for previously.
 
Every property has a Land Information Memorandum (LIM), available from the local council for a small fee, which contains information about the property’s zoning, boundaries and building consents.
 
Homes tend to typically be in an inner city apartment block, or a fully detached, individually built suburban or rural house. Rows of terraced or semi-detached houses are uncommon. Most houses are wooden with iron roofs.
 
Houses more than 30 years old are not usually insulated, unless upgraded under the government scheme, and almost all housing lacks central heating, which means it can get very cold in the winter months, especially on the South Island.
 
Additional reporting:  Gráinne Loughran
 
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