Renting a Residential Property in NZ

Looking for a place to live here in Auckland with your family seems easy but it is actually not. If you are coming here alone and are looking for flatting options (room rent or bedspace) then might be easy, but if you are planning to rent the whole apartment/house, then you have to allot ample amount of time, money and effort.  Even before I got here, my wife and I spent some time browsing through available options. I’d like to share with you my experience and I hope that I can give you a glimpse of the housing conditions here in NZ. Please note that this article is based from our experience in Auckland (could be different in other regions).

When we decided to move to NZ, we were a bit worried because we did not know anyone from here. As mentioned in my previous post, I came here by myself first. This came out as a good decision especially when I realized how hard it is to find a place for my family in Auckland. I think you are lucky if you have a relative where you may have the option to stay with until you can find your own place.

When I came here early this year, I stayed on a serviced apartment for a week which cost me $165 a day. This gave me enough time to do the things I needed such as opening a bank accountapplying for an IRD Number and finding a short term flatting option. I was able to find a flat easily. Here in NZ, one of the most popular property posting sites is TradeMe Property. In TradeMe, you can filter your search based on the location, price, number of rooms, etc. In my case, I sent an email to the property manager, and he replied promptly. We met the next day for the signing of the tenancy agreement and rental payment. Below are the things that came up

  1. The minimum rental period is 3 months. I did not expect this. I used to rent a flat in the Philippines too, but I was able to “negotiate” a minimum rental period. Nevertheless, the amount of time was just right for me to settle and prepare for my family.
  2. Rent is $200 weekly. That is right. Rent in NZ is paid on a weekly basis. Rent for a flat typically ranges from $150 to $400. My rent already includes gas, power, and water. Internet/broadband is an additional $20 per month. 🙁
  3. You have to provide 4 weeks rent as a security bond. This bond is held by the government’s Tenancy Services, and will be deposited to your bank account when the tenancy ends. I had an experience in the Philippines where the landlord did not give the security bond back. Those dirty tactics are not possible here!
  4. You have to pay letting fee which is equivalent to one week rent to the agent. Another $200 dollars from my pocket. Ouch!

Ok, you might say that was easy. We’re not on the difficult part yet. Three months have passed; everything seems fine at work and looks like I am ready to move my whole family to NZ. Again, I went to TradeMe to search for a two bedroom apartment where we could enjoy living with privacy. Search returned many results from TradeMe, so I say to myself everything is going to be fine. I found a perfect place on a perfect price. I sent a message to the property manager saying that I am interested. His reply – property viewing is available the following week, and I could visit if I’m really interested. The day came. I was excited and early. I wanted to check the premises first before I meet with the property manager. Few minutes have passed, I noticed that other people were also coming. I asked myself, do they come here to view the property? Exactly at the scheduled time came the property manager. He asked everyone to come inside to have a look at the property. That confirmed it – all of us (around 15 in total) were there to view the property. The place was really nice, and everyone seemed to like it. After viewing, the manager handed the application form and asked us to fill up with our personal details. At first it felt like I was applying for a job. Unfortunately, that’s how it works in Auckland. If you want a good deal in rental properties, then you need to stretch your patience.

I’ve expressed my interest to around 15 rental properties, and had been to 8 viewings before finally succeeding. I even met a regular participant in several viewings who is also a Filipino and told me that his family temporarily stays with his relative. Wanna know how I got it? Luck maybe. If I analyse the property manager’s story, I guess she picked me because 1) She needed the property rented immediately. Unlike me, other applicants wanted to start rent after few weeks 2) I have a stable income knowing I am an IT professional 3) The unit is ideal for a family of three. 4) Lastly, I think others shy away from the rental price which is $35 dollars more compared to other units in the same compound (around 5,000 pesos per month).

Again, I had to provide 4 weeks rent worth of security bond and a week’s rent of letting fee for the property manager. As for the rental cost, it is quite expensive compared back home. A 2-bedroom apartment typically costs about $450 or more depending on the location. Those which are nearer to the city center cost a lot more.

Buying Goods/Availing Services in New Zealand

As a new migrant in New Zealand, it is really helpful to have a guide on where to find the things that you want to buy (or where to get services that you need). Below is an itemized list of goods and services with some quick facts about them.

Food and Groceries

If you want to buy food and grocery items like meat, rice, flour, fruits and vegetables, then you can go to any of these supermarket chains.

  • PAKn’Save – They live up to their policy which is to have the lowest food prices in NZ. Did you know that many PAK’nSave stores have on-site fuel stations? When you checkout, you will get a voucher which you can use to get petrol discounts. 6 cents per liter is not bad.
  • Countdown – A New Zealand supermarket chain which is a subsidiary of a large Australian retail company.
  • New World – Owned by the same group as PAK’nSave. A member of the loyalty programme, Fly Buys, which gives you points on your purchases.

