Back to the blog index

Buying property during COVID-19 alert level 3

Buyers  |  16 October 2021  | By The team at settled.govt.nz

NZ styled house art NB

This page explains some of your options if you’re buying or thinking about buying during COVID-19 alert level 3.
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.

New Zealand is in the middle of a unique situation, and it is likely to be a challenging time for everyone involved in selling and buying property. Be kind and consider the needs of others when you’re communicating about a transaction.

To see what alert level your region is at and for general information about the current COVID-19 situation, visit covid19.govt.nz

If you’re also selling property during alert level 3, there is more information here.

Summary of activity at alert level 3

  • Private viewings by buyers or potential buyers may only be undertaken in person in limited circumstances and remote processes are preferred.
  • Any viewing and visit must be contactless and all health requirements must be met.
  • Prospective buyers should view a property online (for example, by video) wherever possible.
  • Potential buyers cannot cross the alert level 3 and 2 boundary for a property viewing.
  • Property viewings or visits are intended for exceptional circumstances only. We recommend that you limit the number of property viewings you undertake.
  • Visits to a property by professionals providing support to the sales process, or viewings of a person’s home by purchasers or potential purchasers and inspections may occur at a person’s home. The only people who may be present during a visit is a person who is:
    • a resident of the property; and
    • residents of 1 other home who are inspecting the property for the purpose of relocation, or who are relocating to the property, and
    • the minimum number of workers required to provide the services.
  • Viewings and pre-settlement inspections are possible. But traditional open homes with multiple parties are unlikely to be possible given the physical distancing requirements and limits on who can be present for a viewing described above.
  • All properties must have a NZ COVID Tracer app QR code throughout the sales process and all visitors to a property must scan the QR code and/or provide contact details.
  • Anyone who visits a property must wear a face covering if aged 12 years and over. Note that a Seller could request that potential buyers must wear a face covering as a condition of entry to their property.
  • Buyers or potential buyers viewing the property must be from the same household residence.
  • You must comply with all health requirements when viewing a property.
  • There are generally limited reasons for moving across the alert level 3 and 2 boundary.

You can find information about what you can and can’t do at alert level 3 on the COVID-19 website.

Real estate agents have been provided with clear guidance on what can and can’t happen under COVID-19 alert level 3. 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 3. 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 3 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.

Buyers who have made an offer

Meeting conditions of the sale

Property viewings and visits may only be undertaken in person in limited circumstances and remote processes are preferred. We encourage a cautious approach to professionals providing on-site services. Visits to a property by professionals providing support to the sales process, or viewings of a person’s home by purchasers or potential purchasers and inspections may occur at a person’s home. The only people who may be present during a visit is a person who is:

  • a resident of the property; and
  • residents of 1 other home who are inspecting the property for the purpose of relocation, or who are relocating to the property, and
  • the minimum number of workers required to provide the services.

The real estate agent will liaise with the vendor to obtain their consent and ensure that any visits or viewings are kept to a minimum and all health requirements are strictly adhered to.

Professionals and tradespersons must observe physical distancing and comply with any industry-specific or government guidance relevant to their role. Any professionals must maintain physical distancing requirements, wear a face covering, sanitise areas they touch, and keep a record of their visit for contact tracing purposes.

If you can't meet your conditions at alert level 3, talk to your lawyer or conveyancer, because the seller may agree to extend the conditional period.

If you’ve agreed with the seller that they need to get something fixed at the property before settlement, they can get a tradesperson to do that work at alert level 3 subject to the health requirements that apply.

Changing the conditional period or settlement date

If both parties agree, the conditional period can be extended and/or the settlement date can be postponed, until your region or the seller’s region moves to alert level 1 or alert level 2.

Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about the best approach for your transaction.

Many law firms and agents are working remotely, so there may be delays in service.

Pre-settlement inspections

At alert level 3, you and people from your residence, or an agent acting on your behalf can conduct a pre-settlement inspection in person with the seller’s consent, provided all public health requirements are met. If the property is tenanted, the tenant should also give their consent to the visit. Otherwise, you should use virtual methods to inspect a property where possible. Seek legal advice about the risks of a video inspection. This type of inspection may not pick up issues you would see if you were physically inspecting the house.

You must comply with the health measures and requirements as explained by the real estate agent.  

The seller must make the property available to you for a pre-settlement inspection. If the seller (or the tenants) prefer that you don’t come to the property, consider negotiating delaying settlement until the region moves to alert level 1 or alert level 2. Seek legal advice. Only people from the same residence can attend the pre-settlement inspection on behalf of the buyer.

You cannot move across the alert level 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 and preparing for settlement here.

Completing settlement and moving

At Alert Level 3 you can move house within the Alert Level 3 area if you are moving or relocating home permanently or on a long term basis. You should carry documents with you to show that you are moving house to help explain your travel. This could be a tenancy or sales agreement or proof of address.

You can use a moving company. Movers will need to keep 2 metres apart from you. We encourage you to wear a face covering if physical distancing is difficult.

Friends and whānau cannot help you move at Alert Level 3, unless they are already part of your bubble.

You can now travel in and out of Auckland (Level 3) if you are moving or relocating home permanently.

