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Buying a House in Wellington, NZ

We have done it – we bought a house! …in Wellington, …oh my, in New Zealand, at the whole other side of the world! ūüėģ

House!

House!

After a long slog over many months, sacrificing every Sunday to Open Homes, taking shoes off at¬†cramped doorways,¬†dashing from work of an evening to make another viewing appointment across the city, meeting many an Agent and finally realising that a good, professional, helpful, “onto it” Agent is not that easy¬†to come by, after submitting offers at Tender and paying out our hard earned cash in Building Reports for houses we haven’t bought, we finally succeeded!

PHEW!

Where to start?

Having worked for conveyancing Solicitors, being involved in residential sales and purchase in Edinburgh as well as buying and selling my own properties, I gained considerable knowledge of that market but, of course,¬†here we were starting from scratch and found it hard!¬† With the ESPC (Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre)¬† and its kin where you will find the majority of properties being sold by member residential sales offices¬† in the region under one roof (i.e. on one website designed specifically to market property in a certain city) you covered your bases, whereas in New Zealand you start with Trade Me, which I don’t consider to be the best professional option, and Open2view, then trawl your way through individual Real Estate Agency websites and the Saturday paper ads.

Then there is the purchasing process of either Tender, BEO (Buyer Enquiry Over), By Negotiation and Auction to consider and get your head around.

Tender

For prospective purchasers I think the worst is Tender, which is closest to the “Closing Date” scenario we have in Scotland (law is different in Scotland to that of England). Whereas in Scotland you could offer “subject to survey” and this would be perfectly acceptable (although last year the system changed and sellers (vendors) must provide a House Report on their property) here that ¬†is considered a “conditional offer” and that can count against you.¬† In the Tender process you really want to put in as¬†few conditions as possible to be successful but you can, and we did, end up forking out for Building Reports on properties so you can be secure on what you are potentially buying, i.e. you will end up out of pocket!

Building Report

It doesn’t seem necessary to get a Survey on a property to get a mortgage here (go figure!?), but a Building Report is always wise as what seems like a good, solid house can infact be a money pit in the making!¬† We used Capital House Inspections for our reports.¬† They ensured that we didn’t overspend on reports and would tell us if someone else had asked them to carry out a report, check with those clients that they were prepared to share the report and then split the cost of the report between both parties, which was a¬†great saving for us!¬† The reports had plenty of photos and gave good detail on the maintenance issues in the properties we considered offering for.¬† Phil and Ailsa are lovely people to deal with, which helps too!

Estate Agents

Finding a good agent is key to finding a property.

Call local agencies and find out who their top agents are, contact them, meet them and let them know you are looking and see if the personality fits as that is also important, and find a good agent to be on your side.  In my view the top agents we came across where Nicki Cruickshank and Glenn Stewart of Tommys, Mary Hivon was lovely and patient but not quite tenacious enough for us, whereas after meeting us Glenn was onto it, emailing with details of properties soon coming onto the market he thought we would be interested in and he would invariably be right, nailing our taste and requirements!

Marcia Paterson of Just Paterson is a¬†lovely, classy lady who was also on the ball, kept us up to date on what was being sold by¬†her team and checking on the things we were looking for,¬†making suggestions of areas we hadn’t considered and very pleasant to deal with.

Success was through Ann Thomas of Remax.  A very personable, warm yet professional lady she was tenaciously proactive, arranged appointments to see houses as soon as they went to market and got us access to view the house we purchased before it went to market, which we are sure made us successful in our purchase with minimal hassles.  Ann has gone above and beyond the expected duties of a Real Estate Agent since settlement of our purchase, too.

Lessons Learned

Be specific in what you are looking for, if you are not sure what that is, go see properties of varying types in various locations to try to narrow it down as it will help agents with their part in the search, also saving you time as you can discount things more quickly and narrow the search.

Don’t compromise on your top three requirements (ours: 1. all day sun, 2. drive on access, 3. good public transport to the city/not too far from the CBD), but be reasonable that some compromise may be required (facing a busy road – double glazing will fix that!).¬† Be persistent.¬† Drive by the property at different times, take a walk around the area, go to the local cafe or dairy and feel the neighbourhood vibe.¬† We have ended up buying¬†in an area we didn’t consider for the first 3 months of our search (10 mins on the train, 15 min drive into the CBD)!

Finally, give careful consideration to the offer and the conditions you wish to add.  I find it astonishing you can buy a house without any legal input, should you wish.  For me, I would make sure you have a Lawyer ready to act (in our case Stephens Lawyers), contact them and keep them in the loop about properties you are considering and make sure they do title searches in advance of offering, at the minimum.  Seek guidance on conditions you may wish to consider adding and get advice on the wording of those conditions.

There is merit in having an unconditional offer – advice out there will state it’s worth around the $10,000 and from our experience it is certainly true, but that said you also don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot either!

There is a provision in the Sales and Purchase Agreement for a pre-sale inspection – what a waste of time! ¬†In Scotland purchasers have 7 days from the settlement date to intimate a claim if there is any fault or any issue with the condition of the property, but here you get to do a pre-settlement inspection…but there is still time for the vendors to make changes, remove things, etc before settlement and then its a case of tough luck for the purchaser! ¬†So, next time I will make a suitable condition to cover our backs,…not that it was an issue for us this time round!

Happy hunting! ¬†…back to the unpacking of boxes for us.

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