Home Retails / Department Stores

Ranging from whitewares, clothes, books, toys, kitchen appliances and furnitures, you can buy  almost anything for your home from these stores.

  • The Warehouse – really cheap items and almost everyday they are on sale on selected items.
  • Farmers – mid-market department store chains

Office Supplies and Services

Papers, ink, print & copy services and more

  • Warehouse Stationary – Owned by the same group as The Warehouse. Their print service is awesome. Here in New Zealand, if you want to have your passport photos taken, you need to pay around 20NZD per person. If you know a little about Photoshop, then you can take your own photo and have it printed here for only 20c!
  • OfficeMax – another major office supplies provider.

Household Warehouse / Hardware

Cements, woods, electrical, tools, plumbing, paint, you can find them here.

Electronics and Home Appliances

Computers, tablets, phones, TV’s, etc.

  • Noel Leeming – member of The Warehouse Group
  • PB Tech – largest computing and I.T. retailer
  • Harvey Norman – large Australian based retailer of electronics goods. Offers furniture and beddings too.
  • Dick Smith – another Australian player

Telecommunications

Mobile, Landline, Internet

  • Spark – formerly Telecom, largest provider in New Zealand. Spark is our mobile and internet service provider!
  • Vodafone – British multinational telecommunications company.
  • 2Degrees – new comer in the NZ telecom arena with increasing market share

Power/Electricity Retailer

  • Genesis Energy – largest energy provider (electricity & gas) by market share as of 2016.
  • Trustpower – provider of electricity, gas & internet.
  • Powershop – electricity provider which gives you option to “shop” from their products (e.g. if you care about the environment then you might want to buy their Green Packs). Note that you have the option to buy on prepaid when shopping which gives you savings.

Health Insurance

New Zealand’s ACC is very good in covering accidents. The government also subsidizes GP consultations and have “free” services on public hospitals. But if you want convenience and don’t want to be on a waiting list, then you might consider getting a private health insurance.

Malls

  • Westfield Mall – the largest chain of malls in NZ (like SM in the Philippines but definitely fewer store options)
  • Sylvia Park – ok, not really a “mall”, but is the popular large business park and shopping center in Auckland.

Banking Services

  • Kiwibank – subsidiary of state-owned New Zealand Post.
  • ANZ – largest financial services group which is a subsidiary of Australia’s ANZ.
  • Westpac – large Australian bank operating in NZ.

Cars for Sale

  • AA – you can browse for cars for sale from the Automobile Association itself.
  • Turners – large car auction in New Zealand
  • 2 Cheap Cars – popular used car dealership. Most of the cars are coming from Japan.
  • Trade Me Motors – You can buy almost anything from Trade Me which includes cars.

Petrol / Service Stations

  • Z Energy – the successor of Shell New Zealand
  • Caltex – petroleum brand of Chevron. Same brand we have in the Philippines.
  • Mobil – major American oil company whose parent company, ExxonMobil the direct descendant of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company.
  • PAK’nSave – As mentioned previously, they have on-site fuel stations which gives you discounts when you buy groceries. 🙂

Car Services

  • AA – New Zealand Automobile Association, the largest and oldest motoring club in NZ. They provide a wide range of motoring services which includes vehicle & driver licensing, car advertisements, repair & maintenance, insurance and road assistance.
  • VTNZ – Vehicle Testing and more.
  • Pit Stop – car repair, maintenance and road assistance.

Rental Properties

  • Trade Me Property – You can almost find anything in Trade Me. In fact, most rental properties that you can see online is in Trade Me!
  • NZ Flatmates – Living in Auckland by yourself? You can find the right flatmates for you here.

Haircut Services

A lot of salon here in NZ might require you to book an appointment.

Car Rentals

Bus transport is the main form of public transport in NZ. If you are travelling with a group, you might find the fare expensive (compared to PH). If one of you have a valid license and know how to drive, then you can rent a car and save some cash. When I moved here, my taxi from airport to North Shore had cost me 150 dollars!

  • Omega Car Rentals – cheap car rentals in major cities in NZ
  • Jucy – another cheap popular car rental
  • Thrifty – newer car models but more expensive

Pharmacy

Both brands below are under the same pharmacy retail group in New Zealand.

Online Streaming / Cable Television

  • Sky – The only “cable” tv provider that I know (i.e. not internet based). They recently launched Sky Go which allows you to view contents on any internet enabled devices. This is not related to Philippine’s Sky Cable company.
  • Lightbox – Owned by Spark New Zealand. I actually got a free subscription when I signed up for Spark broadband. Sweet!
  • Neon – Online streaming owned by Sky
  • Netflix – Nothing can beat the price of Netflix. So far, I think they have the cheapest service here.

