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A Guide to Buying Your First Home

Looking at buying your first home? Congratulations! It’s a big move, but one of the best you’ll ever make.

It’s true, there’s a lot to think about. But we’re here to set you on the right path with all the advice and experience we’ve gained helping people into their first homes these past 30 years.

Start by talking with us about buying your first home.

It’s not essential to have a lawyer involved until you’re having the property title transferred to you… but getting in touch with us early in the process could save you a lot of headaches later on.
If you talk to us about your plans early, it’s more likely we can be there for you if there are time pressures at time of purchase – for example, other people vying for the same property.

Of course, it’s not just about the legal stuff: you’ll also need your finance sorted.

Using your KiwiSaver savings for buying your first home

Your first home deposit may be bigger than you think. That’s because you can probably withdraw funds from your KiwiSaver savings to put towards your first home.

  • You need to have contributed to your KiwiSaver fund for at least three years.
  • At least $1,000 must be left in your account after withdrawal.
  • The home must be one you intend to live in.

With some KiwiSaver funds it’s not a given that you can access funds for a first home, so your first step is to check with your KiwiSaver provider what you could withdraw for a first home deposit. If you think you’ll be buying in the next few months, get this done now, even if you haven’t found a property yet. It can sometimes take some time to process one of these requests, and you don’t want to miss out.

Using your First Home Grant for buying your first home

It’s not just your KiwiSaver savings you can access for a first home. It’s likely you’ll be eligible for a Kāinga Ora First Home Grant, too. As a single buyer buying a brand new home, this could give you up to an extra $10,000, or up to $20,000 as a couple. If you are buying an existing home, then you could receive up to an extra $5,000; or up to $10,000 as a couple. The First Home Grant could be used as part of your deposit or as part of your settlement depending on your circumstances.

There are a few requirements. You need to:

  • have contributed to KiwiSaver for at least three years
  • earn less than the income cap
  • be planning to buy a house under the regional price cap (in Canterbury, $500,000 for existing houses; $550,000 for new houses).

Check your eligibility for the Kāinga Ora First Home Grant.

Talk with your bank or mortgage broker before looking for your first home

By now you’ll know what you can probably get from KiwiSaver to put towards your first home. But if you need a mortgage, you’ll need to confirm what you might have available to you as a loan.

While you can go to your bank or mortgage broker once you’ve decided on a house, it’s best to do this beforehand. You’ll know what money will be available to you, what payments you’ll need to make, and what price range you’ll be able to afford. Remember: it’s not just about the size of your deposit. It’s what you’ll need to repay, and what a bank is willing to loan.

Even if you’d like to get your mortgage from your existing bank, it’s worth talking with a mortgage broker first. They’ll be able to find you the best rates, even if it’s with your current bank.

Before signing anything, talk with us about buying your first home

Before you sign an agreement for sale and purchase, or bid at auction, talk with us. We can make sure that all the conditions of sale are in order and what you expect. This is particularly important for auctions: if you win an auction, the sale is unconditional (it has to go through).

It might be your first time buying, but it’s something we’ve been through countless times before. We know what to look out for, and how to protect your interests. We review your finances and run independent checks to make sure everything complies. We prepare all the documents you need to make it all run smoothly. And we explain it all in ways that are easy to understand, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

But if that time has passed, and you're in need of some tips right now...

Check for these terms and conditions in the agreement for sale and purchase. These help protect you if something falls through with insurance or financing, or if there’s something wrong with the property.

  • Sale conditional on you being able to obtain insurance. If the house can’t be insured, then buying it is a big risk.
  • Sale conditional on you obtaining finance. You don’t want to be bound by a sale and purchase agreement for a house you can’t afford.
  • Sale conditional on getting a LIM report. A LIM report tells you what the local Council knows about the property. This might include consents for surrounding properties, and what the status of your property was in the past (for example, if it was built on top of a land fill).
  • Sale conditional on an independent building report. A house might seem fine to you. It might even seem fine to a builder on a cursory inspection. But to be sure that you know what you’re getting into, get a full independent building report. This will include things like moisture levels and structural integrity. (Heard of “leaky homes”? You need a building report to help catch that.)
  • Sale conditional on your lawyers’ approval of the form and content of the Agreement for Sale and Purchase. A seller ought to give you the opportunity to have us check things out.

Extra caution for buying your first home in Christchurch, Canterbury or Kaikoura: EQC issues

There are few homes in these areas that weren’t affected by the earthquakes. While many of them have had all their issues sorted out, it’s not the case for all.

This is where it’s particularly helpful to have us review things for you. Oftentimes it’s not straightforward, and there are many ways you can get caught out.

The first step is reviewing the full scope of works from EQC. This includes:

  • How the property was damaged in the earthquakes.
  • Whether any work was completed, and to what extent.
  • Whether there was a cash settlement or a private insurance settlement. (If there were cash settlements, it’s important to confirm they actually used this to repair the damage to the property.)

When you’ve reviewed all this, you need to ensure the residual rights are assigned to you. This means you can claim for any damage that hasn’t been repaired, or any that is later discovered. We can get this all sorted out for you, which will save you a lot of grief later on.

Talk to us about your first home plans

Contact Form
Canterbury Legal Building
Level 2, Durham Street South
Christchurch Central 8011
Phone: +64 3 377 0792
Fax: +64 3 377 0795
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