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Your guide to real estate in the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown

Whether you’re buying, selling or renting property, a lot has changed or been put on hold during alert level 4.

Your guide to real estate in the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown

Whether you’re buying, selling or renting property, a lot has changed or been put on hold during alert level 4.

So, here’s what you need to know for the next wee while – as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern puts it.

The first thing to be aware of, is that real estate is not considered an essential service so some key tasks in the real estate journey are on pause.

Open homes and private viewings

Attending these in person are a no-go, even if you’ve seen stories in the media about people still attempting them. This is a good time to try out the virtual tours on offer.

Auctions are happening in small numbers around the country, online only, and in some cases bids are being made conditional on seeing the property. For sellers who like the idea of auctions because it gets a broad range of keen buyers competing in the room, they may want to wait until normal services resume.

Proponents of online auctions are happy to see these being more commonly trialled, so it’s a win for them.

Conditional contracts can still go unconditional during alert level 4 without face-to-face meetings. If the condition can’t be confirmed during this time, the vendor and buyer should ask their lawyers to extend the condition until after the lockdown period or alternatively cancel the contract.

Settlements occurring over April and May are likely going to be tricky. The bottom line is that you can’t move into your new home during alert level 4, and so won’t be able to settle.

There are no removal companies able to unload all your worldly possessions into your new place, and you’ll have to stay in the home you were in on the night alert level 4 began.

If you haven’t done a pre-settlement inspection prior to lockdown, it’s not going to be possible while we’re at this alert level, which is another spanner in the works. In a few cases, video conferencing could potentially be effective, but still has it’s complications because things like moisture problems can’t be tested via video.

If one party is particularly keen to settle during lockdown, there’s some wiggle room but it’s not easy. There are some cases where settlements are still happening for investment properties, where the buyer doesn’t need to physically move into the home.

If you’re tenants buying the home you’re living in, you might just be in luck – as long as lawyers on both sides agree, and the documentation can be done remotely.

The majority of settlements are being deferred until 10 working days after the level 4 lifts, and the country returns to level 2 or below (as recommended by the New Zealand Law Society). Ask your lawyers to make this amendment for you.

Bridging finance

Buyers and sellers can talk to their bank or mortgage provider about bridging finance if it’s necessary. In an environment where job security is less assured and when banks are busy helping existing homeowners restructure their mortgages, this may be a more difficult conversation to have than it usually would.

Rentals

The Government has made a number of things clear for landlords and tenants.

There is a freeze on rental increases for an initial period of six months, tenancies cannot be terminated during the lockdown period unless both parties agree, and protections against terminations will apply for an initial period of three months. Tenants can still give notice on their contracts, but if they were in the home on the eve of lockdown, they can’t leave until alert level 4 has been lifted.

Tenants will be able to revoke termination notices they have been given if they need to stay in the home during the lockdown period.

Routine inspections should not happen during alert level 4, instead they should be deferred until the alert level changes, in agreement with the landlord and their insurer.

Rental viewings

These aren’t considered essential services, so may only be done only by virtual tour or pre-recorded video. Alternatively, you can request a viewing for when level 4 is lifted. If tenants need to find emergency accommodation they should call Work and Income on 0800 559 009 for help.

Routine and urgent maintenance

This has been shelved during level 4, as real estate is not an essential service and will be rescheduled post lockdown.

If it’s urgent and related to an essential service, like power, water, waste, or gas, then it will be possible to call licensed tradespeople for service.

Tenancy tribunals

Any hearings scheduled during alert level 4 will have new dates once services are open again.

Information for this article was largely provided by REINZ.

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