Property in New Zealand
The average British home covers 76 square metres; in New Zealand it covers 205 square metres. Of course, size isn’t everything, but New Zealand isn’t just about the wide open spaces, it also beats most countries (including the UK) for health, civic engagement and the growth of its economy, according to the OECD. Oh, and for sporting achievement.
The New Zealand economy has been boosted in recent years by the wealth of China and other Asian economies – its commodities such as meat and dairy products being snapped up. All that wealth sloshing about sent property prices rising rapidly following the financial crisis, especially in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, where a third of the country’s population live. Although the rises are slower now, it has left the average price of a home here at around NZ$750,000 (£411,000, as of August 2016); unaffordable for many families on average incomes. In the second city, Wellington, prices are a more comfortable NZ$435,000 average.
Those cities are both on the busier North Island, but many British emigrants choose Christchurch on South Island, which has been seeing a construction boom following the devastating earthquakes between 2010 and 2012. The average property price here is NZ$420,000, which at £230,000 is not dissimilar to average British prices. Its just that you get a considerably larger house for your money.
The property buying processes are based on the British model, which means cheaper buying costs than most countries. Foreigners are free to buy property, and while it does not confer residency rights in itself, if you spend enough money on the right type of property it can count towards your claim for immigration. Estate agents are regulated and the processes being conducted in English makes looking for property a lot easier than in some countries. New Zealanders drive on the left too.
Its sporting achievement (usually in the top three countries globally) is per head of population, and New Zealand’s population is certainly small, with fewer than five million people. That doesn’t mean that New Zealand will just let anyone in; there are quite stringent immigration rules based on age, character, health and usefulness to the local economy. The rules are slightly less draconian than Australia, however, the maximum age being 55 and the list of allowed occupations includes more skilled manual labour, such as bakers and scaffolders.
Above all, New Zealand is a welcoming and adventurous country, a land where honest work and endeavour should be rewarded with a good life.
Where to Buy Property in New Zealand
New Zealand is a popular long-haul emigration destination thanks to the fantastic scenery, boundless space, low crime rate, English-speaking people, value for money when buying with sterling and the outdoorsy lifestyle.
Despite being around 25 hours flying time from the UK, it’s not surprising that over 200,000 Brits live there permanently with it frequently being voted one of the best places to live in the world.
However, New Zealand hasn’t been without its problems. The country’s economy has suffered from the credit crunch, rising food and fuel prices, and a drought that cut production in agricultural industries.
In 2009 your pound was worth three NZ dollars, and now it gets you two. And then a massive earthquake all-but destroyed Christchurch and its surrounding towns.
However, a survey of migrants to New Zealand found that after 18 months in the country, 91 per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with life there. Eight out of ten felt very safe.
Nearly half were already home owners. Three-quarters had found jobs, with an average hourly wage of $20 (£9.15) per hour. Even better, of these, 82 per cent were enjoying their job.
So where to start your hunt for a new home? Your budget will dictate to an extent as the North Island, particularly around Auckland, is more expensive than the South Island.
The average price if a property in New Zealand is NZ$350,000 (£171,000) – much cheaper than Australia – and more or less on a par with the UK, even after the exchange rate problems.
If you want the buzz of an international city and good career prospects, then Auckland on the North Island should be top of your list – about 70 per cent of all new migrants to New Zealand settle in the Auckland region and it’s where the majority of international flights land.
It’s also where two thirds of the country’s top 200 companies and one third of the nation’s workforce are based. Plus, nearly a quarter of the world’s Fortune 500 companies have a presence in the region.
Elsewhere, the Taranaki region on the North Island has great prospects. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can ski and surf on the same day and it leads New Zealand in the oil and dairy sectors, with great job opportunities across these and a wide range of supporting industries.
Also on the North Island is Wellington, capital of New Zealand and an art and culture hub. Indeed the Lonely Planet describe it as “the coolest little capital in the world” and it came 11th in the last Mercers Liveable Cities Index (though behind Aukland in 4th).
Wellington also has great beaches. Look at Porirua City, north of the city but still central and just minutes from the beaches at Plimmerton.
Upper Hutt is a good (if pricey) option, but 30 minutes out of the city. More centrally, Brooklyn is very near to town and beaches. Karori is another nice area, cheap for rental but with difficult traffic in the morning.
On the South Island, Christchurch, also known as the Garden City, should feel more like home to Brits than just about anywhere in the world. It’s weather mirrors London’s, nine out of ten residents have ethnic European heritage, usually British, the names of streets and suburbs are British, and some 1,500 new British immigrants arrive annually.
Or rather they did, until the massive February 2011 earthquake killed 186 people and wrecked the city and some satellite towns. It is still the largest city on the south island (the more rural, wilder, cooler island) the third most populous in New Zealand after Auckland and Wellington, with a population of 350,000, eight per cent of New Zealand’s population, but a problematic option for buyers right now.
Also on the South island, nestled away in the north-west corner is the city of Nelson, situated in the region of the same name. As well as being the sunniest region in New Zealand, the historic and cosmopolitan city of Nelson’s is home to the highest proportion of residents from the UK and Ireland, golden beaches and three stunning national parks. There, NZ$300k-NZ$400k (£146k-£194k) buys you a detached three-bedroom house.
How to Buy Property in New Zealand
Buying a property in NZ is a lot like buying a house in the UK. You find a home you like, put in an offer – once the mortgage is arranged and searches and surveys carried out, you’ll pay a ten per cent deposit and sign a contract.
However, completion usually takes place three weeks after signing the contract – which is legally binding – and it’s unusual for there to be delays.
You can apply for a mortgage before or after you emigrate to New Zealand. Banks will look at three things: your income, your deposit and your commitments. Having the paperwork that demonstrates those three things makes the process easier.
Bringing your old employment contract from the UK to show that you have a similar income in a comparable industry will help, as will statements from previous home loans to show borrowing history.
There is no stamp duty, inheritance tax of capital gains tax in New Zealand but you will have to budget around £350 for solicitors fees, £140 for a valuation fee, £150 for a building inspection report, £50 for the Land Information Memorandum and a transfer fee of around £20.
Buyers Need to Know
The New Zealand government’s rigorous immigration process is considered by many to be even harder than Australia’s, not least because their application rules change on a weekly basis and they don’t allow British people to retire there.But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a visa for New Zealand - far from it.
The New Zealand government is keen to recruit qualified, skilled workers who will complement the economy. The immigration process works on a points system with points awarded according to your profession, experience, age and qualifications. You will need to lodge an ‘Expression of interest (EIO)’ to be considered.
The main three routes to getting a visa being through the ‘Skilled independent visa’, ‘Business visa’ or ‘Work to residence’ scheme and the process can take up to nine months.
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