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Buying property during COVID-19 alert level 2

Buyers  |  16 October 2021  | 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.
This page was last reviewed and updated on 16 October 2021.

This information is designed to support the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in real estate transactions and to prevent and limit the risk of spread of COVID-19, and to respond to the highly infectious nature of the Delta variant.

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.

This page includes information about:

 

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
  • Anyone aged 12 years and over is strongly encouraged to wear a face covering (for example, a face mask), when visiting a property, attending auctions or meeting with a real estate agent
  • NZ COVID Tracer app QR codes must be displayed at every agency office and property for sale. There must also be a contract tracing register. You are encouraged to scan the NZ COVID Tracer app QR code and provide your contact details on the contact tracing register when visiting a property, agency office or attending an auction (but you must do one or the other). This information will be held by the agent for 60 days for contact tracing purposes
  • There are limits on the number of people that can attend open homes and auctions in addition to ensuring 2-metre physical distancing requirements can be met. We encourage you to limit the number of people in your group to assist with this
  • 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
  • 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

Real estate agents have been provided with clear guidance on what can and can’t happen under COVID-19 alert level 2. Remember, the real estate agent works for the seller and will provide them with clear and timely advice as to what is permitted under alert level 2. The seller may decide to make changes to the agreed marketing plan or sales method, depending on their personal circumstances.

The real estate agent also has obligations to treat you and other potential buyers fairly, and to give you time to make the best decisions. As a buyer, you may need extra time during COVID-19 alert level 2 to complete your due diligence checks and to meet conditions.

We recommend you talk to your lawyer to seek legal advice early before making any decisions. Now is not the time to cut corners when making a significant financial decision.

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 are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering.

If possible, do as much as you can by phone or video call rather than in person.

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.

Open homes and private viewings

At alert level 2, you can go to open homes, auctions and private viewings. You can travel to another region that is in Alert Level 1 or 2 to view a property.  Make sure you follow the health guidelines above, including maintaining 2-metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette.

Attendance at opens homes, auctions and viewings are limited to 100 people. Limit the size of your group to help ensure you can maintain physical distancing. If you attend an open home, try to keep at least 2 metres away from people you do not know. The agent will make sure there are measures in place to allow for physical distancing considering the layout and size of a property such as staggering entry to the property and managing queues.

Open homes legally must display the NZ COVID Tracer QR code. Remember to sign in wherever you go, or record your details on the contact tracing register. You will need to supply the full contact details of all the people in your group for contact tracing purposes.

Wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged when visiting a property, however it is important to note that a seller may insist that anyone entering their property wears a face covering. Do not go to an open home if you are feeling unwell.

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.

You cannot move across an alert level 3 and alert level 2 boundary to attend an open home or private viewing for a property in a region at alert level 2. Check with the agent if there are options for virtual viewings instead.

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 the property in person.

Auctions

Auctions can take place at alert level 2, but there are some restrictions. Make sure you follow the health guidelines  above including maintaining 2-metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette, and wearing a face covering.

Auctions held indoors or outdoors are limited to 100 people. The layout and size of the venue may mean the number of people who can practically maintain 2-metre physical distancing is less than 100. You must be 2-metres away from any person at the auction outside of your bubble.

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.

Talk to the agent if you wish to place phone bids rather than attend in person. 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.

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. The professional will need to comply with the public health requirements for alert level 2.

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.

Make sure you have received from the agent and had time to read the Sale and Purchase Agreement Guide before making any offers.

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 in the event of 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. Make sure you follow the health guidelines above. You are encouraged to take your own pen.

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

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 when undertaking the inspection.

You cannot move across the alert level 3 and 2 boundary for the purpose of a pre-settlement inspection. Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about the best approach for your transaction. You could talk to the seller about postponing settlement and the pre-settlement inspection until the region your new property is in is also at alert level 2.

Read more about pre-settlement inspections here.

Completing settlement and moving

At Alert Level 2, you can move house within the alert level 2 region and, you can move between different alert Level areas if you are moving or relocating home permanently or on a long-term basis as a result of purchasing a new principal home or place of residence.  If you are moving to an area with the same Alert Level settings, you can:

  • ask your friends or whānau to help you move
  • use a moving company.

Movers will need to follow physical distancing guidelines and keep a record of where they have been to help with contact tracing.

If anyone is unwell or has symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home and get tested.

You can travel from an Alert Level 2 to an Alert Level 3 area if you are going home or moving or relocating home permanently or on a long term basis as a result of purchasing a new principal home or place of residence. You must have evidence of your reason for your travel and the destination. This could be a tenancy or sales agreement or proof of address.

You can now travel from an Alert Level 3 to an Alert Level 2 area if you are going home or moving or relocating home permanently or on a long term basis as a result of purchasing a new principal home or place of residence. You must have evidence of your reason for your travel and the destination. This could be a tenancy or sales agreement or proof of address. Everyone aged 12 and over must also have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result administered no more than 72 hours before travel, or a medical certificate confirming you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and, for a particular physical or other need, are unable to have a COVID-19 test.

Moving companies can now assist with a move between alert level regions.

Please see the information provided on the Unite Against COVID-19 website  for further information on moving, buying and selling your home.  Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about the best approach for your transaction. You could talk to the seller about postponing settlement and the pre-settlement inspection until the region your new property is in is also at alert level 2.

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.

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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