Buying your first home

Should I buy now? Housing markets change all the time - when is it a good time to buy?
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The best choice on a strict budget

Buying your first house is likely to be the biggest investment decision of your life. While the prospect of owning your own home can be exciting, it’s also hard to know where to begin. Let us help you get going: 

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

I’ve found a house that is For Sale. How do I make an offer?

When you're ready to make a formal offer to purchase a house in New Zealand, there are a number of steps that are typically followed.
  • Normally you will make your offer through a real estate agent using a standard Sale and Purchase Agreement.
  • The real estate agent will present your offer to the owner, using the Sales and Purchase Agreement. If the owner accepts your offer, they will sign the form and this document will become a legally binding sale contract.
  • The seller may want to negotiate first, in which case they could make a counter-offer, or simply reject your offer and ask you to improve it. During these negotiations, the real estate agent will provide some guidance (for both owner and buyer) on what they think is a more acceptable offer.
  • Once the owner accepts your offer you will both finalise the Sale and Purchase Agreement. This agreement is legally binding, but you are both allowed to add conditions to the agreement which provide a right to back out of the deal if not met. Common conditions include making the purchase contingent on securing finance, selling your previous home, receiving the results of a building inspection, or having the seller make repairs.
  • Once you’ve signed the Sale and Purchase agreement, you'll need to pay a deposit to the real estate agent (usually around 10% of the purchase price). The real estate agent holds these funds in a trust account.
  • When your house sale goes Unconditional - i.e. when all the conditions included in the Sale and Purchase Agreement are met - the agent will deduct their agency fees and then pay the balance to the seller.
  • House sales in New Zealand do not have a cooling off period allowing a change of mind. Once you’ve signed a Sale and Purchase Agreement, there is no backing out of the transaction unless any of your conditions are not met.
It is always wise to seek qualified legal and financial advice before signing any agreement, if you are unsure of your own ability to protect yourself from risk.

Is there any Government financial assistance for first home buyers?

The New Zealand Government provides three different avenues for assistance when buying your first home.

KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy
If you've been contributing to KiwiSaver for at least 3 years, you may be eligible for a first home deposit subsidy. The subsidy is worth $1,000 for each full year you've been contributing to KiwiSaver, up to a maximum of $5,000 for five years. If you and your partner are both eligible, you can receive a subsidy of up to $10,000.

To qualify, you must have contributed at least the minimum amounts below:
  • 4% of your total income for the period 1 July 2007 to 31 March 2009 to a KiwiSaver scheme, or a complying superannuation scheme, for at least three years
  • 2% of your total income for the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2013 to a KiwiSaver scheme, or a complying superannuation scheme, for at least three years
  • 3% of your total income for the period 1 April 2013 onwards to a KiwiSaver scheme, or a complying superannuation scheme, for at least three years
You must also be buying your first home and be planning to live in the house yourself for at least six months. Guidelines will also apply based on your income and the price of the house you are purchasing. See the KiwiSaver website for more details.
Housing New Zealand First/Home Grant
This initiative provides grants (10% of the purchase price, up to $20,000) to purchasers of select properties that Housing New Zealand is selling.

To qualify you must:
  • Be purchasing your first home
  • Plan to live in the house for at least three years
  • Have a gross annual income before tax of $53,000 or less (for an individual) or a combined gross annual income before tax of $80,600 or less (for a couple)
  • Be pre-approved by a certified bank or lending institution (i.e. to show you can service the mortgage)
See the Housing New Zealand website for more details.
Housing New Zealand Welcome Home Loan
If you have a combined household income before tax for the last year of $80,000 or less (for an individual) or up to $120,000 combined (for two or more borrowers) you may be eligible for a Welcome Home Loan through select lenders. This means that you will only be required to provide a deposit of 10% (rather than the typical 20%) with Housing New Zealand underwriting the loan for the lender.

There are limits to the size of the loan depending on the region you are buying. See the Housing New Zealand website for more details. 

When should I make an offer on a property?

Housing markets can move quickly and a property that is listed could be sold within weeks, days, or even hours.  You should put an offer on a property as soon as you wish to buy it, whether it's for sale by auction, private treaty or tender.

When should I involve a solicitor or conveyancer in my home purchase?

You should consult a qualified lawyer, solicitor or conveyancer before a Sale and Purchase Agreement (or any other contract) is signed.  Your opportunities to end the contract can be severely limited if you seek legal advice after signing.

Can I negotiate the settlement period or deposit?

Yes, you can.  The move in date, financial settlement period, and the deposit amount given to the agent can all be negotiated with the seller prior to signing the contract.

What is a Body Corporate? How does it work?

Whenever land is sub-divided and registered as a unit title development (i.e. apartments or units) then a legal entity known as a Body Corporate is created. The Body Corporate members are all of the individual owners of a unit or flat within the development or apartment block. Most Body Corporates establish a committee, who perform administration and tasks and represent the interests of all of the owners.
  • The Body Corporate is responsible for the management and maintenance of the units or flats, ensuring they are kept to a good and tidy standard
  • The Body Corporate will have (or produce) a set of rules that every owner will need to follow. These rules cover things like the use of shared access ways and how repairs or maintenance costs will be attributed to each owner.
  • The Body Corporate will typically charge an annual levy to cover basic ongoing expenses (e.g. rubbish collection, utilities for common areas, insurance etc.).  They may also levy one-off payments for extraordinary expenses (major repairs or renovations, or changes to rent if the premises are leasehold). 

How do I work out which housing areas will suit my price range?

Visit our First National Real Estate website, enter your budget and accommodation type sort (unit, flat, house etc.) and we’ll let you know where we have properties that are perfect for you. We have a wide range of residential properties available and coverage in all major New Zealand areas.

Should I buy now?

Housing markets change all the time, like interest rates.  Whilst house prices often increase in popular areas over time, this is not the case in all markets or areas.  First National Real Estate has many offices in New Zealand.  Our experienced real estate agents are happy to discuss your specific needs and circumstances with you, and provide guidance whether you are buying or selling a home.

Will First National help me work out how to purchase a home?

First National Real Estate agents are trained to help guide first time home buyers through all the steps involved with purchasing a property. We aim to make the process as simple and hassle-free as possible for you.  Importantly, we're here to help. Call us or drop in for a chat and we'll give you advice to get you into your dream home.
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