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.
Where to Buy Property in New Zealand
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.