Discover How Long a Property Has Been for Sale


When a property has been on the market for an extended period, it could be a cause for concern. Are there underlying issues with the neighborhood, noise levels, or something else? It’s crucial to inquire about the duration of the listing from the real estate agent. While market conditions across New Zealand may account for houses sitting unsold, it’s in your best interest to uncover the full story.


Use an Open Home Checklist to Avoid Unpleasant Surprises


While taking photos during an open home is important, conducting a thorough inspection is paramount. We’ve outlined essential tasks to complete during each viewing. As you attend more open houses, you’ll become an expert at assessing properties. Don’t hesitate to scrutinize every detail since you’re investing a significant amount of money:

1. Check doors, windows, and drawers for smooth operation and proper alignment. Note any issues and request repairs before finalizing the purchase.

2. Look for signs of mold, dampness, and drafts. Inspect for peeling wallpaper, condensation on windows, and musty odors in wardrobes and cupboards.

3. Examine walls and ceilings for cracks, leaks, or stains.

4. Test switches to ensure lights and circuits are functional. Verify the functionality of the oven and other electrical appliances.

5. Assess the availability and placement of electrical outlets, especially if you require multiple charging stations. Test them by plugging in your phone.

6. Inspect the plumbing by running the shower to gauge water pressure and checking the toilet flush and sink drainage.

7. Evaluate the security of locks, whether they are deadlocks, keypad systems, or traditional keys.

8. Lift rugs, carpets, and mats to inspect for hidden stains or damage to the underlying flooring.

9. Test mobile coverage by turning on your phone and checking the signal strength. Consider whether you can stream videos without issues.

10. Audit the attic for any signs of mold, leaks, or other hidden problems.

11. Observe the condition of the exterior walls, including the paint and any cracks or signs of rot.

12. Examine the roof for missing tiles, debris in the gutters, or signs of leaks.

13. Assess whether the kitchen provides enough space for your needs, as a cramped kitchen can be frustrating when preparing meals for a large family.

14. Pay attention to the neighboring properties. Overgrown lawns, rundown exteriors, and broken windows might indicate an unfavorable location.

15. Take note if any cars are parked on the lawn, as this may reflect poorly on the neighborhood.

16. Evaluate the seller’s intentions. If they appear to be listing the property without genuine intentions to sell, it’s advisable to avoid wasting time and money on fees.


Capture Photos at the Open Home


An open home provides an excellent opportunity to photograph the property. Always ask the agent for permission before taking photos and capture images of every area you visit. Revisit the same rooms during the viewing to take in additional details beyond what you photographed. These photos will come in handy later when comparing properties and refreshing your memory.


Consider the Possibility of Arranging a Private Sale


If you have a specific area in mind but can’t find a suitable house for sale, it may be worth sending a letter to residents in the desired street expressing your interest in purchasing a house. Most letters related to property are from real estate agents, so your letter will stand out. Your genuine intention might resonate with someone considering selling their home. It’s worth a try, even though private sales are not common in New Zealand.


Be Cautious of Expensive Property Management or Body Corporate Charges


As the saying goes, people tend to spend other people’s money freely, and this includes body corporate management companies. When buying into a property managed by a body corporate, you will be responsible for annual fees covering property maintenance, lift operation, common space repairs, building insurance, and various other expenses. These management companies may prioritize selecting services and maintenance contracts that yield higher commissions, without necessarily providing the best value.


In addition to verifying the annual service charge, request financial statements to understand the property’s financial position. If there is insufficient funding for necessary improvements, you, as the owner, may be liable for a substantial share of the costs, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. For apartment hunters, it is crucial to obtain written confirmation of annual charges before making a purchase.

Top Tip: Conduct a Google search on the property management company to gain insights into any issues they may have. Check for complaints, troubled directors, or a history of poor service. You can also inquire with apartment owners in the same building to gather their opinions on the provided services. Assess whether the charges are excessive, slow, substandard, or dismissive.