You can travel in and out of different alert levels if you are going home or moving or relocating home permanently. However, you may not temporarily change your principal home or place of residence (such as using a holiday home in a lower alert level) following a Government announcement of more restrictive alert level requirements.

You can 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 can travel between an Alert Level 3 and Level 2 area more than once to move your belongings to your new main home. However, try to move house in as few trips as possible. 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.

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.

For further information on moving, buying and selling your home at alert level 3, visit the Unite Against Covid-19 website.

You can travel into and out of Auckland (in one trip) to go to your main home or principal place of residence, or to relocate your main home or principal place of residence. Your place of departure or destination cannot be in the Alert Level 3 area, and it must be necessary to travel through the Alert Level 3 area for this purpose.

You must not stop, so far as reasonably practicable, on your journey. You can stop in an emergency, to use a toilet or get petrol, but you must follow Alert Level 3 guidance.   This travel must be necessary and you should carry evidence of the purpose of travel and your destination; this could include the following:

  • Document(s) that demonstrate the purpose of travel and the destination of the person travelling, for example a proof of residential address, if travelling home or a signed Sale and Purchase Agreement
  • Drivers must have their driver’s licence, and everyone should have a photo ID unless it is not reasonably practicable, for example minors
  • You do not need to carry evidence of a COVID-19 test or a negative COVID-19 test result

Moving companies can now assist with a move between alert level regions. Friends and whānau cannot help you move at Alert Level 3, unless they are already part of your bubble.

The Unite against COVID-19 website has specific information on travel in and out of the Waikato alert level 3 area.

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.

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 settlement day here.

Considering the seller’s circumstances

Be considerate of the seller’s circumstances and needs – their situation may be uncertain.

Buyers who are searching for a property

Open homes and private viewings

Traditional open homes with multiple parties are unlikely to be possible at alert level 3, given the physical distancing requirements and the limit on who can be present at the property, but they can happen remotely. Only potential buyers from the residence can attend a viewing or visit. Property viewings and visits are possible in person in limited circumstances. Where possible, you should view a property virtually, for example, by viewing a video of the property.

If a virtual viewing is not possible, private viewings may be possible under alert level 3 provided all health requirements can be met and with the vendor’s written permission. You should only physically inspect a property if you are serious about making an offer. Meeting public health requirements is paramount.

There are some rules to protect your health and the health of the agent and the property’s occupants:

  • At alert level 3, you are not allowed to travel between regions to go to a private viewing.
  • Anyone living at the property, including tenants, must agree in writing to each private viewing and must not be at the property during the viewing.
  • The agent will check on everyone’s health before a viewing. If you or an occupant of the property are self-isolating or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days, the private viewing cannot take place.
  • If you or an occupant of the property are ill with respiratory symptoms, you cannot view the property.
  • All viewings must be booked in advance.
  • Only potential buyers from the same residence can attend a private viewing or visit on behalf of a potential purchaser.
  • On arrival at the property, you must record your 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. You may also be asked to complete a contact tracing register and to use hand sanitiser.
  • The agent will open all internal doors before the viewing so that you don’t touch door handles in the house. You should not touch any surfaces in the house.
  • Anyone visiting the property aged 12 years and over must wear a face covering during the visit. Note, the Seller could request that potential buyers must wear a face covering as a condition of entry to their 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 alert level is reduced and the agent is able to visit the property in person.

Professionals visiting a property

At alert level 3, professionals such as property inspectors, valuers, photographers and videographers may visit a property if they cannot provide their services remotely, if it is safe to do so and, if the property’s occupants agree.

Professionals and tradespersons must observe physical distancing and comply with any industry-specific or government guidance relevant to their role. Any professionals, must maintain physical distancing requirements, they must wear a face covering, sanitise areas they touch, and keep a record of their visit for contact tracing purposes.

If you want a professional to visit a property you are interested in, contact the agent who will work with the vendor to arrange a time for the visit.

Prospective buyers shouldn’t attend the property with the professional but stay in contact by phone or video call instead.

Making an offer

All offers, including auctions and any multi-offer process, will be presented to the seller by email, phone or video call. If the property is being sold by auction, the agent will help you understand what the process is going to be and what you need to do to place a bid. You can read more about this here.

Doing things remotely may slow down some sales, so it is important to contact your lawyer or conveyancer early in the process so that you can meet any deadlines. Make sure you have received from the agent and had time to read the Sale and Purchase Agreement Guide before making any offers.

Sale and purchase agreement

At alert level 3, the agent will work with you to put the terms and conditions you would like into the sale and purchase agreement. Make sure you send a copy of this to your lawyer or conveyancer to check before you sign it. Talk to your lawyer about what conditions you might need to put in the sale and purchase agreement to protect you against changes in alert levels and to ensure professionals can inspect the property before you buy it.

You can’t meet the agent in person at their office to sign the agreement, so you may sign it electronically. In some cases, you could receive it by contactless delivery from either the agent or a courier. If you have the document delivered, you will need to sign it and courier it back.

Read more about sale and purchase agreements here.

The buying process

The general buying process hasn’t changed at alert level 3. You may have time during this period to research the process and think about what you want in a home.

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 concern

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.

How useful is this page? Please comment and let us know if there's something you would like to know.