Buying property during COVID-19 alert level 2
Buyers | 25 May 2020
By the team at settled.govt.nz
This page explains some of your options if you're selling or thinking about selling during COVID-19 alert level 2.
Alert level 2 is getting closer to business as usual, but there are still important considerations around hygiene, 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.
Click here for information about buying property at alert level 2.
You must follow these alert level 2 health guidelines which are referred to throughout this page.
At alert level 2, real estate offices can open, and you can visit to talk to agents or sign contracts. We recommend that you use your own pen. You will need to follow the health guidelines above, including maintaining 2-metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette. You will be asked to provide your contact details for contact tracing. Do as much as you can by phone or video call rather than in person.
Read more about deciding to sell with an agent or privately here.
If you do want to sell with an agent, read more about the process here.
At alert level 2, agents can visit your property to appraise it. The agent needs to keep a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone at the property and ensure that they follow good hygiene practices (for example, using anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down any areas they touch). If the agent isn't able to visit the property (for example, if one of the property occupants is at-risk) to do an appraisal, they will need to update the appraisal when they are able to visit the property.
Be aware that the appraisal may change after the agent has visited the property because they may see things that affect the potential sale price (for example, problem building materials like asbestos.)
The agent will need to explain what you are signing in the agency agreement, and this discussion can take some time. At alert level 2, the agent might suggest you have this discussion over the phone or by video call. When you're ready to sign the agency agreement, you can meet to do this in person. We suggest you take your own pen. You will need to follow the health guidelines above, including maintaining 2-metre physical distancing and hygiene etiquette.
Read more about agency agreements here.
Talk to your agent about the best method of sale for your property.
Auctions can take place at alert level 2 but must be carefully managed by the agent. A maximum of 100 people may attend an auction and a physical distance of 2 metres must be maintained. If the auction is being held at your property, there may be even fewer people allowed to attend, so that the agent can make sure physical distancing is maintained. The health guidelines above must be followed.
Read more about the different methods of sale here.
At alert level 2, a photographer, videographer or home-stager may visit your property if it is safe to do so. They need to meet the above health requirements, including hygiene etiquette, maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone at the property, and sanitising any surfaces they touch. Keep a record of visitors in case it’s needed for contact tracing.
When you sign the agency agreement, the agent needs to confirm your identity to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.
If you signed an agency agreement at alert level 3 or 4 when this could not happen in person, expect your agent to follow up on this at alert level 2.
If your property was listed during alert level 4 or 3, the agent might not have been able to appraise the property in person. At alert level 2, your agent can complete the appraisal in person. Be aware that the estimated sale price might change when your agent is able to visit your property to do a thorough appraisal.
Open homes and private viewings are allowed at alert level 2. You, the agent and anyone visiting your property need to follow the health guidelines above.
Attendance at open homes must be managed carefully to ensure that physical distancing of 2 metres is maintained at all times inside and outside the home and that contact tracing requirements can be met. Your 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. There can be no more than 10 people, including the agent, inside the home at any one time.
Your agent will provide hand sanitiser and display COVID-19 information and hygiene notices at the open home. Make sure you agree with your agent who will wipe down surfaces after people have visited your property.
If you are an at-risk person you may decide not to have open homes at your property. Talk to your agent about other options for potential buyers to view your home, for example, video tours or private viewings.
If you are selling privately, it is your responsibility to make sure you can meet the alert level 2 physical distancing and hygiene requirements. You can find more information here.
New Zealand may continue to change COVID-19 alert levels, which could impact the sale of your property. Before you start receiving offers, talk to the agent and your lawyer about the conditions you might need to put in the sale and purchase agreement to protect you, for example, from not being able to settle on settlement day because of a change in alert level.
Offers can be presented to you in person or by email, phone or video call. Be aware that there may be high demand for professionals such as property inspectors, who may not have been able to operate at levels 3 and 4. Any conditions in offers from buyers might need longer timeframes than usual, for example, they might ask for 15 working days instead of 10 working days to get a property inspection done.
Learn more about receiving offers and making counter offers here.
At alert level 2, professionals and tradespeople such as valuers, property inspectors and builders may visit a property if it is safe to do so and if the property's occupants agree. Professionals and tradespeople need to meet the above health requirements, including hygiene etiquette, maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone at the property, and sanitising any surfaces they touch. Keep a record of all visitors in case it’s needed for contact tracing.
At alert level 2, buyers can conduct pre-settlement inspections and can travel between regions to do so. They need to follow the health guidelines outlined above. Make sure you agree with your agent who will wipe down surfaces after people have visited your property.
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 the buyer to receive sanitised keys and garage door remotes by contactless delivery.
Read more about pre-settlement inspections and preparing for settlement here.
If the property you are selling is tenanted, you will be affected by the new protections against terminations, which are explained on the Tenancy Services website .
Your 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, if they are over 70 or have a pre-existing medical condition), they may want to set reasonable conditions for access to the property.
Check the Tenancy Services website to understand your responsibilities if you're selling a tenanted property.
The general selling process hasn't changed. We recommend you look through settled.govt.nz to read about planning and preparing to sell.
Read more about preparing your property for sale here.
If you are concerned that a real estate agent isn’t observing the COVID-19 health requirements, you can report it on the covid19 website.
If you have a problem with a real estate agent that you can’t resolve directly with them, you can bring your complaint to us at the Real Estate Authority (REA). Our REA website provides information about the options available to you.