Foreign investors, especially from China, have invested heavily in New Zealand during the past years. One of the main reasons is that they want to find a stable place to allocate cash and for overseas studies.
Yet not only Asian investors decide to invest in New Zealand, but we also see many investors from the US, Malaysia, and other regional countries.
However, before you go into detailed planning, it’s important that you know if foreigners can even buy property, what property types are available, about taxes, and more.
In this article, you’ll learn the following:
- Can foreigners buy property in New Zealand?
- How to open a bank account as a foreigner in New Zealand
- How to get an IRD number (Inland Revenue Department number)
- How to get a Land Information Memorandum (LIM)
- Can I get a mortgage as a non-resident foreigner in New Zealand?
- What is the Stamp duty for foreigners in New Zealand?
- What is the Property tax?
- What is the Capital gains tax for foreigners?
- Finding a Real Estate Agent
- Can I rent out my property as a non-resident foreigner?
- Where should I buy property in New Zealand?
Can foreigners buy property in New Zealand?
Previously, foreigners generally didn’t have any issues buying property in New Zealand.
However, the government has forbidden non-resident foreigners from buying established property, to curb escalating property prices.
According to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), you need to increase the number of residences and then sell the lot as a non-resident. You can do this by, for example, converting the land or by constructing an apartment building where a house was previously built.
No one knows when this will be lifted, but for now, you need to look at other countries if you’re a non-resident and cannot fulfill these criteria.
The services of OIO (Overseas Investment Office)
So, New Zealand has a government agency called the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) that manages applications and approvals for foreign investment.
You need to make an application to the OIO in case you want to invest in a property that:
- Is located in a sensitive area, for example, if it’s close to a coastal area or a protected area
- Is worth more than NZD 10,000,000
- The land area is more than 5 hectares, or if it borders to another land area that is of a special type. For example, a land area of 2 hectares that borders a water reserve might need registration at OIO
OIO doesn’t provide any legal information on whether your potential property requires any application at their office.
Therefore, you should hire and consult with a lawyer to confirm whether your property needs registration at OIO or not.
In addition to this, you’ll also need to open a bank account. Let’s have a look at how that works.
How to open a bank account as a foreigner in New Zealand
Before you can purchase a property in New Zealand, you need to open a local bank account. This can be done from another existing branch in your home country.
In case you apply for a local account in New Zealand, be sure to bring:
- Proof of ID: This is normally your passport (including your holiday visa, visitor visa, or working visa
- Proof of your residential address (must be less than 12 years old and can be a utility bill or your rental agreement for example)
- Tax residency status. You’ll need to provide a self-certificate and a foreign tax number or similar
The biggest banks in New Zealand are:
- Bank of New Zealand
- Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
HSBC also has offices in both Wellington and Auckland and can be an option.
I recommend you to give the banks a call and see how you can open a bank account, as regulations and processes change frequently.
How to get an IRD number (Inland Revenue Department number)
When you have opened a bank account, you need to get an IRD number. Without an IRD number, you won’t be able to transfer the property from the seller.
Shortly explained, the IRD is needed in case you gain profits from your investment or prior to making the purchase of your property. You can apply for the IRD number directly on the Inland Revenue Department’s website.
Once received, you’ll need to give it to your lawyer, as he or she will help you with the transfer of the property from the seller.
The IRD number is similar to the ITIN in the US that I explained about in a separate article.
How to get a Land Information Memorandum (LIM)
A Land Information Memorandum and is a document that includes all relevant information about the property.
It can be compared to a title, that I’ve talked more about in previous articles, like buying property in Thailand.
The information can include everything from when the property was built, how it was built (the layout of water pipes and electrical cables are), and potential issues with falling stones or erosion.
You’ll also be able to see if there are any planned construction projects around the area near your property, or if there are any encumbrances attached to the property.
Be sure to review the LIM document when purchasing your property.
If the seller cannot provide the document, you need to make an application to the office yourself (it takes 10 days and costs a little bit more than NZD 300).
Can I get a mortgage as a non-resident foreigner in New Zealand?
It’s become increasingly difficult for foreigners to get local mortgages in New Zealand. Speculators believe that the main reasons are:
- To cool down the market
- To avoid that New Zealand debts are bound to foreigners, and not to people in New Zealand as it should be
- Avoid conflicts with other countries
- To avoid money laundering
I recommend you to call a local bank in New Zealand to get up-to-date information. You should also consider applying for an overseas loan in your home country if needed.
