- Download our Moving to New Zealand Guide (PDF)
Expats looking for accommodation in New Zealand will find plenty of options to suit their needs. From ranch-style family homes in the suburbs to bachelor apartments in the city centre, the type of accommodation available will depend on the location and whether expats are looking to rent or buy.
While the cost of rent varies greatly depending on the city and distance from the city centre, accommodation in New Zealand is, on the whole, fairly pricey.
Types of accommodation in New Zealand
Accommodation in New Zealand ranges from freestanding and duplex houses to apartments and home units. There is also a wide range of architectural styles available, with everything from ultra-modern apartments to older houses that are based on traditional English country styles.
The term 'unit' is generally used to describe any single dwelling in New Zealand, while the term 'home unit' is one of several modest homes grouped with other similar houses around a driveway. These are either attached, detached or semi-detached, and sometimes share a communal garden.
Furnished and unfurnished
House rentals in New Zealand are rarely furnished, and the more bedrooms a property has, the less likely that it will be furnished. Expats will find that it’s typically only one-bedroom apartments that come furnished, as they tend to be used more often for short-term leases.
Short-term rentals are a popular housing option for expats in New Zealand who need temporary accommodation. These rentals typically last from a few days to several months and are fully furnished, making them convenient for those who need to move in quickly or are only staying for a short period. Short lets can be found through online platforms such as Airbnb or through property management companies.
Finding accommodation in New Zealand
House and apartment rentals can be found in the classifieds section of local newspapers and through various online portals. It is a good idea to get used to the main property websites before making the move to New Zealand, as browsing these websites will give expats an idea of the types of properties available and what the rental market is like. Popular property websites include Trade Me Property, Real Estate NZ and Harcourts.
Expats shouldn't struggle to find a property to rent in New Zealand. That said, those who are pressed for time should consider using the services of a real estate agent. As these professionals have a knowledge of the property market in their respective areas, they are in a good position to help new arrivals find exactly what they're looking for.
The demand for good rental properties in New Zealand is high, so it's also important to make contact early.
- Trade Me is a New Zealand website similar to eBay, with property sections for selling or renting accommodation.
- The website realestate.co.nz is widely used in New Zealand.
- Harcourts is a well-known real estate company in New Zealand.
- For short-term rentals, Airbnb is an option.
Renting accommodation in New Zealand
Renting a property in New Zealand can be a straightforward process, whether for a short or long-term stay. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responsible for housing legislation and official processes. As a government agency, the MBIE provides standard contracts that outline the responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. In addition, they offer dispute resolution services, hold rental deposits, and provide information about average housing prices in different areas on their website.
However, expats should be aware that finding suitable accommodation in New Zealand can sometimes be challenging, especially in popular cities like Auckland and Wellington. It's also important to consider factors such as the location, price, and the condition of the property before signing a rental agreement. Taking these factors into consideration will help expats find suitable and comfortable accommodation during their stay in New Zealand.
Lease contracts in New Zealand are called Residential Tenancy Agreements (RTAs). Expats signing an RTA will need to choose between a periodic tenancy, which lasts until either the landlord or the tenant gives notice, or a fixed-term tenancy, which lasts for a set amount of time. Fixed-term contracts are usually signed for 12 months, but they can be shorter or longer depending on the landlord's preferences.
When signing the agreement, it's essential for both the landlord and the tenant to clarify whether pets are allowed on the property. The signed tenancy agreement should be given to both parties, and it's recommended to keep a copy in case of future disagreements.
Costs and fees
Rent in New Zealand is usually calculated weekly, and expats should therefore keep this in mind when considering the value of the rent advertised. In the past, real estate agents used to charge a letting fee when a tenant first signed a lease, which usually amounted to one week's rent. Recent legislation has, however, banned agents from charging tenants any fees.
Expats will also need to pay a deposit, or 'bond', of up to four weeks' rent in advance. The landlord will then deposit this at the Bond Centre of the MBIE, and the landlord and tenant will both be issued a receipt. A tenant needs this receipt to claim back their deposit once their lease ends and they leave the property. If there is any damage to the property that is determined to be the fault of the tenant, the repair costs will be deducted from the deposit before it is returned.
