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Buying property during COVID-19 alert level 2

Buyers  |  23 September 2020  | By the team at settled.govt.nz

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This page explains some of your options if you're buying or thinking about buying property during COVID-19 alert level 2.

At alert level 2, there are still important considerations around hygiene, wearing a face covering, physical distancing between people and being able to trace anyone you have been in contact with.

For general information about the current COVID-19 situation, please visit covid19.govt.nz.

Find information about selling property at alert level 2 here.

Summary of activity at alert level 2
  • Moving house is permitted at alert level 2 – including to and from a region that is at alert level 3. If you will be crossing into a region at a different alert level, you should bring documents to support your reason for travel, if possible.
  • If you live in a region that’s at alert level 2, you can travel within your region or to another region that’s at alert level 1 or alert level 2 to attend open homes, private viewings and auctions. Requirements for gatherings, hygiene, physical distancing, face coverings and contact tracing must be followed.
  • Property inspectors, valuers, engineers and tradespeople can visit properties at any time during alert level 2, with the consent of the property occupants.
  • Buyers and sellers who deferred settlement during alert level 3 or alert 4 may settle at alert level 2 if both parties agree.
  • Some law firms and agents may be working remotely, and this may cause delays.
  • You can find information about staying safe and well at alert level 2 on the COVID-19 website.

Health guidelines

You must follow these alert level 2 health guidelines, which are referred to throughout this page.

  • Keep at least 2 metres away from anyone you don't know, both inside and outside.
  • You should wear a face covering (for example, a face mask), when you’re in spaces where physical distancing may be difficult, like at open homes and auctions.
  • Don't visit a property if the occupants are unwell, are self-isolating or have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
  • Don't visit a property if you or anyone you have been in contact with are unwell, are self-isolating or have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
  • Limit the number of people visiting a property to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Give the full contact details of everyone who is visiting a property to the agent in case these are needed for contact tracing.
  • Sanitise your hands before entering and after leaving a property.
  • If you are an at-risk person (for example, those who have a pre-existing medical condition or some older people), you are encouraged to do as much as you can by phone or video call rather than in person. For more information about who is considered at risk, visit the Ministry of Health website.

Visiting a real estate office

At alert level 2, real estate offices can open, and you can visit to talk to agents or sign contracts. You will need to follow the health guidelines above, including maintaining 2 metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette. You may also want to wear a face covering.

You will be asked to provide your contact details for contact tracing, and you should record your visit through the NZ COVID Tracer app and scan the QR code, which will be displayed at the entrance to the office. If you choose not to use the app, record your visit via the contact tracing register provided by the agency.

Do as much as you can by phone or video call rather than in person.

Open homes and private viewings

Open homes and private viewings are allowed at alert level 2 for potential buyers from regions that are at alert level 1 or alert level 2. Make sure you follow the health guidelines above, including maintaining 2 metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette. 

If you attend an open home, the agent will make sure there are measures in place to allow for physical distancing considering the layout and size of a property, for example, staggering entry to the property and managing queues.

You will need to supply the full contact details of all the people in your group for contact tracing purposes. On arrival at the property, each person should record their visit through the NZ COVID Tracer app by scanning the QR code. There will be a QR code displayed at the entrance to the property. You can find more information about using the NZ COVID Tracer app on the COVID-19 website.

The agent is also likely to ask for your details for the open home register, for security purposes, and so they can follow up with you about your interest in the property.

The estimated sale price of the property

If the property was listed during alert level 3 or alert level 4, the agent might not have been able to appraise the property in person. The agent should let you know this. Be aware that the estimated sale price might change when the agent has visited in person. 

Auctions

At alert level 2, auctions can take place. Make sure you follow the health guidelines above, including maintaining 2 metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette, and wearing a face covering.

Up to 100 people may attend an auction depending on the space available. Because of the limit on numbers, the agent might ask you to reduce the number of support people you bring with you to the auction

All attendees need to supply their full contact details in case contact tracing is required. Each person should also record their visit through the NZ COVID Tracer app by scanning the QR code at the entrance. If you choose not to use the app, record your visit via the contact tracing register provided by the agent.

Talk to the agent if you wish to place phone bids rather than attend. Bidding by phone is a good idea for at risk people (those at higher risk from COVID-19).

You can read more about the auction process here.

Learn more about making an offer for different methods of sale here.

Making an offer

Inspecting the property

You may want to have the property inspected by a professional (for example, a valuer or property inspector) before you put in an offer to buy the property. At alert level 2, professionals can visit a property if the seller and property occupants agree. Contact the agent to arrange a time for your professional to visit.

Making the offer and signing the agreement

When you're ready to make an offer, the agent will work with you to put the terms and conditions you would like into your offer (the sale and purchase agreement). At alert level 2, the agent may suggest explaining the sale and purchase agreement by phone or video call rather than in person.

We recommend your lawyer or conveyancer checks the agreement before you sign it to make sure it includes all the protection you need. Your lawyer or conveyancer might also suggest including conditions in your offer to protect you against changes in COVID-19 alert levels.

You can then meet the agent in person to sign the sale and purchase agreement, as long as you maintain a physical distance of 2 metres. You may want to take your own pen and wear a face covering.

Meeting conditions

If you're making an offer that is conditional on a professional inspecting the property, check with them about any delays to their service so you can give yourself enough time to meet your conditions.

Read more about making an offer, sale and purchase agreements and conditions here.

Pre-settlement inspections

At alert level 2, you are able to do a pre-settlement inspection and travel to visit the property as long as you are travelling to and from a region that is at alert level 1 or alert level 2. Make sure you follow the health guidelines above.

Read more about pre-settlement inspections here.

Completing settlement and moving

Settlement and moving can go ahead within or between regions that are at alert level 2, or alert level 1.

New Zealand is in the middle of a unique situation where the health of all New Zealanders has to be the priority. It is likely to be stressful for all parties involved in a transaction, so be kind and consider the needs of others when you’re communicating about a transaction.

If settlements were postponed until alert level 2, those settlements can now take place. There may be a lot of people moving house, so allow more time to find a moving company to help with the settlement process.

On settlement day, the agent should arrange for you to receive sanitised keys and garage door remotes by contactless delivery if possible.

Read more about what you can expect on settlement day here.

Tenanted properties

The tenant needs to give permission every time anyone visits the property in relation to the sale (for example, the agent, a photographer or a property inspector). Tenants can't unreasonably refuse access, but they can set reasonable conditions. If they are an at risk person (for example, those who have a pre-existing medical condition or some older people), they may want to set reasonable conditions for access to the property.

The buying process

The general buying process hasn't changed at alert level 2.

Learn more about the buying process here or look at our buyer journey guide.

Learn about your different property options here.

Find out about different types of property ownership here.

Learn about the different information you should gather when researching a property here.

If you have a problem or concerns

If you are concerned that a real estate agent isn’t observing the COVID-19 health requirements, you can report a COVID-19 breach using the form on the New Zealand Police website.

If you have a problem with a real estate agent that you can’t resolve directly with them, find out how the Real Estate Authority (REA) can help you on the REA website.

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