How to buy property in New Zealand

Coastal view of Auckland City


Buying a house in a different country can be a little daunting, so we’ve created this overview to help you understand how real estate works in New Zealand and get you started on the right track.

More information for overseas investors can be found here.

How real estate works in New Zealand

Most people choose to sell their property through a real estate agency; a small number of people sell their houses privately. Real estate agencies and salespeople are licensed under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 and regulated by a government body, the Real Estate Authority. A Code of Conduct is designed to make sure they act ethically.

In New Zealand, salespeople represent the seller. As a buyer, you will need to arrange for all the legal advice and reports you require, yourself.

The real estate agency markets the property and negotiates the sale on behalf of the seller. The seller pays their real estate agency a commission on the sale price.

If you enter into a contract to buy property, you will need to provide a New Zealand IRD number before the settlement can take place, and you can take possession. This applies to the sale or purchase of all land and property in New Zealand. 

You'll need to give your New Zealand IRD number to your lawyer, and complete and sign a Tax Statement before settlement can occur and possession be given.

Offshore buyers and sellers will need to provide a New Zealand IRD number or obtain a New Zealand IRD number before the settlement date. If you are an offshore buyer or seller and you do not have a New Zealand IRD number, you will need to open a New Zealand bank account before applying for a New Zealand IRD number. Offshore parties also need to provide their tax details from their country of origin.

You can find more information in our one-page guide: Taxation (Land Information) Legislation information - what you need to know

How properties are sold

In New Zealand, properties are mainly sold by:

The buying process is different for each of these methods.

Types of offers

All offers must be made in writing using the correct documentation - your Barfoot & Thompson salesperson will provide these to you. These documents comply with New Zealand Real Estate contract law.

  • Unconditional - a straightforward offer to buy according to the terms set out in the contract
  • Conditional - when your offer to buy has conditions attached, for example, arranging finance or being satisfied with a building report you arrange.

What offers can you make?

  • If you’re buying by negotiation or tender you can make unconditional and conditional offers
  • If you’re buying by auction you can only make an unconditional offer.

Top tips

Before you purchase a property, we recommend that you:

  • Get your own independent legal advice
  • Consider viewing or commissioning specialist reports, such as valuations.

In some cases, you may also want to get advice from a Registered Valuer, builder or other property expert.

What happens once an agreement has been made?

Once an agreement is unconditional, neither the buyer or the seller can change their mind, and the buyer must pay the rest of the purchase price on the settlement day.

Deposit payments are made by the buyer to the real estate agency, which is required by law to hold the money in an audited trust account, only releasing when legally authorised to do so.

The balance of the purchase price is paid on settlement. This is usually the day you take possession of the property.

If the agreement is conditional, any conditions need to be satisfied by the due date. It is the buyer’s responsibility to satisfy those conditions.

Want more information?

Read our frequently asked questions for overseas buyers and investors to find out more about buying property in New Zealand.