BUYING IN NEW ZEALAND
In New Zealand it can take as little as three to four weeks to complete a house purchase once you’ve found the place you want. Once a bid is formally accepted, last minute offers can’t be considered, which makes buying here a lot less stressful than it is in some parts of the world. Once you’re ready to make a more permanent move, you’ll find the buying process is well organised and well regulated to ensure a fair process for both sides.
WHERE TO BUY
Living New Zealand offers life in a country of natural beauty and diverse scenery. It is a relatively small country that is spread over a small group of islands. The majority of the cities are located on the North Island, whilst the South Island is more well-known for its breathtaking countryside and vast range of outdoor activities, such as bungee jumping, adventure caving, heli-biking and white water rafting. For the less adventurous there are other ways to enjoy the countryside though the diverse networks of nature reserves, country parks, beaches and walking tracks that cover a combined length of 551km.
WHAT TO BUY
If you choose to buy a section (a block of land) there are a number of options for building a home tailor-made for your needs. Most houses in New Zealand are standalone buildings on a block of land that you purchase with the building. However there are other types of land ownership, so it is important to understand what you are buying.
There is a lot to get used to when house-hunting in New Zealand – the vast majority of homes are on one level, and semi-detached houses are uncommon. Building materials are different, and central heating is very, very rare.
Buying vs Renting
If you’re moving with family, then buying a house in order to make them feel settled as soon as possible might be one of your main priorities. However, buying is a huge decision, and one which needs careful consideration.
Preparation is key here – even more so than when buying a house in the UK. Luckily, though, New Zealand’s property purchasing system is very well structured and regulated, and in some cases it may only take as little as 4 weeks to complete a sale from start to finish – once an offer is made and you’ve signed a sale and purchase agreement the process will move instantly, so make sure your finances are in order before you even start looking.
Renting works much the same in New Zealand as it does in the UK, so if you’ve ever rented before then you’ll be aware of roughly how the process works. All rentals in New Zealand are regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act and administered by the Building & Housing Group within the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. Through them you will be able to arrange your contract and pay your deposit and, in the case of a dispute, gain advice and support.
One of the most popular starting points when looking for a place to rent in New Zealand is Trade Me, an online resource centre that can be used to find pretty much anything.
Selling in New Zealand
Selling property in New Zealand can be done in two ways. The first is that the vendor can use an estate agent as in the UK, where the estate agent will advertise the property, bring people to view and help build interest so hopefully someone will buy. For this they charge a fee when the property sells.
The other way to sell a property is privately. This is actually a popular choice in New Zealand and one that is done for many reasons. The main reason and perhaps the most obvious is that when a vendor sells their home privately there are no fees to the estate agent. Of course they are then responsible for their own advertising costs but depending on the value of the home they can still be making huge savings.
Migrating to New Zealand
To be eligible for immigration to New Zealand as a skilled migrant you must meet the basic visa requirements. To be eligible:
- You must be under 56 years of age;
- You, or you and your family, must meet all health, character and English ability requirements; and
- You must be able to meet a pass mark of 100 points in the Points System to register an Expression of Interest.
You, your partner and any dependent children under 17 years of age must complete a health declaration in the Expression of Interest stage to ensure you meet all standard of health requirements.
The NZIS considers a person of good character to be one who does not pose a potential security risk and is unlikely to have served time in prison, been deported from any country or involved in any criminal or dangerous activities.
Applicants under the Skilled Migrant category, including those aged 16 or over who are accompanying you to New Zealand, will need to meet these English language requirements.
LIVING IN NEW ZEALAND
The educational system in New Zealand is extremely varied and is one of the best in the world. According to scores, it has the highest levels of literacy, mathematics, and sciences in the country. The public educational system is one of the best funded in the world; New Zealand offers the highest percentage of public funding in education in the world. Several indices rate New Zealand as the number one country in the world for education.
New Zealand natives believe in giving everyone the education that they deserve. There are many private schools, but because the country is so great at giving their public schools the monies they need, many parents are just as happy using the public system.
The other reason is because the educational system focuses on both practical and academic achievement. Instead of sticking to a regimen that no one really understands and doesn’t really tell us anything, the New Zealand public education system focuses on being open-minded and letting children explore, thus allowing them to learn in the best way that they can. This gets them ready for college or the workplace upon finishing their secondary education.
Healthcare in New Zealand is funded through general taxation, which means that residents receive free or subsidised medical care. The standards of healthcare in New Zealand are high, although private healthcare is also available.
In order to access free public healthcare, expats need to have a work permit or a permanent residence permit. Work permits will, however, need to have been issued for a minimum of 24 months before the permit holder qualifies for state subsidised healthcare. After this period, expats in New Zealand on a work permit as well as their immediate family should qualify to receive government health benefits.
Emergency medical care in New Zealand is offered by three organisations, each of which is run by both volunteers and permanent staff.
With more sheep than people and more pine trees than sheep, expats working in New Zealand can certainly count on employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.
Most businesses in New Zealand have a standard five day, 40-hour work week. Businesses are generally open from 8am to 5pm with a lunch break of between 30 minutes and an hour. That said, businesses often determine their hours according to the needs of their industry, employees and customers. For instance, it is common for employees at hospitals and factories to work outside of regular work hours.
Sharing food is a traditional Kiwi way of bringing people together in a relaxing atmosphere. Whether it’s a picnic on the beach, a hāngi at your child’s school or a barbeque with neighbours, you’ll find that food and friendship go hand-in-hand in New Zealand.
It’s common to contribute to this hospitality, bringing food or wine to share. If the host says “don’t bring anything”, you can still bring a small gift. New Zealanders have a relaxed attitude to invitations. Sometimes people will say they are coming to a party and not turn up. Don’t take it personally.
Coffee and tea are an important part of Kiwi socialising. If you visit someone’s home you’ll usually be offered a coffee or tea, and “going out for coffee” (even if you drink tea) is a regular event. New Zealanders do have a drinking culture, but it is fine to have a non alcoholic drink when you are socialising.
Financing Your Property
There are many banks and lenders in New Zealand, all very keen to write loans. This isn’t to say they will lend recklessly but if you have met the government’s requirements to work or live in New Zealand as a skilled migrant, you will almost certainly meet banks and other lenders’ mortgage requirements.
When assessing overseas people for a mortgage, banks split them into three categories.
- Mortgage Category 1– Permanent Residence. Banks and other lenders will provide you with identical mortgage facilities to New Zealand citizens.
- Mortgage Category 2– Work Permit. Banks / lenders will require more commitment from you than they would from a permanent resident.
- Mortgage Category 3– Holiday Homes. Banks / lenders will apply very similar rules to overseas people on holiday to the lending rules applied to people in Category 2. Some may be a little stricter.
The tax year runs from 1 April to 31 March. If you spend more than 183 days of a year in New Zealand you will be considered a resident for tax purposes, but when you first arrive you may qualify as a transitional tax resident. This will give you exemptions from paying tax on any income earned outside New Zealand for four years, as long as it isn’t related to work you are doing while in the country. This means income from a UK pension during this period is not taxable in New Zealand.
There is no tax-free income allowance in New Zealand – everyone is taxed on all of their earnings; the starting rate of tax is 10.5%.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in New Zealand is quite high, and like most countries, tends to fluctuate depending on whether an expat lives in a predominately urban or rural area. Furthermore, the cost of living also ranges depending on which of New Zealand’s islands a person lives on, since the South Island is significantly cheaper than the North Island. Auckland was ranked 61st and Wellington was 83rd in the 2015 Mercer Cost of Living Survey.