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Selling property during COVID-19 alert level 3

Sellers  |  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 during COVID-19 alert level 3.
This page was last reviewed 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 challenging 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, please visit covid19.govt.nz

If you’re also buying property during alert level 3, there is 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. This means some buyers may not be able to physically inspect your property.
  • Property viewings or visits are intended for exceptional circumstances only. We recommend that you limit the number of property viewings to your property.
  • 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.
  • Buyers or potential buyers viewing the property should be limited to the person inspecting the property.
  • All potential buyers that visit your property must comply with all health requirements during a viewing.
  • 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.

Real estate agents have been provided with clear guidance on what can and can’t happen under COVID-19 alert level 3. Remember, your real estate agent works for you and should provide you with clear and timely advice as to what is permitted under alert level 3, so that you can make the best decisions in these significant transactions. Getting the best outcome for you could mean your agent may recommend changes to the agreed marketing plan or sales method, depending on your personal circumstances. Talk to your real estate agent about your options.

We recommend you talk to your lawyer to seek legal advice early before making any decisions.

Remember that your real estate agent also has obligations to treat buyers and potential buyers fairly, and to give them time to make the best decisions. Buyers may need extra time during COVID-19 alert level 3 to complete their due diligence checks and to meet conditions. Have a discussion with your agent about the best way to manage this, for example, by agreeing to extend the conditional period. Seek advice on the appropriate terms to include in the sale and purchase agreement. You may want to get legal advice on the consequences of extending a conditional period.

Sellers who have received 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 buyers or potential buyers 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 you to obtain your 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.

Some buyers may find it difficult to meet their conditions at alert level 3. Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about whether you are willing to extend the conditional period.

If you’ve agreed with the buyer that you need to get something fixed at the property before settlement, you 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 buyer’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, and you should be prepared for delays.

Pre-settlement inspections

At alert level 3, the buyer or an agent acting for a buyer can conduct a pre-settlement inspection in person with your written consent, provided all public health requirements are met. If the property is tenanted, the tenant must also give their consent to the visit. 

Buyers cannot move across the alert level 3 and alert level 2 boundary to conduct a pre-settlement inspection.

Buyers can use virtual methods to inspect a property, however this creates potential risk for buyers. Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about the best approach for your transaction. You could consider postponing settlement and the pre-settlement inspection until your region drops down to alert level 1 or 2.

If a pre-settlement inspection is arranged, you and the other people who live at your property are encouraged to leave the property until the inspection has been completed. Your agent must maintain a 2 metre physical distance and ensure all surfaces that have been touched are cleaned at the end of the viewing. Only buyers from the same residence can attend the pre-settlement inspection.

You should make the property available to the buyer for a pre-settlement inspection. If you (or your tenants) prefer that the buyers don’t come to your property, consider negotiating a delayed settlement until your region moves to alert level 1 or alert level 2. Seek legal advice.

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. 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 travel in and out of different alert levels (including into and out of Auckland (Level 3)) if you are going home or 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 consider postponing settlement and the pre-settlement inspection until your region drops down to alert level 1 or 2.

Read more about settlement day here.

Considering the buyer’s circumstances

Be considerate of the buyer’s circumstances and needs – their situation may be uncertain. They may have difficulty viewing your property or completing their due diligence under alert level 3.

Remember your real estate agent has an obligation to treat buyers fairly and to allow them enough time to complete their due diligence and seek professional advice.

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.

Tenanted properties

Your tenant will also need to give permission every time anyone visits the property in relation to the sale (for example, the agent and tradespersons). If the tenant does not agree to a visit, it cannot go ahead.

Sellers who have listed and are still marketing

Open homes and private viewings

Traditional open homes with multiple parties may not be possible at alert level 3, given the physical distancing requirements and the limit on who may be present at the property. Only buyers from the same residence can attend a viewing or visit. Property viewings and visits may be undertaken in person in limited circumstances. Where possible, buyers should view a property virtually, for example, by viewing a video of your property.

If a virtual viewing is not possible, private viewings are possible under alert level 3 with your written permission, and provided the health requirements are met. However, only people who are serious about making an offer should have a private viewing. Talk to your agent about how you wish to manage property visits and viewings. The health and wellbeing of everyone is paramount.

There are some rules to protect your health and the health of your agent and buyers for a property viewing:

  • At alert level 3, potential buyers 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
  • All viewings must be booked in advance with time between viewings for cleaning all surfaces and ventilation.

