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How expat Kiwis can buy property in NZ and return home

With the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a huge resurgence in expat Kiwis who have decided that NZ is, indeed, the best place in the world. Both Real Estate Agents and developers across NZ have reported increased requests for property information from expat Kiwis overseas.

So if you’re an expat Kiwi looking to return home, we’ve put together all the information that you might need for a smooth transition.

Should I apply for a mortgage before I come home?

These days, it is absolutely possible to apply for a mortgage remotely. All information can be provided online, meetings can be held over Zoom or Skype, and follow-ups can be done over email.

And you absolutely should get pre-approved for your mortgage if you can. Or at the very least, find out what you can potentially afford. It means you can start researching houses in the price bracket you are approved for. It means you can start planning your commute to work. If you are going to need to rent before settling on your property, you can start looking for a short rental.

What information does a returning expat need to provide for a NZ mortgage while they’re overseas?

The 2 fundamental things you’ll need to prove are:

  • deposit
  • income in NZ

Your deposit for buying a house in NZ

You are buying a house in NZ, as a NZ citizen, so you are subject to the more lenient rules that apply to local buyers. A lot of the time, that means 10% deposit (or, ideally, 20%).

If you haven’t transferred your deposit into NZD yet, I would strongly suggest you allow for a 10% decline. Currencies fluctuate and it isn’t good to be short on your deposit when it comes time to settle. So if you think you’re going to end up with NZD$100,000, allow for NZD$90,000 due to currency fluctuations. If that means you don’t have enough, consider transferring sooner rather than later so you know what you’re playing with.

Proving your income

None of the mainstream banks will lend you money for a home without proving that you have an income arranged when you arrive in NZ. It’s not that they don’t want to; the banks must adhere to responsible lending requirements and this requires proving you can afford your mortgage.

To prove your income, you will need a signed contract. The contract will need:

  • a start date
  • a clear remuneration package (ie; what you’re going to be paid)
  • any other conditions included in your employment

In short, you must supply a contract, not a letter from your new employer as the bank needs to know all the details of your employment.

Some smaller employers (employers with less than 20 employees) can still include a “90 day trial period” in their contract. If your contract has this clause included, there is only one bank that will currently allow you to get a mortgage. All other banks will make you wait until the 90 day period is over  before finally approving your loan.

Here’s a list of the usual websites in NZ to apply for jobs:

Can a returning expat get a mortgage if they don’t have an offer of employment?

Yes, there are some non-bank lenders that can arrange a mortgage if you don’t have income. The idea is that you can temporarily get a more expensive mortgage while you look for a job. Once you’ve got a job, you can refinance to a mainstream bank and pay much less for your mortgage. A couple of things you need to know:

  • you’ll need to buy your property in a Trust or in a company
  • you’ll need to have a plan to get into a better position (ie; intend to get a job)
  • you won’t be able to borrow more than 60%-70% for a property

There are fees and higher interest rates that come with these non-bank lenders but are very good if you have lots of deposit and have found the house (or apartment) of your dreams.

Speaking of which…

Can a Kiwi expat returning to NZ buy an apartment?

Absolutely! You can buy apartments off the plans, or existing units. The banks are currently allowing buyers to borrow up to 80%-85% on apartments. If you have an employment contract ready to go, this is definitely an option to look at.

What will I need to provide once I arrive back in NZ?

Some things must be done in person. Despite some huge improvements having been achieved during the Covid lockdown, the banks are still not quite ready to allow bank accounts to be opened remotely. You’ll need to open an account at the branch, in person, once you’ve returned. You’ll need to show your passport and proof of where you’re living in NZ.

Pro tip: proving where you live can be difficult. The most common way is to show an original copy of a Utilities Bill and this can take time. If you need proof of address quickly, the banks can sometimes send you a letter to your address. It is posted (yes, we still have that service) and once you’ve received it, you take it back to the branch to be signed off.

Summary

It’s going to be great to have all our people back in NZ again. Expats returning to NZ should talk to an adviser about their situation, even if they don’t have their employment confirmed.

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