What is the Stamp duty for foreigners in New Zealand?
Same as with property taxes, you don’t need to pay a stamp duty as a foreigner in New Zealand.
This makes New Zealand an even more attractive place to buy property for overseas investors.
What is the Property tax?
New Zealand is famous for having a beneficial tax system.
In comparison with Australia,, foreigners don’t need to pay any Property tax.
What is the Capital gains tax for foreigners?
You are usually not charged a Capital gains tax when buying property.
Same as in Singapore, you can be charged capital gains tax if you invest actively and with a profit-seeking motive (for example, if you’re flipping houses).
Besides, if you sell the property within 2 years, you’ll be obliged to pay the tax.
Finding a Real Estate Agent
As in any foreign country, you should try to find an experienced real estate agent. They can help you to find properties that suit your needs, are well aware of the housing prices, and help you find tenants.
You can look for local real estate on the internet, ask relatives or friends to find out if they have any information about real estate agents in New Zealand.
When you’ve found one, check the Real Estate Agent’s Authority’s (REAA) website to confirm that they are licensed and have a good track record.
REAA can provide information to foreign investors and help you with complaints. Most importantly, they have a register with New Zealand agents that have received complaints in the past.
Can I rent out my property as a non-resident foreigner?
New Zealand has seen an undersupply of properties in the past years, which has propped up prices and returned great rental incomes for foreign investors.
Rental yields in Auckland and Wellington range from 6% to almost 9%, which is better compared to places like Singapore where rental yields hover at around 3%.
If you plan to rent out your property, you can contact a real estate agent as mentioned above, to manage the tenant screening and management of your property.
Another good thing is that you can save money by deducting expenses from your rental income, hence you can avoid taxes.
Which costs and fees can I deduct from my rental incomes?
Below I’ve included some of the costs you can deduct from rental incomes:
- The interest you paid on mortgages
- Costs that arose from the management of your property, such service fees to the agent that get rental payments from the tenants
- Costs for maintenance
- Travel expenses
- Insurances, such as mortgage insurances and regular property insurances
- Depreciation of the property
You also need to keep evidence proving that you already paid for these costs. Examples include:
- A document including all the assets and the cost and payment date for each asset
- Your mortgage agreement with the bank (for example)
- Bank statements, receipts and invoices
- Your rental agreement with the tenant
Make sure to summarize the costs in a sheet, including the unique purchase price for each item, the procurement date, and a summary of all these costs.
Where should I buy property in New Zealand?
Let’s have a look at some of the most interesting places to buy property in New Zealand.
Asians tend to like big cities like Sydney, London, and New York, although they have the opportunity to enjoy greater price appreciations in smaller cities.
The same as for Auckland, which is the biggest and most bustling city in New Zealand. Many people don’t even know that Auckland was the capital of New Zealand until 1965.
Whether you want to live in Auckland during the holidays or let your children study there, I can assure you that you won’t be bored.
Auckland is the most pricey, but also the most enjoyable city in New Zealand.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, but much smaller compared to Auckland, with more than 400,000 people.
The city is famous for being cozier, less bustling, and with friendly people.
The prices have not risen as much in Wellington, compared to Auckland, which makes it an attractive choice for many investors.
If you decide to invest in New Zealand, go to the big cities that have a bigger population, jobs, and attract foreigners.
Christchurch is third largest to Wellington and has a population that is almost same as Wellington, with around 400,000 people.
The city is famous for its British culture, beautiful parks, and botanic gardens.
You should definitely have a look at this city if you plan to invest in a property in New Zealand.
Can I get a residence permit or citizenship if I buy a property in New Zealand?
Unfortunately, you can’t get a residence permit or citizenship just by buying property in New Zealand.
This is the same as in other countries we’ve covered, like the UK.
Not only American investors like Peter Thiel have understood that this relatively isolated island is a good place to invest.
New Zealand is a politically stable country that preserves its local culture and it will continue like this over the long term.
We are not certain how the future will be like in countries like Cambodia or in China, while New Zealand has a proven record.
Even if property prices have increased quite dramatically in the past years, New Zealand could be a great place for a long term investment