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Finding

How to search for the right home and who to talk to while you're house hunting.

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Tips to help you on your house hunt

When you’re house hunting, checking the listings and planning weekends around viewing open homes can cut into precious evening and weekend downtime. Here are a few tips and tricks to help first home buyers streamline the house-hunting process.

If you find a home that you can afford and ticks all the boxes, don't delay. In a hot market, there’s a chance others like it too, and you don't want to come back a week later to find it's gone. The best thing to do is contact the agent to advise you’re interested and start your due diligence of building inspections and legal checks. If the house is going to auction, it’s time to arrange finance - confirm how much you can afford to offer with your bank.

House hunting tools

Here are a few sites to visit to help your house-hunting search:

  • Search thousands of residential for-sale properties on Trade Me Property—New Zealand's #1 property website. This site can help determine what you can expect to pay for house prices by area or a particular property.
  • Realestate.co.nz is New Zealand's industry owned property website. Search for real estate, houses for sale, rentals, commercial and business properties for sale.
  • Homes.co.nzTrade Me Property Insight, and oneroof.co.nz also give you an idea of house prices and market values. This can be useful when you're planning your weekend viewings of open homes, private house sales and real estate listed properties on the market.
  • KiwiBuild is a government programme to build affordable housing for first home buyers. Check the KiwiBuild website to see if you are eligible for available homes.  

Open home checklist

When you’re on the journey of first home ownership, you're bound to be full of questions. But, how do you know the right ones to ask?

Here’s our list to make sure you’re on the ball

  • Create your must-have list and check if the properties meet your needs.

  • Make notes and take pictures of all the properties—it's easy to forget which houses have what.

  • Turn on the taps, shower and flush the toilet to check the water pressure.

  • Check that windows open, lights turn on and that everything generally works as expected.

  • Bring a measuring tape to make sure there's enough space in the bedrooms and furniture. Living spaces may appear large if the owner has professionally staged the house and has cleared all the clutter of day-to-day living.

  • Check your mobile signal strength.

  • A freshly painted room can look lovely but look closer to see if it’s hiding mould or any other issues. Open wardrobes and check the walls and ceiling for any mould spots too.

  • Note where the sun rises and sets and which parts of the house see the most sunlight. Generally, you want your outdoors and living spaces to face the sun to make the most of its natural light. Check if the house is in shadow for some of the day due to nearby hills or high buildings.

  • Listen for noise from the road, nearby schools or workplaces.

  • Chat to the neighbours about the surrounding area to see if the location is the right fit for you or your family.

What to ask agents

  • What type of title is it? 
  • How long has it been on the market?
  • Was it owner occupied or rented out?
  • What schools is it zoned for?
  • Have there been any alterations?
  • Are all alterations permitted and certified?
  • Which chattels will remain?
  • Where are the property boundaries?
  • What are the current council valuation and rates?
  • Are they aware of any zoning restrictions?
  • Are there any covenants or restrictions registered on the title?
  • Are there any issues with property maintenance or damage that the agent knows about? (For example, collapsed drains or leaks).
  • Are there any leaky building issues? Has there been a toxicology report done?
  • If it's an apartment, are there body corporate fees?

Things to consider

    • The style of home that suits you or your family now and in the future - a unit, apartment, townhouse or standalone house
    • Location - quiet street, close to the central business district, good schools etc
    • Minimum number of bedrooms
    • Minimum number of bathrooms
    • Garage
    • Garden space
    • Fully fenced section
    • Outdoor living area
    • Type of flooring
    • Kitchen style/design
    • Accessibility
    • Heating and insulation
    • Single level or multi story

Types of ownership

There are probably more types of land ownership in New Zealand than you're aware of, and while it's likely you won’t come across all of them in your house hunting search, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the different terms. You'll want to understand what they mean and take into account the pros and cons of each are. If you're buying the property with someone else, then you’ll also need to decide how you want to structure the ownership.
 
