Using this comprehensive checklist before buying a house will help avert common problems that can crop up after a sale is completed. Whether you are a first home buyer or an experienced one, don't become a statistic for reasons that could easily have been avoided.
The checklist centralises the most important advice from multiple organisations that all have a role to play in protecting you as a home buyer.
Buyer's remorse should not be allowed to blow a hole in your post purchase glow, so make sure you know what you are in for before you make the leap.
Wondering how much you will have to spend on your new home after you've sold your current one? Find out how much it costs to sell a house first.
Things to check when buying a house
You might find information about buying different property types helpful, for example buying an apartment, a leaky home, a lifestyle block, a section, your first home or a mortgagee sale. Learn more about buying different property types here.
- BUILDING INSPECTION - The safest way to get a reliable pre-purchase building inspection is by using a specialist building surveyor. Surveyors who are members of the Building Officials Institute of New Zealand (BOINZ) have undertaken the institute's Accredited Building Surveyors programme ensuring they have passed their accreditation process. Not all surveyors are BOINZ members.
- METH TESTING - Check that the property has not been exposed to methamphetamine production. You can add this as a condition of sale but a report conducted by the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor suggests it is a danger to occupants if used at a high level or is produced at the property.
- LEAKY CHECK - Use the HOBANZ (Home Owners and Buyers Association) Guide To Buying a Home including its checklist to help ensure you don't purchase a leaker. See the bottom of this PDF for the checklist. HOBANZ also advises on Body Corporates.
- ELECTRICAL WIRING - If you are buying a house and are wondering if it will need rewiring, our article How to tell if a house needs rewiring is a checklist of things to look for. You should also get a professional building inspection - find a qualified inspector here.
- TRADES SERVICES - If needing a tradesman, make sure they are registered with governing bodies overseeing standards, quality and training of their members. You can find advice about how to find a tradesmen here.
- VALUATION - Check you are not paying too much by doing some valuation research.
- INSURANCE - Check you will be able to get the property insured. Very old electrical wiring pre-1935 may require a warrant of fitness for getting insurance cover.
- QUALITY CHECK - Make sure any building work that has been agreed by the seller to complete prior to settlement is actually done and done to industry standard.
Seek legal advice about buying or selling a house from a property lawyer.
Can we afford to buy a house?
One of the most important things to check is affordability.
Amidst all the excitement of buying a new house, it is easy to get swept up and lose your perspective.
This is particularly likely when there are multiple buyers competing for the same house and you are hurrying to get the deal done quickly.
If you want to assess your position first, Sorted has mortgage advice and tips. If you have your eye on a place, but aren't sure whether it's in your ball park or not, you can run some figures through Sorted's mortgage calculator.
Alternatively, visit your bank or mortgage broker and do yourself an honest household budget. Just because they will loan you the money doesn't automatically mean you can afford it for the long haul.
TAX - Check the IRD to see if you need to pay tax. There will be varying advice depending on whether the house you are buying is a rental investment, a holiday home or for yourself to live in.
LIFE & LOSS OF INCOME INSURANCE - It is likely you are going to need other insurance as well, for instance, loss of income, life, contents or otherwise. Insurance can help you cover any mortgage payments if you are unable to work.
Do you need to sell your house quickly? Find out how
Government Schemes for first home buyers
You may be able to get government help to buy your first home if you’re a KiwiSaver member, a Kāinga Ora tenant and wish to buy the house that you live in, or are Māori and want to live on your ancestral land.
First Home Grant - If you're a first-time home buyer, or a previous home owner and you've been making regular KiwiSaver contributions for three-five years, you may be eligible for a First Home Grant of $5000 or $10,000 for couples.
KiwiSaver first home withdrawal - You can apply to withdraw money from your KiwiSaver to put towards buying your first home if you‘ve belonged to your KiwiSaver scheme for at least three years. You can withdraw your savings except for $1000 which must be left in your KiwiSaver account.
First home loan - With a First Home Loan (previously Welcome Home loan), you might be able to get a home loan with only a 5% deposit. How much you can borrow depends on where you live in New Zealand and what you can afford.
Maori - You can borrow money to build, buy or relocate a home on your ancestral land.
Help to buy a Kainga Ora House - If you’re an existing tenant in a state house you can buy your home if it’s available for purchase.
Learn more about the steps to buying your first home in New Zealand.
Defects Disclosure and conflict of interest checks
When buying a house, the real estate agent selling the property is obliged under the Real Estate Act 2008 to disclose to you any information they have been advised of, or made aware of by other means, if it may affect your decision to purchase.
That includes establishing if the real estate agent has a conflict of interest in the property. If you are in doubt, ask the agent outright if they know the buyer personally in any way and tell your lawyer.
If a company name is the purchaser on your sale and purchase agreement, you can check to see who the directors and shareholders are.
The Real Estate Authority has a range of guides, resources and downloads - all free and designed to inform and protect home buyers.
House Inspection Checklist
If you're serious about buying a property, you can download a comprehensive property inspection checklist from Consumer NZ.
Consumer NZ also recommends paying attention to:
- protection orders on trees and buildings
- zoning restrictions
- property title caveats
- sewer or septic tank?
- talking to neighbours about any plans that may affect you
- is the property likely to flood in heavy rain?
If you're considering renovating a bathroom or kitchen in the house you're inspecting, find out more about what's involved.
Legal Advice For Buying A House
Buying a house can often seem straight forward on the face of it, but lawyers have a completely different perspective and will identify issues that when addressed will protect you.
Here are some examples of legal documents required for a property sale. Your lawyer should cover these with you.
Protect yourself when buying a house by using a property lawyer.
You might also like:
- Advice and tips for selling a house
- Conveyancing protects buyers and sellers
- Check before you sign a sale and purchase agreement
Article update May 19, 2021 | About
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