A Migrant’s Guide to buying a home in New Zealand14 Feb 2023

If you are a new New Zealand resident, you are probably eager to get settled into your new country and, for many people, this means buying a home to live in. However, there are regulations around overseas people buying property in New Zealand that you should be aware of before you start out on your home-buying journey.

The legislation governing the purchase of assets by non-NZ citizens, is the Overseas Investment Act 2005 (the Act). According to the Act, an “overseas person” who wishes to acquire any “sensitive asset” in New Zealand must first obtain regulatory approval, or consent. Applications for consent are made to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), part of Toitū Te Whenua (Land Information New Zealand), which regulates overseas investment in New Zealand’s land, significant business assets, and the country’s fishing quota. Residential land in New Zealand is deemed a “sensitive asset” under the Act, and comes under the jurisdiction of the OIO.

For all visa holders seeking to buy a home in New Zealand, it is important to note that:

• If you are a New Zealand citizen, or have a New Zealand residence class visa and are ordinarily resident in New Zealand, you can buy or build a home in New Zealand without the need for any consent.
• If you have a New Zealand residence class visa but do not yet meet the ordinarily resident test, you have the option to apply to the OIO for consent buy One Home To Live In.
• If you do not hold a residence class visa, you are normally ineligible to buy residential property. However, there are some exceptions, such as for Australian or Singapore citizens or permanent residents, and specialist legal advice should be sought to clarify whether you may be eligible for an exception.

According to section 6 of the Act, to be “ordinarily resident” a person must satisfy all four of the following criteria:

1. Currently hold a New Zealand residence class visa, and
2. Have been living in New Zealand for at least 12 months, and
3. Have been physically present in New Zealand for at least 183 days within those 12 months, and
4. Be a New Zealand tax resident.

Time spent visiting New Zealand does not count, but time spent in the country on a work or student visa can count towards the time in New Zealand requirement - provided a residence class visa is held at the time of the property purchase.

If you are married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship, only one person needs to meet the criteria for buying a relationship property in New Zealand.

Buying One Home To Live In

If you are a residence class visa holder who does not yet satisfy the ordinarily resident criteria you can still apply for OIO consent if you wish to buy just one home for you to live in – see OIO | One Home to Live In: Eligibility and scenarios.

The OIO’s assessment involves a Commitment To Reside Test to confirm whether an applicant has a residence class visa, is committed to living in New Zealand, and is purchasing one residential property for the purpose of living in it. In order to gain consent, you will need to commit to live in New Zealand for at least 183 days in the following year, and to becoming a New Zealand tax resident.

Consents for standard applications are made within 10 working days. The OIO advises that the most efficient and flexible way to get consent is to apply for a one year pre-approval. This will give you, as a consent holder, the ability to buy a qualifying property within one year. It will also give you the ability to buy property at auction, which is not possible without holding pre-approval.

If consent is granted, then when you do purchase a property, the OIO must be notified. Consent holders must then live in the qualifying property until they are no longer classified as an overseas person. The OIO will continue to monitor compliance, and consent holders will need to report to the OIO as per their conditions.

The current OIO application fee is NZ$ 2,040 – see OIO fees.


Purchasing any property in New Zealand, whether as a migrant or otherwise, requires legal expertise from specialists in this field. The above provides general guidance only and readers should contact the OIO or their own legal advisers for advice relating to their particular circumstances.

Let’s Talk!

If you have any questions relating to New Zealand residence, contact Pathways™ to speak to any of our friendly licensed immigration advisers.