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Buying from a private seller

Buyers  |  29 July 2019  | By the settled.govt.nz team

DIY Sale 2

People choose to sell privately for a variety of reasons, none of which necessarily mean that there is something wrong with the property or that they’re trying to pull a fast one, but without an agent in the process you will need to do more work yourself.

Due diligence

Just as in an ‘ordinary’ sale, you need to do the necessary amount of due diligence before making your offer. If you think the property meets your needs, you can start working towards finding out more about it.

Legal advice

We recommend you seek legal advice before making an offer on a property, whether it’s being sold by a licensed real estate agent or privately. In a private sale, legal advice and support is crucial. Get your lawyer on board early and they can help you through the process.

Ask questions

Start by asking the seller for information about the property. Remember a seller isn’t required under a Code of Conduct to be ethical so the onus is on you to do your due diligence well, with your team of experts.

Here are a few questions to get you going:

  • Is there a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) report and title deed? If so, get your lawyer to examine these thoroughly.
  • Is there anything that looks like a red flag? For example, if the property is in a flood-prone area, ask about how it has fared in recent incidents (if you don’t know the area well, a Google search can be helpful here).
  • Has the house has been subject to any EQC claims? If so, request evidence of any recommended remedial works.
  • Are there any planned property or roading developments in the neighbourhood that could have an impact on your future enjoyment of it?

Our Property Checker can help you work out what questions to ask.

Am I covered?

You should be aware that a private seller must tell you about any known issues with a property. If you have doubts about their truthfulness, talk to your lawyer before taking any further action.

Buying privately means you will not be covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act or the Fair Trading Act (unless you are buying from a person or entity that is in the business of trading properties). We cannot help if you have any issues with a private seller, all we can do is help you understand the process. However, you may still be protected by the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017. Your lawyer will be able to help you navigate the rules here.

How much should I offer?

If you’re not sure how much to offer on the property, it can be helpful to get a valuation from a registered valuer. For a cheaper, but less reliable alternative to paying for a valuation, you could check out online estimated valuations of comparable properties in the area.

Discuss your plans with your lawyer and your lender before talking any figures with the seller. One bonus of a private sale is that they may be more willing to negotiate on price because they don’t have to pay any commission to a real estate agent.

Adding conditions

When it comes to making your offer, you can put in as many conditions as you like (just as you would in a sale through a real estate agent). Bear in mind though, that the seller can do this too. In a private sale, the buyer’s lawyer usually draws up the sale and purchase agreement. Make sure you fully understand the conditions of your offer and that it contains all the standard obligations and responsibilities for both parties.

In short, a private sale is nothing to be afraid of as long as you do all the necessary homework and work very closely with your lawyer and the seller to achieve an outcome that everyone is happy with.

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