From getting property reports and council files to hiring lawyers and talking to the bank, whether it's your first time buying a home, or it's been a while, the to-do list of tasks can seem overwhelming and expensive.
Before you make an offer, it's good to consider:
- Home buying experts — who to talk to and when to involve them.
- Reports — what to ask for and what each document can tell you.
- Know what to ask — knowing what's important to you in a home can help limit your search and know what questions to ask.
- Types of ownership — whether you will own or lease the land and building.
- Sales methods — understand the process and what's involved.
For in-depth information about each stage of the home-buying experience, from house hunting to settlement day, see the Settled website.
Buying a home(external link) — Settled
Home-buying experts — who to talk to
Before you visit your first open home, line up key experts.
- Lawyer or conveyancer: They can make sure you know exactly what you're signing and how the process works.
- Lender or broker: Getting loan pre-approval early will help you understand what you can spend and be realistic in your search.
For more information on lawyers and conveyancers, what the difference is between them how to work with them and what to do if you have a problem, see our page on Working with Lawyers and conveyancers.
Working with a lawyer or conveyancer
Lawyer or conveyancer
Your lawyer or conveyancer is possibly the most important of the experts involved in home-buying. They handle all the paperwork behind the scenes and make sure you know what you're signing when you do want to make an offer.
Get your lawyer or conveyancer on board as soon as you decide to start looking. You might not need them for a while, but they can help explain the process to you.
Do not sign a sale and purchase agreement until your lawyer or conveyancer has checked it.
Working with your lawyer or conveyancer
Banks, lenders and mortgage brokers
Ask about getting pre-approval for a home loan. You don't need to wait until you've found a home. Pre-approval doesn't mean you have a loan secured for a specific house, but it gives you confidence in knowing how much you can spend.
Pre-approval usually lasts for three months. There are different options for how you approach finding your mortgage:
- Go straight to a lender: This could be a bank or non-bank lender, eg building societies, credit unions.
- Go through a mortgage broker: The broker isn't the lender, but deals with a number of lenders and can shop around for you. Be aware some lenders don't deal with brokers so there may be options you aren't aware of. Most brokers are paid a commission by the lender, not by you.
The Sorted website can help you understand the benefits and disadvantages of each kind of lender.
Getting a mortgage(external link) — Sorted
You don't have to get your mortgage from your regular bank. Shop around for the best option for you.
When you find a property you want to put an offer on:
- Sort insurance: Most banks and lenders won't confirm your loan until insurance is in place.
- Get loan approval: Get back in touch with your bank, lender or mortgage broker to find out what they need to approve your loan, eg building report, insurance details.
- Get the best deal: Don't be afraid to haggle over interest rates and incentives, eg cash or overseas holidays.
If you have a problem with your loan, lender or broker, check out our page about your rights:
Mortgages and home loans
If you want more information on insurance including how to resolve problems, check out our page about your rights:
Reports and paperwork
Find out as much as you can about the property before you make an offer. This will help you avoid nasty surprises.
Here are key reports to include in your research. Your lawyer or conveyancer can explain anything you don't understand, and can identify any risks or problems.
With any of these reports, if you find something which you don't understand, ask the agent or your lawyer for information and advice. It's almost impossible to know everything there is to know about a property. Think of each report and piece of information as a way to understand what other questions need to be asked.
If you are looking at a house in an area affected by natural disaster, there are additional checks and experts you need to consider.
Buying a house after a natural disaster
LIM report (land information memorandum)
A summary of the current information the council has on the property, including:
- flood and erosion risks for the area
- consents and permits granted by the council, eg building consent for a bathroom, or deck built over a certain height.
It's a good idea to have your lawyer or conveyancer read the LIM report alongside the council files to spot any discrepancies, eg missing consent applications. This might cost extra.
Apply for a LIM report through your local council.
These contain information that isn't in the LIM report, including:
- site plans that show where buildings are in relation to the boundary
- original plans for the property.
This information can help you check if a property has the right consents and permits. Compare the consents and permits in the LIM with the original floor plan, current size, and state of the house to see if something might be missing.
If you can, take the file to a viewing, and compare it to the plan. Are all the rooms in the same place as on the plan? Have any extra rooms/space been added? If you're unsure, ask the real estate agent. If you can't remember what the house looked like, it's a good idea to ask for a private viewing. This gives you the chance to take your time, check out anything you're unsure about and take photos.
Some councils have this information available online, others you may need to visit council to see them. Ask your local council for more information on how to access them.
Doing your homework(external link) — Settled
Council files can be cheaper than LIM reports, and are sometimes more important. To get the whole picture about a property, read these together.
Record of title
It sets out all records about a property, including:
- Owner: Check if the legal owner of the property is the person selling it.
- Ownership type: See if you will own or rent the land and buildings — see Type of ownership for details.
- Restrictions: What you can and can't do with the property, eg protected trees, limits on building height.
- Access rights: Details of who is allowed on your property, eg utilities companies, neighbours who get to their home via your driveway.
Your lawyer can do a title search to get this information, and can help you read it.
Tell your lawyer if there are particular issues you want to be clear on. For example if the view is important to you, ask your lawyer if there are restrictions on the neighbours building over a certain height.
Pre-purchase inspection or building report
Explains the condition of the property, including any maintenance or repairs needed.
Choose an accredited inspector who complies with NZS 4306 — the New Zealand standard for property inspections.
There is no licensing process for inspectors, so it's a good idea to choose someone who is a member of one of these organisations:
Our page on building reports has tips on what to look for, how to read your property inspection report, and what do if there's a problem.
Building reports and red flags
If your building report shows a problem the agent or owner hadn't mentioned, tell them what you have found. They must tell other potential buyers.
Depending on the property, you may need other in-depth checks.
Your bank or insurance provider might ask for additional inspections by specialists. Examples include:
- Building surveyor: Especially for questions or concerns about boundaries or structural soundness.
- Registered electrician: To check the wiring and other electrical installations.
- Geotechnical engineer: For advice on retaining walls and structural issues with the land.
For in-depth information about reports and researching your property, see the Settled website.
Researching the property(external link) — Settled
In an area affected by an earthquake, landslip or flood, do extra checks before making an offer.
Buying a house after a natural disaster