What you need to know before purchasing property?

We often get questions from clients about buying property in New Zealand. Having made a commitment to live in New Zealand, buying a home is the next logical step. The proposed exemption for high-value homes has not gone ahead, so what are the basic rules?

Overseas Investment Office

The rules for non-New Zealand citizens are set out in the Overseas Investment Act 2005 (the Act). In the Act, an “overseas person” wanting to buy any “sensitive asset” in New Zealand must first obtain consent. Applications for consent are made to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), part of Toitū Te Whenua (Land Information New Zealand), The OIO  regulates overseas investment in New Zealand’s land, sensitive assets and major business assets. The Act treats residential land as a “sensitive asset” under the Act. So the OIO gets the final say. There are penalties unauthorised purchases. See for here for one extreme case.

Basic Rules for Buying Property in New Zealand: 

  • If you, or your co-purchasing spouse, are a New Zealand citizen, or have a New Zealand residence class visa and are ordinarily resident in New Zealand (explained below) , you can buy a home or land in New Zealand without needing any consent.
    • If you hold a New Zealand residence class visa but do not yet meet the ordinarily resident test, you have can apply to the OIO for consent buy One Home To Live In.
    • If you do not have a residence class visa, you are normally ineligible to buy residential property. There are a few exceptions, for Australian or Singapore citizens or permanent residents, we can advise on individual cases.

What does “ordinarily resident” mean?

Under section 6 of the Act, to be “ordinarily resident” you must satisfy all four of the following:
1. You must currently hold a New Zealand residence class visa, and
2. Have living in New Zealand for at least 12 months, and
3. Have been physically present in New Zealand for at least 183 days within those 12 months, and
4. Be a New Zealand tax resident.

Time spent visiting New Zealand as a visitor doesn’t count but time spent in the country on a work or student visa can count towards the time in New Zealand requirement – provided you hold a residence class visa when  you make your  property purchase.

The one home to live in exception

If you hold a residence class visa holder but do not yet satisfy the above ordinarily resident criteria you can still apply for OIO consent to buy just one home for you to live in. 

The OIO’s uses a Commitment To Reside Test to confirm if the applicant has a residence class visa, is committed to living in New Zealand, and is purchasing one residential property for the purpose of living in it. You must to commit to live in New Zealand for at least 183 days in the following year, and to becoming a New Zealand tax resident.

The OIO says that consents for standard applications can be made within 10 working days. You can apply for a one year pre-approval to allow you  buy a qualifying property within one year including at auction.

When you do purchase a property, the OIO must be notified. You must then live in the qualifying property until you are no longer classified as an “overseas person.” The OIO monitors compliance. The current OIO application fee is NZ$ 2,040 – see OIO fees.

We can assist with most OIO consent cases. For complex cases we also have ready access to other experts. For assistance contact our Director Richard Small Richard.Small@PacificLegal.co.nz / Office@PacificLegal.co.nz 

Or ring our friendly team on +64 9 6660440

Please note:
This blog is general information, valid as at February 2024. It is  not legal advice in any particular case. Rules and regulations can change at short notice. Each case is different. You should get individual advice for your own circumstances.