Request Quotes for Conveyancing and Don’t Settle for the First Lawyer You Contact


Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from one person to another. While lawyers across New Zealand offer this service, fees can vary. The conveyancing process involves substantial work, including property searches, paperwork preparation, and contract drafting. It’s not advisable to attempt a DIY approach or settle for a cut-price lawyer. Follow these steps for a recommended approach:

1. Conduct a Google search for “best conveyancing solicitors NZ” and review the available reviews. You don’t necessarily have to choose a local lawyer, but meeting face-to-face for signing a sale and purchase agreement might be advantageous.

2. Familiarize yourself with the details of your purchase, such as the number of mortgages, property type (leasehold or fee simple), and other relevant factors. This information will enable you to receive accurate quotes.

3. Prioritize reputation and experience when selecting a lawyer or law firm experienced in conveyancing.

4. Request a comprehensive breakdown of fees, ensuring all costs are included, such as search fees, postage, and photocopying.

5. Inquire about any planned holidays of the lawyer. It’s essential to have consistent contact and avoid potential issues if they are unavailable during crucial stages, such as the settlement day.


Check for Planned Developments in the Neighborhood


It’s important to be aware of any future developments in the area to avoid unpleasant surprises. Contact your local council and request information on all resource and building consents granted for the neighborhood. This knowledge will help you avoid buying a property next to a construction site or one that may be overshadowed by a new development.


Familiarize Yourself with the Legal Process to Prevent Costly Problems


Understanding the legal process involved in purchasing a property is crucial to avoid expensive issues. Familiarize yourself with the auction process and carefully consider all aspects before deciding on an offer. If you are working with a mortgage broker, they can provide guidance on navigating the offer and auction period.

Maintain Communication with Your Lawyer


While a property purchase is significant to you, it may be just one of many transactions for your lawyer. To ensure there are no surprises, stay in regular contact with them. If you haven’t heard from them for 3-5 days and there is no pending action required from your side, consider reaching out to check the progress. 


Confirm Fixtures and Chattels in Writing


Ensure clarity regarding what is included in the sale by listing the fixtures and chattels in Section 1 of your Agreement for Sale and Purchase. Examples of chattels may include a stove, fixed floor coverings, blinds, curtains, and light fittings. If there are additional items you expect to be included, such as heat pumps or garage door openers, specify them and get the list signed. Removing a fixture without agreement can lead to delays in settlement or potential compensation claims from the buyer. Remember, sellers cannot replace existing chattels with lower-value alternatives.


Understand Penalties for Backing Out


Backing out of a property purchase is a significant decision that may come with financial penalties. Each sale and purchase contract outlines conditions and penalties if either party decides to change their minds. If you wish to back out after the contract becomes unconditional, seek legal advice as you may be liable for penalties according to the agreement. If your financing falls through or circumstances change, consult a lawyer to understand your options and potential consequences. Avoid signing an unconditional contract if financing is uncertain or not in place.


Obtain Quotes for Required Work


If the building report identifies any issues, consult a trusted builder to get quotes for necessary repairs. You can then negotiate with the seller to either fix the problems before the exchange or request a discount on the final price. For issues related to dampness or other concerns, consider seeking multiple professional opinions to ensure a comprehensive understanding before taking possession.


Dealing with Leaky Buildings


Leaky buildings can be complex, and it’s essential to know your rights and appropriate next steps. Contact the Home Owners and Buyers Association Inc (HOBANZ) for guidance and assistance in understanding the intricacies of dealing with leaky buildings.


Last-Minute Questions for Sellers


Before finalizing the purchase and moving into your new home, ask the sellers a few important questions:

  • Where is the water shut-off valve, and where are the electrical meters located?
  • What day is rubbish collection day?
  • Are there any specific cleaning products required for certain floor surfaces?
  • Do you have any spare paint cans matching the interior or exterior walls?
  • Do you possess warranties or manuals for electrical items, such as heat pumps?

By asking these questions, you can gather valuable information and ensure a smoother transition into your new home.

Remember, it’s always advisable to consult a lawyer specializing in conveyancing to guide you through the entire home-buying process and address any specific concerns you may have.

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