  • Fee simple: The most common type of ownership in New Zealand (also known as freehold).
  • Leasehold: Someone else owns the land. You purchase the right to possession of the land and buildings on it for a specific period of time.
  • Cross lease: Two or more people own the same piece of freehold land, with more than one dwelling on the property and then lease the use of these from each other.
  • Unit titles can involve either fee simple or leasehold developments (also known as strata title).
We recommend getting advice on ownership types from your solicitor before purchasing a new home.

More on types of land ownership

The people and hidden costs involved when looking to buy

Mums, Dads, Uncles and Aunties may be full of great ideas and opinions - but you'll need to do your research and contact a few professionals too. These experts' time and advice, along with pre-purchase reports and documentation, have associated costs that can easily be overlooked. Factoring these into your house hunting will help make your journey go as smoothly as possible - both now and in the future. Below is a list of professionals, documents and approximate costs to budget for, commonly involved leading up to buying.

  • A home loan expert: We can help you navigate the ins and outs of home loans to find the one best-suited to you. Talk to our friendly team.

  • Real estate agents: Often people selling a home use a real estate agent to manage the process for them. Common real estate agents include Ray White, Barfoot & Thompson, Bayleys, Harcourts and many more. 

  • Builder: Why would you need a builder if you're not building a house? We recommend getting a builder to do a site inspection before you buy. No matter the age of the house or how great you think the condition of the home is, you must do your research so that you know all the facts. Building inspections can vary between $400-$1,000, but it depends on the size and complexity of the house. New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors and the Building Officials Institute of New Zealand can be an excellent place to start when finding an inspector.

  • LIM Report: The next step would be to obtain a Land Information Memorandum (LIM). This is a report issued by the local city or district council, which summarises all the information the local authority has on file about NZ properties. For example, a LIM states all works (i.e. renovations) on houses that the council is aware of. In addition, the report identifies that any alterations made to properties are consented to and noted by the city or district council. If any alterations made aren’t noted in the LIM report, then this could mean that the changes do not meet the required building code. The vendor or their real estate agent might provide a LIM report for no charge when viewing the property; if not, you can obtain this yourself from your local council’s website. Prices for a LIM report range between $250 to $500. However, this depends on the location and local council of the property.

  • Lawyer: Lawyers are skilled at finding problems in sales contracts and property titles. A lawyer can offer you advice on things like negotiations to sale and purchase agreements. They also check relevant paperwork like the LIM and certificate of title. Depending on the scope of what you require, legal fees can range from a few hundred dollars into the thousands. 

  • Valuer: Property valuers objectively assess the value of land, buildings and renovations. When negotiating the price of your first home you may wish to use a valuer to assess the property and ensure what you are offering is fair. Valuation reports generally cost between $500-800 but it depends on the size and complexity of the house.

Home loan pre-approval

Now that you've decided to buy a house and have your deposit together, it's time to get pre-approved by the bank.

What is a pre-approval?

A home loan pre-approval is an acknowledgement from the bank that you can borrow an agreed amount, provided the property you purchase meets its home lending criteria and general terms and conditions.

Pre-approvals often come with conditions you need to satisfy in order to finalise your home loan. Some requirements include providing a registered valuation completed by an approved registered valuer using our panel valuation service and house insurance.

Having an ASB pre-approval upfront can help you get a lot of the hassle out of the way and provide you with reasonable certainty on what you can spend to help you narrow down your search.

You should note that ASB pre-approval letters of offer are valid for up to 90 days from the date of issue, unless specified for a shorter period or a specific property. 

Learn more about pre-approvals Apply for a pre-approval

Contact us about your home loan

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Next steps

The first step on the property ladder is to be armed with the best advice before you start. ASB has all the tools for your dream home buying process.

1. Starting

Tips and tools for the first home buyer to help you plan, budget and save money. Use our mortgage repayments calculator to compare home loans, interest rates, terms and mortgage payments.

2. Power Saving

Ways you could boost your savings to help you on your journey to first home ownership.

3. Finding

How to hunt for the right home and who to talk to while you're looking.

4. Buying

Handy information for the lead up to and process of buying your first home.

ASB's lending criteria, terms conditions and fees apply.