The Legalities Of Buying A Home

21st June 2018

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Buying a new home is probably the biggest legal and financial commitment you will ever make. It's not something to leap into lightly. We have compiled a list for buyers, of some of the legal documents you should be aware of, with links to more information about them.

Remember, the real estate agent is working for the vendor, not you, so do not rely on them to guard your best interests.

If buying privately, without the use of a real estate agent and their expertise, you will be on your own with the vendor. You will need to be on your toes, but beware, it's not a job for the faint-hearted, and the consequences of making mistakes can be dire - with little come back.

Licensed real estate agents are trained to acquire the correct legal reports and documents from the right sources at the right part of the process. They are also required to disclose any information to a buyer that may affect your decision to purchase but this does not always happen,

Along with that, you also have the added protection of the Real Estate Authority if need be.

However, having a property lawyer to help you through the sale will help ensure you don't miss anything.

As a buyer, you have a right to request reports to back up the integrity of the sale. Verbal reports will not do.

Structural integrity and other potential problems

Getting an inspection of the structural integrity of a building is one of the most common conditions included in a Sale and Purchase Agreement. 

If you are buying a home, make sure the property you are considering has passed an inspection. 

For peace of mind, it's good to know that members of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Building Inspectors are trained especially for the job of checking structural integrity.

By clicking on your area, you can find a property inspector near you. 

Make sure you download, print out and check off this House Inspection check list produced by Consumer NZ.

Use the list to make sure everything is signed off, consented, legal and completed.

It also has a list of non legal things to check off to make sure you are buying the right house for you - things like how close is it to schools and bus stops?

For information about weather tightness, asbestos, methamphetamine or engineering, you can find this along with other comprehensive advice at Hobanz (Home Owners and Buyers Association of NZ). Don't omit this.

Don't ignore any areas of concern in your eagerness to get a leg on the property ladder, or snap up the house of the moment.

Be prepared to walk away if things don't stack up.


General information about the property

Building integrity

  • Code of Compliance (COC) is needed for any unfinished renovations, or extensions and repairs. You should request to see these.
  • An Electrical Code of Compliance is required for any new electrical work installed into a home. person holding keys in front of house door
  • To get house insurance, Electrical Inspections Certificates are often required for properties built pre-1938. If your buyer can't get insurance, they are likely to pull the pin.  Best to get it done first. 
  • Moisture Reports can be sought to satisfy any doubts about the cladding or moisture issues. 
  • Methamphetamine testing reports are now being requested by buyers (we are finding out more about this).

Legal ins and outs

Need to know

  • 10-point due diligence checklist for buying a house in New Zealand - a must-read
  • If you're buying residential property, make sure you know what your tax obligations will be when you come to sell the property.
  • Pre-settlement Inspections of the property are done just prior to settlement to ensure all matters are attended to as per the Sale and Purchase Agreement clauses. This includes the chattels.
  • Independent Property Valuation Reports and/or Council Valuation (CV) reports, these are also knowns as RVs. 

man using level to check tiled floor

The Consumer NZ pre-purchase building section has helpful information about risks, how to protect yourself and how to find a competent inspector. Inspections are quite normal when purchasing a home and mostly included as a condition of sale. 

A word of warning, make sure the building inspection report is addressed to all who will be relying

on its accuracy. 

If you are the buyer, it should be addressed to your name, at your address, rather than relying

on someone else's copy. 

That way you will have it as a comeback later on if you need it.

Buying real estate is a legal process and it is important to understand legal documentation and other reports, especially before you sign anything. 

In real estate, the consequences can be far reaching if things go wrong, so we advise you to seek the advice of a property lawyer, even if you are dealing with a trained and licensed real estate agent.

Remember, the real estate agent is working for the vendor, so buyers need to keep their own counsel.


LifeLot Members - Remember to scan and upload a copy of all your important forms, reports and documentation to the relevant section of your LifeLot account for safekeeping and easy 24/7 access to them.

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