Finding your Kiwi home
Settling on a comfortable place to live is the first step towards feeling at home in New Zealand.
When you first move to New Zealand, your top priority will be choosing a place to base yourself. You’ll find a huge choice of housing, from semi-rural retreats in regional New Zealand to apartment living in the heart of one of our lively, dynamic cities.
The most striking difference you’re likely to discover is that no two houses in New Zealand are alike.
Kiwis are enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers who like to add individual touches to their homes. That might mean opening up the back of their house with French doors to allow better access to the garden, or choosing a unique colour palette inside and out.
Even housing subdivisions feature a variety of different styles of home because New Zealanders expect their houses to be customised.
Choose your region
Choosing a place to live will involve balancing the kind of lifestyle you want with your job options and the cost of living.
The lifestyle, climate and pace of life vary across New Zealand, so it’s worth exploring regions in both the North and South islands to see where would suit you best.
Auckland is the most multicultural of New Zealand’s cities, and half of all new migrants to New Zealand choose to settle there. Wellington is known for its quirky houses on hillsides, overlooking the harbour.
Regions in the North Island include:
- Waikato, one of the richest agricultural areas in the world
- Bay of Plenty, known for its beautiful beaches
- Taranaki, which has affordable housing and diverse landscapes.
South Island regions include:
- Nelson-Tasman, one of the sunniest parts of the country
- Canterbury, with a strong economy and an outdoor lifestyle
- Southland, which has a relaxed pace of life and friendly communities.
Types of house
The most common New Zealand house is a stand-alone single family home built with a timber frame and either timber or brick veneer cladding.
Most cities also have a range of apartments or flats and townhouses near the urban centre, designed to appeal to young executives, small families and empty nesters.
New Zealand homes include older villas with wooden floors, weatherboard bungalows built in the 1920 and 1930s, and compact state houses built for returning servicemen after the Second World War.
Semi-rural lifestyle blocks have been a popular option in recent decades for Kiwis wanting fresh air, open spaces and enough land to graze animals such as horses, sheep or chickens. Lifestyle blocks are often only a half-hour drive from city centres.
Finding a rental
Starting off by renting can help you decide which region and area would be right for you.
Rental accommodation in New Zealand tends to be less well maintained than owner-occupied housing stock, and is often older.
However, new government regulations coming into effect will make it mandatory for landlords to insulate and heat their properties.
Rental prices are rising across New Zealand, particularly in major cities. Many Kiwis are saying goodbye to the city and moving to the regions, where rents may be cheaper and the cost of living lower.
New Zealanders often find their rental homes on the Trademe.co.nz, or from a real estate agency with rental properties on its books.
Once you’ve found a rental, be ready with your references, enough money to cover one to two weeks’ rent in advance, and up to four weeks’ rent for the bond. The bond is held by Tenancy Services, a government organisation, for the duration of the lease. Leases are typically fixed-term for 12 months.
Buying or building
Only residents or citizens are permitted to buy a home in New Zealand.
If you are a resident or citizen and your dream is to buy land and build your own home, Consumer.org.nz has advice on the process, but for in-depth information, you must pay for a subscription.
If you intend to buy with a mortgage, bring your credit history with you. If your deposit is less than 20 percent of the house price, you may struggle to convince the banks to help finance your home purchase.
Most home purchases will involve a real estate agent. While there are some private sales, you should still expect to use a lawyer for conveyancing services.
While you’re sure to find a house in New Zealand to suit your tastes, the housing stock is likely to be different to what you’re used to.
It’s estimated that about a third of houses are not adequately well-insulated or heated, with double glazing and central heating still relatively uncommon. Kiwis prefer to heat room by room, usually with heat pumps or panel heating.
Modern building rules are much better now, and landlords will be required to meet new healthy home standards to make rental properties warmer and drier. A key tip is to find a north-facing home for the maximum amount of sunshine.
When you first arrive
If you’ll need temporary accommodation when you arrive in New Zealand, be aware that short-term housing options may be harder to find in summer – Kiwis take their summer holidays seriously.
Airbnb.co.nz, Holidayhouses.co.nz and Bookabach.co.nz are among the websites offering holiday homes, while Wotif.co.nz gives details of bed and breakfasts, motels, caravan parks and self-catering apartments. The New Zealand Automobile Association also has a travel and accommodation website.
Tourism.net.nz and Holidayparks.co.nz can help you find camping grounds with a wide selection of tourist flats, cabins and self-contained units. This type of accommodation will often have communal kitchens and shared bathrooms and laundries, and may not have wifi.