Upon moving to my new life in New Zealand I was surprised how little & outdated information was availible online. Despite being far from an expert, I decided to write a shortfire guide of what I learnt from living in NZ. Today I’m taking a look at the trickiest and most expensive part, finding a place to live.
1. Types of Homes in NZ
Before even looking at the details, you need to decide what type of accommodation you’re looking for. I’ve narrowed down the choices to the following.
Renting your own apartment living by Yourself
-Surprisingly often unfurnished.
-You have to pay electricity, bills and internet yourself.
-Long wait. Apartments are advertised sometimes months before the current tenant moves out, this means even after signing the contract you could be homeless for a few months before moving in. If you see an apartment with a nearby “move in”-date it’s most likely such terrible place that no one has signed it yet despite being on the market for months.
-Requires a large bond (deposit), that you may never see again. Mine was 1 month of rent.
-Surprisingly little privacy despite renting your own place. As someone who’s rented apartments in 4 different countries I thought I knew what to expect, I was very surprised to find that NZ was a special case. Landlords will routinely come barging into your house, go through all your stuff, take pictures of all your belongings and all the while treat you like an unwanted visitor insisting it’s better if you go outside while they go through your stuff. When my friend’s landlord was about to drop something off by the apartment at her first week, she specifically told them to leave it outside, not to come in. She was surprised to find not only did they barge right in, they left doors and drawers wide open with zero attempt to hide the evidence that they had illegally searched her apartment.
Renting your own apartment and find a roommate to share
-Legally more difficult than you’d think. While I was signing my contract my landlord assured me I could later invite a roommate for the 2nd bedroom for no extra cost. Stupidly I did not ask to have that in writing however, next time I raised that question I was told my 2nd bedroom must be empty at all times, should I want a roommate I will have to ask for a new contract where they would significantly raise the weekly rent.
-Surprisingly difficult to find a good roommate. Out of curiosity I looked at a facebook group for people looking for a room, I was quickly turned off to the idea. Literally everyone had written terribly undescriptive posts.
Regular Rooms in Shared Homes
+Although shared, you often get a chance to meet your roommates to see if they’re a match.
+In a country where a taxi to the airport can cost you a hundred NZD, it’s not a bad idea to network with roommates (who may have connections, cars, equipment you can borrow).
-At the mercy of your roommates. A good friend thought she found the perfect shared home only to get a new roommate who just wouldn’t stop inviting his partying friends over at night, what started well turned into a nightmare binded with a 12 month contract.
Private (ensuite, studio-like) Rooms
Something I hadn’t seen before coming to NZ are these private rooms in shared homes designed specifically to feel like a studio apartment.
+Commonly modern. Perhaps because of the huge profit margin, these types of rooms has been the only ones I’ve seen that’s actually modern.
+Lease lenght can commonly be bartered down. One of my less demanding friend was told he must sign a minimum of 12 months lease, only to find out on his first day that all of his roommates where there on 1 to 3 months leases.
-Can sometimes be similarly priced to an actual studio apartment, despite being far from it for reasons stated below.
-Nowhere near as private as a studio apartment, you’ll still be sharing a kitchen, laundry & living room with your other tenant.
-Extremely overbearing house rules. Due to commonly sharing the house with 4-5 rooms, the house rules has been written to extreme details to avoid conflicts, some of these rules will shock you. A good friend of mine was devistated to find out that not only is her boyfriend not allowed to stay the night, he’s not even allowed to take a step into the home at daytime, her 1 year contract clearly stating that male visitors are strictly forbidden. Unlike the terrible contracts for renting your own apartments, these house sharing contracts can actually be strictly enforced, as your roommates can easily spy on who’s coming in and out of the house. Similarly I was myself toying with the idea of renting a similar room, but was putt off when I realized that my dad was on his way to visit me and wouldn’t be allowed to even stay one night on a floor airmattress. Somewhat understandible, but just not suitible for me.
-Living with strangers. Unlike a regular home share, where you might have a talk with the current tenants to check if you’re a good match for eachother, these rooms pretends to be so private that you don’t need (or even get the oppertunity) to speak with the other tenants at the time of signing. Even if you could, these tenants come and go as I’ve seen some able to barter their lease down to as low as one month long.
2. Where to find apartments
TradeMe is NZ’s craigslist and ebay combined. Allows you to search for apartment in map-view, very useful if you have a good feel for where you want to live.
Property Management Agencies
The larger property management agencies have their own map-view search functions, however it appears they are posting all of their listings on trademe, making it pointless to visit them directly.
Although I didn’t know about these ones myself, in hindsight I’m definitely seeing more bargains on these groups. Perhaps a bigger chance to directly rent from an honest home owner instead of through these Machiavellian property management agencies.