Do you have anything that you want to add to the list? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.

How to Apply for NBI Clearance From Overseas | NBI Clearance in NZ

As mentioned in our earlier posts, we came here in New Zealand with a work visa. After settling here for a few months, we realized that we want to stay here longer and decided to apply for Resident Visa. One of  the requirements for resident visa application is Police Certificate. In the Philippines, this is issued by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Immigration New Zealand (INZ) requires police certificates to be less than 6 months old at the time application was lodged. Unfortunately, my NBI clearance is already 9 months old, so even if it is not expired (NBI clearance expires after a yar) I still have to get a new one. Here’s a guide on how to apply for NBI Clearance if you are in New Zealand. The procedures are similar if you are getting NBI Clearance anywhere overseas.

Step 1:  Secure NBI Fingerprint Form Card (NBI Form No. 5) from the PH embassy/consulate by sending the following:

  • A request letter with signature
  • Photocopy of valid passport
  • Self-addressed prepaid courier bag – You can buy the bag from NZ Post. You need to include this bag in your mail so they can send back the form to you.

Here is the address of Philippine Embassy in Wellington.

                 50 Hobson Street, Thorndon
                Wellington, New Zealand 6011

When you receive the form, below is what it looks like. It should have the unique serial number on the upper right corner and embassy seal on the bottom right corner of the form.

NBI Form No. 5
NBI Form No. 5

Step 2.  Fill out the NBI Fingerprint Card on both sides;

Step 3. Have your fingerprints impressed rolled impression on the appropriate space in the form.  Bring your form and a 2″x 2″ photo (white background taken within three months) with you, and go to the nearest police station or embassy/consulate to assist you in capturing your fingerprints. Note that in Auckland area, fingerprint capture is now being pushed to be electronic thru NZ Post which means you have no choice but to ask help from PH consulate in Auckland to assist you with fingerprinting. Anyway, I still recommend you to go to the consulate/embassy to prevent wrong or incomplete impression/signature.  The witness (police or embassy/consulate officer) should sign his/her name and state his official designation in the space for “IMPRESSIONS TAKEN BY”.

Notes for married woman application: Name should be written in the following order

  1. a)    Your maiden name (family or surname of your father);
  2. b)    Your first name or given name;
  3. c)    Your maternal surname (maiden surname of your mother); and
  4. d)    Your husband’s surname or family name ( space provided, No. 2);

Step 4: Send the accomplished form and payment to NBI. You have two options – you can either

  • Send the accomplished form and payment to your representative, and have him/her process the NBI for you. Your representative will submit the requirements to NBI and then pick up your NBI Clearance once available. You need to provide an authorization letter to your representative. or
  • Send the form and payment directly to NBI. Once available, they will send the clearance to your address abroad. The catch is they will send it via regular snail mail without a tracking number. 🙁

Below is the contact information of NBI for overseas applicants

  • MS. SANDRA P. SOBIDA
    Mailed Clearance Section
    NBI Taft Ave., Ermita, Manila
    Tel Number 5238231 loc 5465

Cost of application is 200 pesos.

In my case, I asked my brother to process our NBI Clearance. He paid 200 pesos in cash for each clearance.

Step 5: Wait for your NBI Clearance result. If you have a representative, he/she will pick up your clearance and send it back to you via your preferred courier. My brother got my clearance after 5 days. It took another 5 days for my clearance to be sent here in Auckland. It will definitely take more time if you let NBI send your clearance to you via regular mail, and again they don’t provide a tracking number which will make you go crazy if you’ve been waiting for so long.

Please note that if you are living near the embassy/consulate, you can go straight to the embassy/consulate with your passport to obtain NBI Clearance Form and have your fingerprints taken (Steps 1 to 3).

Double check for any wrong info on the clearance. Check for the dry seal. Ensure that the signatures are complete.

 

Challenge Encountered – A note to DOST Scholars

I was a scholar of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) when I was in college. Part of my obligation to serve my country  is to work in the Philippines for the same duration I was under the scholarship. My name was in the PH immigration and NBI watch list, which simply means I cannot live or work abroad without completing my service obligation.

Before applying for NZ work visa, I already had this worked out: I completed my service obligation and was cleared by DOST. To do this, I submitted a copy of a letter from DOST to NBI stating that I am already cleared of my obligation. I was granted an NBI clearance with no derogatory records.

Considering this, I was surprised when my brother had issues with my clearance as the officer told him that I  actually still need to settle my DOST obligation again. My brother even submitted my NBI clearance along with the application. So what he did was he went back the next day and brought a copy of my DOST service clearance and another copy of my old NBI clearance. Luckily, I have saved copies or I will have to get a new one (DOST clearance)!

For me this is really a disappointment on the NBI process and a flaw on the integrity of their records.

