Buying guide

The New Zealand studio apartment buying guide

Everything you need to know to find and buy a studio to call home

Last updated: 22 February 2024

Buying a home in New Zealand is hard. It’s no mystery why - the national average asking price is $864,350 and you’re looking at $1,067,850 in Auckland.

Buying a studio apartment could make it easier.

These may not work for everyone, but if you don’t mind a smaller space, buying a studio can be a smart way to get into a new home for less. Here’s everything you need to know to make sure your purchase goes smoothly.

What’s the secret to buying a studio apartment?

Buying a studio apartment is very similar to buying a regular apartment in NZ so for a more in depth look at everything you need to know, check out our full apartment buying guide

However, there are a few key differences when it comes to studios. 

Bank finance is important

Studio apartments tend to be small, often under 40 sqm. Unfortunately banks generally require a larger deposit to approve finance if the apartment you’re buying is under a certain size - and each bank has a different minimum size:

  • Westpac: apartments under 50 sqm will require a 50% deposit.

  • BNZ: apartments smaller than 50 sqm require a 35% deposit. 

  • Kiwibank: apartments under 40 sqm may require a larger deposit. 

  • ASB: apartments must be a minimum of 40 sqm to be used as security. 

  • ANZ: apartments under 38 sqm require a 50% deposit. 

Other smaller banks and non-bank lenders may be more inclined to lend to you if you’re buying a small apartment, but they may charge a higher interest rate. Speak to a mortgage broker for help finding the right option for you. 

Good design is vital

Design and architecture are especially important when buying a small studio apartment because if the space is poorly laid out, it could feel even smaller.

When you’re buying, look for apartments that are airy and wide, not long and skinny. Airy, square spaces tend to get more natural light and feel bigger than more narrow rectangles, which can feel confined and dark.

Look for studios with large windows or balcony doors that let in plenty of light. Something north facing and elevated with a view outward is usually better as the natural light and view will give your studio a feeling of space.

Look for location

The smaller your studio, the more important the location is. That’s because if your apartment is small you may want to do more of your living outside in nearby public spaces, like cafes, beaches or parks.

Look for locations near to these public spaces and near transport links. Because studio apartments tend to be affordable you may be surprised how close you can live to all the stuff you like.

Studios are usually small so location and design are even more important than usual.

Think about your neighbours

Having quality neighbours is more important than ever when buying a studio apartment because you’ll be living in a more confined space near them. So make sure you ask your real estate agent if they know anything about other owners in the building and whether they’re owner occupiers or tenants.

Generally apartments with a high proportion of owner-occupiers are preferable.

Do your due diligence

Just like with any property purchase, it’s absolutely vital that you do thorough due diligence before you buy a studio apartment. That includes:

  • Checking through three years of body corp annual general meeting minutes to look for red flags. Look out for upcoming work required and complaints from tenants.

  • Finding out what your body corp fees are and if there are any increases or ‘special levies’ planned. 

  • Checking whether there are any remedial or weathertightness issues. These can be particularly prevalent and costly in apartments built from 1987 to 2004. 

  • Reading the building rules: especially if pets are allowed, if you’re allowed guests past a certain time and whether you’re allowed to make changes to your property. 

  • Understand the type of ownership: lots of smaller apartments are leasehold and require you to pay annual ground rent, which can be thousands of dollars. In most cases it’s better to buy a freehold apartment

  • Inspect apartment amenities: if you’re buying a studio apartment it’s a big plus to have shared amenities like  =gyms, gardens and outdoor dining areas. 

  • Check soundproofing: studio apartments can be noisy, especially if they’re centrally located. So it’s worth spending some time in the apartment at busy times such as during rush hour traffic, after work and on the weekends before you buy. Newer apartments built to code and apartments with thicker walls and double glazing, generally have better soundproofing. 

As part of your due diligence it’s also a great idea to go to the apartment complex and spend as much time looking around the building and the area as possible. 

How are you going to buy?

Generally there are two options when it comes to buying a studio apartment. That is, buying off the plan straight from a developer or buying an existing apartment. There are pros and cons to both options but either way it’s important to understand the process, get professional advice, and take caution when making an offer

*We hope this article has provided some helpful information. It's based on our experience and is not intended as a complete guide. Of course, it doesn’t consider your individual needs or situation. If you're thinking about buying or selling a property, you should always get specific advice.


Ben Tutty
Ben Tutty

Ben Tutty is a regular contributor for Trade Me and he's also contributed to Stuff and the Informed Investor. He's got 10+ years experience as both a journalist and website copywriter, specialising in real estate, finance and tourism. Ben lives in Wānaka with his partner and his best mate (Finnegan the whippet).