Before a viewing

  • Your agent will check on everyone’s health.
  • If you or someone at the property is a high-risk person (for example, a person with a pre-existing medical condition), the agent won’t be able to have private viewings at your property.
  • If you or an occupant of the property, or a potential buyer are self-isolating or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days, then the private viewing cannot take place.
  • If anyone is ill with respiratory symptoms, they cannot come to the property, and if you or anyone in your family are ill, no one can come to your property.

 During the viewing

  • Your agent will open all internal doors before the viewing, so people don’t touch door handles in your house. Anyone viewing your property should use hand sanitiser, and they are not allowed to touch any surfaces in your house. Anyone visiting the property aged 12 year and over should wear a face covering during the visit.
  • Buyers or potential buyers must supply full contact details for possible COVID-19 contact tracing. Your agent should ensure there is plenty of time between viewings to clean all surfaces after each viewing.
Marketing the property

If you don’t yet have an offer to buy your property, we recommend you talk to your agent about how you might market your property during this time. Agents are not allowed to put flyers in letterboxes at alert level 3.

If you don’t want to continue marketing your property at alert level 3, talk to your agent. You might agree to withdraw your property from the market or put your marketing campaign on hold. Usually, sellers pay the marketing costs upfront, and it may be that most of the budget has been spent, for example, Trade Me advertising may have been placed and paid for. Talk to your agent about what will happen to any unspent budget if you put your campaign on hold.

If you are thinking about selling

Listing your property

At alert level 3, you cannot visit a real estate agency office.

You can use REA’s public register to find agents who are working in your area here.

Most agencies have a website where you can find information about their team. You can meet agents by phone or video call to help you decide who you’d like to sell your property.

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.

Getting an appraisal

At alert level 3, it is preferred that agents create an online appraisal and update it when they’ve visited the property at alert level 2. 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.)

If it’s not possible to do an online appraisal, agents may visit your property with your permission (and the tenant’s permission if the property is tenanted) to conduct an appraisal, provided that no other person is present at the property.

The agent should wear a face covering and follow good hygiene practices (for example, using anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down any areas they touch and using hand sanitiser before and after visiting the property). You must maintain a 2 metre distance from the agent when they arrive, and the agent should be the only person on site when undertaking the appraisal.

You are encouraged to leave the property or wait outside until the appraisal has been completed.

If you are a high-risk person, are self-isolating or have any upper respiratory symptoms, you must let your agent know as they will not be able to come to your property.

Signing the agency agreement

All discussions regarding the agency agreement should be done remotely. Make sure you take the time to have the agreement checked by your lawyer or conveyancer.

When you’re ready to sign the agency agreement, you should sign it electronically. In some cases, you could receive it by contactless delivery from either the agent or a courier. You will need to sign it and courier it back. Make sure you have received from your agent and had time to read the Agency Agreement Guide before signing the agency agreement.

Read more about agency agreements here.

Complying with the anti-money laundering obligations

When you sign the agency agreement, the agent will need to confirm your identity to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009. This can’t happen in person at level 3, so expect your agent to confirm your identity using methods that aren't face to face or to follow up on this when the country (or your region) moves to alert level 2 or lower.

Professionals visiting your property

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

Professionals and tradespersons must observe health requirements 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.

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 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.

If someone is working at your property, it could be difficult to maintain a 2 metre distance from them. In this case, it may be better if you and the other people who live there, leave the house until the person has finished. 

Talk to your real estate agent about what is absolutely necessary and what could be deferred until alert level 2 or alert level 1. For example, you may prefer to take your own photos and videos instead.

Receiving offers

All offers, including auctions and any multi-offer process, will be presented to you by email, phone or video call. This may slow things down, so it is important to coordinate time between your lawyer or conveyancer and the agent for you to discuss the offers and any terms they have included in the sale and purchase agreement. Make sure you have received from your agent and had time to read the Sale and Purchase Agreement Guide before receiving any offers.

If you are ready to accept an offer and countersign a sale and purchase agreement, you can’t meet to do this in person. You may sign it electronically, or in some cases, you could receive it by contactless delivery from either the agent or a courier. You will need to sign it and courier it back.

New Zealand may continue to change alert levels, which could impact the sale of your property. Before you start receiving offers, talk to the agent and your lawyer or conveyancer about the conditions you might need to put in the sale and purchase agreement to protect you against changes in alert levels (for example, not being able to settle on settlement day because of the alert level). 

The selling process

The general selling process hasn’t changed, so we recommend you look through settled.govt.nz to read about planning and preparing to sell. You may have time during the lockdown period to prepare your property for sale.

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.

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