Written by Amy Baker,
Last Modified: 30th December 2020

Dream of building your own home, perfectly suited for your needs? If you’re the sort who is happy to move to the other side of the world, you may be game for the challenge that self-building presents. Read our three-part guide.

On this page we explain how to buy the land. In part two we discuss planning your perfect home and getting permission. In part three we come to engaging builders in New Zealand and what you might pay. 

Are overseas buyers allowed to buy land to build on in New Zealand?

If you’ve been paying close attention to New Zealand, you’ll know that in 2019 the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill was passed. This banned foreign investors from buying many types of property, except for new apartments in large developments.

Fortunately, those who want to self-build will not be affected by this ban as long as you have residency in New Zealand. Anyone who has a resident visa and that has been living in New Zealand for at least a year, including a minimum of 183 days in the previous year, will still be able to purchase property and land in the country to live in.

Find your perfect plot of land to build on in New Zealand and you could build your dream home exactly how you want it.

Where do I find the land?

You can find land to build on in New Zealand in a number of places, including Trade Me, Real Estate NZ and Property Press. Local newspapers are a handy resource. You could drive around the area you have your eye on looking for ‘For Sale’ signs. Get in touch with a local real estate agent to let them know what they are after. That way, they can keep their eye out for you.

If you are keen on purchasing a subdivision when you move to New Zealand, you can ask the local council. It’s possible to register your interest with the developer early on, so that when plots are released you can be first in line. If you find an empty plot that no one appears to be building on that meets all your criteria, you can find out who owns it by ordering a copy of the title from Land Information New Zealand.

Where do I find the experts I need to make this dream a reality?

You must source an architect registered with the New Zealand Registered Architects Board to help you draw up the plans for your home. These plans will need to be submitted to your local council for approval. Procedures differ across the country, so always check how things work in your area. Be aware that building consent can take a while to be granted. Building companies are also useful contacts, particularly if you are happy with one of their existing designs. Make sure that any builder you choose is registered with the Registered Master Builders Federation of New Zealand.

Hone your bargaining skills to get the best possible price by reading our free Negotiating Guide.

You must also employ the services of an independent lawyer. They will be able to check the titles, easements and whether there are any unpaid levies that could end up costing you.

What do I need to consider when buying a plot?

When considering a plot of land to build on in New Zealand consider the following. Is there a slope and if so, how steep is it? Where on the plot would you build the property? Is the property north or south facing? How can you position it to make the most of the views and the sunshine? Ideally you want a north-facing plot. This will allow you to capitalise on the sun to warm your property during winter.

Additionally, pay attention to facilities in the area. What’s within walking distance? What shops, schools, doctors, supermarkets are in the vicinity? Is the area safe? If the plot is next to another property, how can you position your property to avoid being over-looked? What will the plot look like when other properties surround it? Are those other properties likely to obscure your view?

Furthermore, it’s important to factor in what kind of soil the plot consists of. This will impact what type of foundations can be built and how much the build will cost. You will also need to check whether the soil is contaminated to ensure you’re not exposing yourself to possible health problems or risk of erosion.

How do I select the right plot of land?

The last thing you want is to buy a plot that will be tricky to build on. As a general rule, you should buy the best section that you can afford. Cheaper plots are cheap for a reason, i.e. they are difficult to build on or they have very little potential for capital gain. A steep plot with an incredible view may be cheap, but building costs associated with making it flat enough to be safe could end up costing you more in the long-run than a flat site. Also, it is trickier for contractors to provide accurate quotes for sloped sites given unforeseen problems might arise. If major work is required to prepare the land for you to build on, tens of thousands could be added to your budget. Additionally, architect costs will be higher if the design needs to be very specific to ensure the property is safe to live in.

Boost your purchasing power by two or even three times by buying together with family. Download our guide to learn about joint ownership.

Find a plot with a good view, in a good neighbourhood or location. Cast your mind forward a few years, if you should decide to sell – what are others likely to be happy to pay a premium for?

What are the benefits of buying land in a sub-division?

You’ll find many of the plots you look at will be owned by established developers. Buying land to build on in New Zealand within a sub-division of this kind has a number of benefits. For example, the plots will usually be flat and ready to build on. They also tend to be serviced, meaning power, water, sewerage and phone lines are already in place. This can save you significant cash in the long-run. Additionally, sub-divisions present great opportunities for capital gains. Your plot will likely increase in value as the area around you becomes more popular.   

What if I want to build a lifestyle property in a rural location?

If you want to have your very own corner of the New Zealand countryside, you will want to buy rurally. There are a few factors you should bear in mind before you do so. Rural sites might not be attached to the services mentioned above. Septic and water tanks are significant additional costs you must factor into your budget and timeline. Also, depending on how remote your plot is, you will need to consider the accessibility of the site. Will delivery lorries and machinery be able to get on-site? If tricky, you will need to factor transport costs into your budget. Also, if you plan on funding your self-build via a mortgage, bear in mind that the maximum amount that you can borrow is likely to decrease to around 85-90 percent.

Last checks before you buy?

Before you agree to purchase the plot, you must establish that the right zoning and covenants are in place for the specific type of property you plan to build. The zoning and covenants that apply to your plot will dictate what can be built there. They affect everything from the height of the property, to the size and shape, as well as whether you can have a pool and so on. Covenants can even dictate the specific look of the property, what materials can be used, where you can place garages, fences and annexes. Some even outline fence heights, where you must put your washing line and how many pets you’re allowed!

Additionally, you need to check the land title. What easements does the land have in place and are you okay with them? If all your services will need to be connected – are there easements in place that ban you from doing so? Always have your lawyer check the title and purchase contract before you sign anything.

How much will it cost?

You will need to factor the cost of the plot, building costs, taxes and valuations into your budget. You should also budget 10 percent for unforeseen costs. The cost of a plot can vary wildly depending on its location, as does the cost of actually having the property built. This starts from around $1,700 per square metre. $2,000-2,500 is more common, and $3,000 is what you should expect if you’re having something custom built. A professional valuation of the land will cost around NZ$500.

For help on finding specialists to help you find your perfect plot of land and to help with the construction, call our free Resource Centre for advice on +44 (0)20 7898 0549.

How to negotiate abroad is the guide to put you back in control:

  Feel confident when buying a home abroad
  Assess the local property market
  Improve your bargaining position
  Learn the best negotiating tactics

Download your free Negotiation Guide

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