Buying guide

What happens on settlement day?

What to expect.

Anyone who’s been through the home buying process in New Zealand and is looking forward to settlement day will be feeling very excited and wondering what happens next. What needs to be done on settlement day? You’ve come to the right place, read on.

Settlement day checklist for buyers: what happens

1. Your lawyer or conveyancer pays the balance for the property on your behalf

Usually, you’ll sign an authorisation a few days before settlement day which gives your lawyer or conveyancer permission to transfer the outstanding amount due on the house. This money will be paid to the vendor’s lawyer, who should then give your solicitor a receipt to prove the payment has gone through. 

It’s worth noting that, in some sales, paying this balance will be required before settlement day itself in order to allow funds to clear. Discuss this with your lawyer before you sign the sale and purchase agreement so you make sure you’re timing it right.

2. The key handover

Once payment has cleared, it’s time for the most exciting part of your home buying journey – collecting the keys. 

Usually, you’ll make arrangements for how this handover will happen before settlement day itself, and you’ll pick the keys up from either the seller’s lawyer or their real estate agent.

3. Document handover

The other important handover that happens on settlement day is some key documents from the seller’s lawyer to yours. Their representatives will arrange the transfer of the property’s ownership, and will have your details (and those of your lender/bank) recorded on the property title.

Your lawyer will have an important role to play on settlement day.

Is settlement date the day you move in?

The short answer is yes, it can be. You receive the keys on settlement day, and the property title goes into your name, so technically you can move in.

We know you don’t want to hear this, but it can be a good idea to plan your move-in date for the day after settlement day. We know that an extra 24 hours’ wait can be excruciating when you’re so excited to get into your new house, but sometimes things don’t run smoothly and processes are delayed.

Wait, what could go wrong on settlement day?

A variety of things can slow things up on settlement day, including:

  • Slow processing at the bank: if your bank is processing a lot of transactions on that day or there are changes to your paperwork, this can shunt you down their queue.
  • Damages to the property: it might seem unbelievable, but it can happen. The kids next door might kick their rugby ball through the property window the day before settlement, both parties' lawyers will work to sort out a solution. 
  • Missing keys: hopefully you don’t encounter this one, but it has happened. Again, your lawyer or conveyancer should be the first person you speak to.

Fingers crossed, your settlement day all runs smoothly and you’re able to get into your new place on time. Time to crack open the bubbles!

*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.