Finding a rental house in New Zealand can seem like a big task. One debate my wife and I had before we left was if it was better to rent a place unseen or wait until we got to New Zealand. We decided to wait and were very happy with that decision. Since most rentals only require a 21-day notice to vacate, the property market turns over frequently and on short notice. Our first rental we were able to move in 4 days after signing a lease.
Finding a place to rent
New Zealand is going through a rental supply problem. There have been reports of over 500 applications for moderately places rentals in high demand locations. It is not uncommon for there to be a line of people at new properties in high demand locations with people filling in applications at the of viewing. Many times landlords favor Kiwis over foreigners when there are multiple applications. Most of the time, it is not as bad as I am making it seem here.
My wife and I did not ship our entire household to New Zealand, so we were looking for a furnished rental. We discovered that there were far fewer furnished rentals than unfurnished rentals. There were usually less than five furnished rentals at any one time in New Plymouth. We rented two furnished houses, and our third rental was partially furnished. We found that op shops provided a wide range of products from washing machines to can openers for a very reasonable price.
TradeMe- TradeMe is the largest site for property listings. Most of the listings are from real estate agents, but there are some private listings. TradeMe has an online viewing scheduler tool that some agents require to be used. It has most of the properties in an area, but not all of them.
–realestate.co.nz– This website is another mass lister of properties. I find that there are more properties on TradeMe, and some properties that are listed here are not actually for rent. They will occasionally have a property for rent that is not on TradeMe.
-Individual real estate online listings- The selection of these sites tend to be smaller, but some real estate agents do not post every property to trade me.
-Real Estate Agent- They want to rent properties as quickly as possible to qualified tenants. Talking to agents can get them to look for properties specifically for you. We were able to get our first property by doing this. It was not on the market at the time, and we were able to get it before it was listed anywhere.
Things to look for in a property
New Zealand has a history of skimping on insulation, central heating, and double glazed windows. This leads to many houses that are damp, drafty, moldy and don’t hold heat well. I read this before I moved to New Zealand and did not think that it would be a big deal, but it is. New Zealand passed legislation that requires in July of 2019 all rental properties to have insulation. That sounds great in principle, but there are exceptions that a property can fall into and not be required to be insulated.
- Insulation- Ask if the house is insulated or if it is exempt from insulation.
- Heating- Many houses do not have central heat and rely on wood stoves or space heaters. Some homes do not have any heating, and you have to provide space heaters.
- Draftiness- Does the house seal up well, will it be a miserable winter?
- Ventilation- Look for ventilation in the bathroom. Look for signs of mold and for ceilings in bathrooms that appear freshly cleaned. Make sure the bathroom has a fan, and it is not clogged.
The four above conditions might seem like minor things, but they can lead to a very unpleasant living experience. We have talked to families that were happy they were looking for housing in the winter since properties that seemed great, turned out to be drafty and uncomfortable.
- Energy efficiency- Electricity is expensive in New Zealand. A house that is not energy efficient can cost an additional $5+ per day in electricity costs
- Grounds maintenance- About half of the homes we toured included grounds maintenance.
- Garbage disposal- These are more common in newer homes.
- Dishwasher- Many of the dishwashers are very energy efficient and do not work very well.
Cost of renting
The cost of renting varies considerably, depending on where you are looking to rent. Tenancy Services lists the price of rent by neighborhood and the quartile breakdown. Location is a huge factor in rents. Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Wanaka have some of the highest rents in New Zealand. Most smaller cities and towns are substantially cheaper than them. Letting agents are not allowed to charge a letting fee. Before 2019, it was customary to pay a letting fee of one week’s rent when you signed your lease.
When you sign your lease, the first weeks rental and a bond (security deposit) equal to four weeks rent are typically required. Your landlord collects the bond, but it is held by Tenancy Services. There are strict rules for not returning the bond at the end of the rental.
Rental properties have a lot of regulation in New Zealand. Tenancy Services is a government organization in charge of property regulation. The rules that landlords need to follow including giving notice if they are leaving the country for a set period and regulations on inspections, all come with a monetary fine if they do not follow them. Due to the complexity of the rules, most landlords choose to go through a rental real estate company instead of renting properties directly. If you have problems with your landlord and cannot resolve them directly, there is a tenancy tribunal that can mediate the issue.
Types of Leases
-Periodic term- Most leases in New Zealand are not for a fixed period and are week to week periodic term leases. You have to give three weeks notice before you leave and the landlord has to provide you with 90 days notice (42 days for selling the property) before they terminate the lease. Typically you pay rent every week.
-Fixed term- Fixed leases are becoming more prevalent with 6 and 12 month leases the most common. You are more likely to encounter fixed term leases on more expensive properties. Typically you pay rent every 1-2 weeks.
Make sure that you have the insurance that you need for renting a home in New Zealand. What was your experience in finding a rental property?