Buying During COVID-19

Last Update: 30/04/2019

This page explains some of your options if you’re buying or thinking about buying during COVID-19 alert level 3.

New Zealand is in the middle of a unique situation, and it is likely to be a challenging time for everyone involved in selling and buying property. Be kind and consider the needs of others when you’re communicating about a transaction.

For general information about the current COVID-19 situation, please visit covid19.govt.nz

You can find information about conducting real estate transactions during alert level 4 here.

If you’re also selling property during alert level 3, there is more information here.

Summary of activity at alert level 3
  • Talk to your agent and lawyer or conveyancer about what to do if you have a transaction under way – the New Zealand Law Society has issued guidance to lawyers about how to manage property transactions at this time.
  • Property inspectors, valuers, engineers and tradespeople can visit properties at alert level 3 if it is necessary, if they comply with public health and industry-specific guidance and if the property’s occupants agree.
  • Buyers and sellers who deferred settlement during alert level 4 may now settle if both parties agree.
  • During alert level 3, buyers and sellers can move house (including between regions).
  • If you want to buy a tenanted property, you will be affected by the new protections against terminations. For more information, visit the Tenancy Services website.
  • You can find information about what you can and can’t do during alert level 3 on the COVID-19 website.

Buyers who have made an offer

Meeting conditions

At alert level 3, it may be possible to meet your conditions because professionals such as valuers, property inspectors and engineers may visit a property if they cannot provide their service remotely, if it is safe to do so and if the property's occupants agree. They need to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone while they are there.

Keep in mind that these professionals could not visit properties at alert level 4, so making an appointment could be difficult. If it is going to impact on your ability to meet your conditions, talk to your lawyer or conveyancer, because the seller may agree to extend the conditional period.

If you’ve agreed with the seller that they need to get something fixed at the property before settlement, they can get a tradesperson to do that work at alert level 3.

Changing the conditional period

During alert level 4, some sellers and buyers may have agreed to extend the conditional period until their region moves to level 2. Professionals and tradespeople are now able to visit properties at alert level 3, so you and the seller may wish to change the conditional period again. If both parties agree, the conditional period can change.

We recommend that you talk to your lawyer or conveyancer, and agree with the seller if you would like to change the conditional period.

Many law firms are still working remotely, so there may be delays in service.

Changing the settlement date

If settlements were deferred to alert level 2 because there was uncertainty over what would be allowed at alert level 3, those settlements could now be brought forward to alert level 3 if you and the seller agree. Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about the best approach for your transaction.

There may be a lot of people moving, so it may be difficult to find a moving company to help with the settlement process.

Pre-settlement inspections

Where possible, you should use virtual methods to inspect a property. If this is not possible, with the seller’s consent and the tenant’s consent if the property is tenanted, you can visit the property. Up to two people from the same extended bubble can visit the property at one time, plus the real estate agent. You must comply with the health measures explained by the agent when you visit and maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone outside your extended bubble while you are there.

Completing settlement

Buyers and sellers may move to a new property at alert level 3, including moving between regions. Moving services may be in high demand, so parties may wish to delay settlement until alert level 2.

Your agent should arrange for sanitised keys to be provided with no physical contact between any party.

Read more about settlement day here.

Tenanted properties

If the property you are buying is tenanted, the sale may be affected by the new protections against terminations which are explained on the Tenancy Services website.

Buyers who are thinking about buying

Open homes and private viewings

Open homes are not allowed at alert level 3. Where possible, buyers should view a property virtually, for example, by viewing a video of the property.

If required, private viewings can take place under alert level 3. Only buyers who are serious about making an offer are allowed to have a private viewing. There are rules to protect your health and the health of the agent and the property’s occupants:

  • Potential buyers are not allowed to travel between regions to go to a private viewing
  • The agent will check on everyone’s health before a viewing.
  • If you or an occupant of the property are self-isolating or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days, the private viewing cannot take place.
  • If you or an occupant of the property are ill with respiratory symptoms, you cannot view the property.
  • Anyone living at the property, including tenants, must agree to each private viewing.
  • All viewings must be booked in advance.
  • The property occupants must not be at the property during the viewing.
  • There should be no more than two people from the same extended bubble and the agent at the viewing.
  • The agent will open all internal doors before the viewing so that you don’t touch door handles in the house. You must use hand sanitiser and cannot touch any surfaces in the house.
The estimated sale price of the property

If the property was listed during alert level 4 or 3, the agent might not have been able to appraise the property in person. The agent should let you know this. Be aware that the estimated sale price might change when the alert level is reduced, and the agent is able to visit in person.

Making an offer

All offers, including auctions and any multi-offer process, will be presented to the seller by email, phone or video call. If the property is being sold by auction, the agent will help you understand what the process is going to be and what you need to do to place a bid. You can read more about this here.

Doing things remotely may slow down some sales, so it is important to contact your lawyer or conveyancer early in the process so that you can meet any deadlines.

Sale and purchase agreement

The agent will work with you to put the terms and conditions you would like into the sale and purchase agreement. Make sure you send a copy of this to your lawyer or conveyancer to check before you sign it. Talk to your lawyer about what conditions you might need to put in the sale and purchase agreement to protect you against changes in alert levels.

You can’t meet the agent in person to sign the agreement, so you may sign it electronically. In some cases, you could receive it by contactless delivery from either the agent or a courier. If you have the document delivered, you will need to sign it and courier it back.

Read more about sale and purchase agreements here.

The buying process

The general buying process hasn’t changed at alert level 3. You may have time during this period to research the process and think about what you want in a home.

Learn more about the buying process here or look at our buyer journey guide.

Learn about your different property options here.

Find out about different types of property ownership here.

Learn about the different information you should gather when researching a property here.

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