So if you have any clearance/documents/letters that you think might affect the release of your NBI Clearance in the future, better keep them, you might need them in the future.

NBI-Clearance
NBI Clearance

Note: Notice the dry seal embossed on the left side of the clearance just above the bar code which can slightly be seen in the photo.

 

How to Apply for Certified True Copy of Philippine Passport

My wife’s visa application (Partnership-Based Temporary Visa) overlapped with my departure date so we had to apply for a Certified True Copy (CTC) of my passport. To get one, I went to DFA Manila (in ASEANA) with the following documents:

  1. Original Passport
  2. Proof of Requirement for Certified Copy of Passport – DFA requires a valid reason for application of the certification. In our case, I brought a copy of INZ 1146 Form (Form for Partners Supporting Partnership-Based Temporary Entry Applications). This form lists it as a requirement.

When I got to DFA, I asked for assistance from the guard on duty. I showed him my documents, and he politely directed me to wait in line opposite the window for passport certifications. On my turn, I handed over my documents to the officer. After verification, I was instructed to go to the 2nd floor for payment. Total cost is 100 PHP. Then, I went back to the verification officer to present the receipt.

We could only wish for a faster processing but we had to wait for 10 days before we get the stamped and signed photocopy of my passport. It helps to apply for it in advance.

It is also advisable to go to DFA early and bring photocopies of your documents beforehand (even photocopy services have long queues).

* I used the same Certified True Copy of Passport for my NZQA application.

 

Certified True Copy of Passport
Certified True Copy of Passport
Certified True Copy of Passport
Passport Certification

 

How to Apply for NZQA Assessment | IQA vs PAR

As some of you might know, when claiming points for your qualification (educational attainment) in your residence visa application, you need to obtain an assessment from NZQA – the government entity tasked to assess qualifications. This is equivalent to a World Education Services (WES) evaluation for Canadian resident visa. Unless your school is in the list of Qualifications Exempt from Assessment, then you need to take an NZQA assessment.

Most of the top schools in the Philippines are in the exempt list, but please note that qualification (degree) and the year it was awarded must match with the specifics in the list. For example, a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree holder from University of the Philippines Baguio awarded in year 2000 still need to take NZQA because only BS degrees awarded from 2003 are exempted.

In our case, my wife’s qualification is in the exemption list, but mine isn’t. I had to apply for assessment to claim points for my education. That is a huge 50 points for a Bachelor’s Degree.

 

PAR vs IQA

Which assessment should I take? If you need to submit your Expression of Interest (EOI) right away, then you may have your Pre-Assessment Result (PAR). This will cost you 138 NZD (roughly 4,600 PHP), and you can get result in around 20 days. You don’t need to submit your documents to NZQA. They will assess your qualification based solely on the information you provided them. When you received your Invitation to Apply (ITA), the INZ (Immigration New Zealand) will still require you a full assessment through International Qualifications Assessment (IQA).

If you are not in a hurry to submit your EOI and want to save money, then you can apply for IQA straight away. I opted for this one and received the result after 35 days. It’s a case to case basis. According to NZQA, some applications may take up to 10 weeks.

 

Applying for IQA

Applying for IQA is easy. Here’s my guide:

Step 1: Create your account online via Qualification Recognition Services (QRS) online applications.

Step 2: Fill out and submit your online application. It helps to prepare the following:

  • Applicant Details – full name, email, mobile number, address
  • Qualification Details – name/degree, school name, address, year completed
  • High School (Secondary School) Details – high school name, address, year graduated
  • Work Experience – position held, employer name, employer address, date employed
  • Supporting Documents – passport
  • Payment Details – credit card to pay online. I paid 746 NZD (approximately 25,000 PHP)

Once application is submitted, a QRS application number will be assigned to you.

Step 3: Send your documents to NZQA. The documents that you need to submit may vary depending on the answers on your online application. Here are the documents I submitted:

  • NZQA Cover Sheet – You can download this online once you submitted your application. This contains your appilication ID (QRS Number) and a checklist of documents you need to provide to NZQA.

NZQA Cover Sheet

  • Award Certificates and Transcripts (Originals) – This is my Transcript of Records (TOR) and diploma.
  • School Documents (Original) – My high school diploma.
  • Identity Documents(Certified copies) – A certified true copy of my passport.
  • A prepaid courier bag

Send them

  • By Post
    Qualification Recognition Services
    New Zealand Qualifications Authority
    PO box 160, Wellington 6140
    NEW ZEALAND
  • By Courier
    Qualification Recognition Services
    New Zealand Qualifications Authority
    125 The Terrace, Wellington 6011
    NEW ZEALAND

Step 4: Wait for your assessment result to be delivered to you. You can track the status of your application online using your account.

 

NZQA International Qualifications Assessment
NZQA International Qualifications Assessment (IQA)