Termination of the lease
To terminate a rental lease in New Zealand, expats must provide written notice to their landlord or property manager. The amount of notice required depends on the type of tenancy agreement and the reason for termination. In general, expats should give at least 21 days' notice, but it's important to check the terms of the lease agreement for specific requirements. The notice period for ending a fixed-term tenancy before the agreed-upon end date is typically negotiated between the landlord and the tenant.
Utilities in New Zealand
When talking about real estate in New Zealand, the word 'outgoings' is often used to refer to all of the costs incurred by the landlord, such as rates and taxes. Tenants in New Zealand are usually responsible for any outgoings they use, including utilities such as water and electricity. Utility costs can vary depending on the area they live in and the type of accommodation they choose. In general, the main utilities that expats will need to consider are gas, electricity, water and waste removal.
Electricity and gas are often provided by the same company in New Zealand, and the main providers are Genesis Energy, Mercury Energy and Contact Energy. Most companies offer different plans and pricing options, so it's worth shopping around to find the best deal. Expats should also be aware that New Zealand uses a different electrical outlet type (Type I) to many other countries, so they may need to purchase adaptors for their electronics.
Water is supplied by local councils, and bills are usually sent out quarterly. The main providers are Watercare in Auckland, Wellington Water in Wellington, and Christchurch City Council in Christchurch. In some areas, water may be metered and charged based on usage, while in others it may be included in the rent.
Waste removal is also the responsibility of tenants in New Zealand, and this usually involves putting bins out on the street for collection on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Most councils provide separate bins for general waste and recycling, and some also offer green waste bins for garden waste. It's important to follow local council guidelines for waste disposal to avoid any fines.
In addition to these utilities, expats should also be aware of other outgoings such as internet and phone services, which are provided by a range of companies including Spark, Vodafone, and 2degrees. See Keeping in Touch in New Zealand for more details.
- For gas and electric needs, see Genesis Energy, Mercury Energy and Contact Energy.
- Check out Accommodation in Auckland and Accommodation in Christchurch for more specifics.
Buying property in New Zealand
Locals in New Zealand prefer to buy rather than to rent property but, for expats, it may be a good idea to rent at first while they explore the property market. Once an expat decides that they are ready to buy property in New Zealand, the process will typically only take a few weeks to complete.
Expats moving from the Northern Hemisphere should keep in mind that north-facing properties in New Zealand are warmer than south-facing ones. Homes with a plaster finish will also generally not be as secure against the weather as others may be.
The cost of buying a home in a big city, especially in cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is significantly higher than it is elsewhere in the country. Property owners in New Zealand are also charged property rates by the local council. These can be hefty, depending on the area, and are worth looking into before committing to a property.
Advice on buying property can be found on the government-run Real Estate Authority's 'Settled' website. Homes.co.nz is another indispensable website that provides data on 1.6 million homes in New Zealand, presented in a simple-to-use map visualisation.
- Settled.govt.nz is the government's guide for property buyers and sellers in New Zealand.
- Another useful resource for determining property values is Homes.co.nz's map tool.
Other useful housing information
Houses in New Zealand are often made of wood and, as a result of this and the varied climate, expats may be surprised to find that many homes lack proper insulation, which can lead to a variety of issues. To mitigate the effects of poor insulation, expats can take several steps.
One way to combat the cold is to install insulation in walls and ceilings. Additionally, expats can invest in energy-efficient heating systems, such as heat pumps, to help reduce energy consumption and heating costs. It's also recommended that expats ensure their homes are properly ventilated to prevent moisture build-up, which can exacerbate the effects of poor insulation.
"The housing crisis is pretty bad. You will pay a lot for a potentially very average room in an average house, but often you can strike it lucky! The options for housing could include a long-term room at a hostel, or you could go flatting. Flatting is when a group of people live in an apartment or a house together and share communal areas but pay individual rent for their room." Read more about Savannah, a South African expat, and her experience living in New Zealand.
Are you an expat living in New Zealand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to New Zealand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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