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.

Heaps! Close Down By Kiwibank

I got an email today from Kiwibank about closing of heaps!. I’ve been using this software since I came here in NZ. This was provided by Kiwibank for free. I actually thought that its features are awesome! It helped me organise my finances by linking my bank transactions automatically into categories e.g. Food, Rent, Transportation etc. Though after a few months of usage, I noticed that some transactions were not synced. I asked for help from their support team, but didn’t get a resolution from them so I went back to using a manual finance tracker in my Android phone.

Here is the email I got from Kiwibank. They just confirmed that they had stability and functionality issues with the software, thus will close it.

 

Hi there

heaps! is closing 1 July 2016

A few years ago we brought you heaps!, an online tool to manage your money and reach your financial goals faster.

heaps! started well, but in the last few years it’s had issues with stability and functionality and it hasn’t delivered the experience we want you to have.

We’ve decided to close heaps! on 1 July and put our efforts into bringing you a better tool. You can get answers to any questions about the closure at heaps.co.nz. The website will stay live until 30 September 2016.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the closure of heaps!

 

Kind regards


Mark Wilkshire
General Manager Customer and Product

 

Coincidentally, ANZ has also announced its discontinuation of MoneyManager on July 2016.

How to Open an NZ Bank Account

Another bullet in our list is to apply for an NZ bank account. You have the option to open one from outside the country (Yes, you can apply for a bank account while overseas) or once you’ve arrived. If you have no relatives or do not know anyone in New Zealand then opening a bank account while overseas is important. It is a more convenient and safer way to access the money which you will be needing once you’ve moved. Also, it is a requirement when applying for an IRD Number (for tax).

We opted for a local bank which is Kiwibank. There are also other banks to choose from. Among the most popular are ANZ, BNZ, ASB and Westpac. I applied for one while I was still in the PH. My wife applied after she got here. We both applied for an everyday banking account called Free Up. Application can be done online, by phone or at any local Kiwibank.

Kiwibank_logo.svg

 

Application from overseas

Here are the steps if you want to apply for a bank account from overseas. Steps are quite similar with other banks.

Step 1:     Download, fill up and print the Migrant Application Form from Kiwibank.

Step 2:     Print a copy of your passport’s front page.

Step 3:     Print a copy of proof of residential address in the Philippines (I had my mobile postpaid bill).

Step 4:     Bring above documents to your nearest notary public (or any acceptable certifiers) and have it notarized. You also need to bring the originals as proof. It is important that details of certifier (name, designation, address, contact number) are printed clearly as the bank might contact them for verification.My suggestion is to go to a notary with a legit office and not just those you see on the streets.

Step 5:     Scan notarized copies and email them at service@kiwibank.com. Keep your documents as you need to provide it later when you arrive in NZ

Step 6:     Kiwibank responds quickly. Expect an email from them after two days which should contain the following:

  • Kiwbank access number – you use this for internet banking.
  • Account Name and Account Number
  • Instructions to transfer money to your NZ bank account
  • Making an appointment to a Kiwibank branch in NZ
  • Setting up internet banking

Step 7:     Once you’ve arrived in NZ and have your appointment with a Kiwibank branch officer, they will activate your account (meaning you can already withdraw/pay/transfer from your account) and will give your EFTPOS / Debit card.

 

Application while in NZ

Below are the steps if you want to apply for a bank account once you have arrived in NZ.

Step 1:     Join online.

Step 2:     Visit any Kiwibank to show your ID (we both used our passports but they also accept other IDs like driver’s license) and validate the account. They also need a proof of address in NZ.

And that’s it! No initial deposit needed! The whole process only takes about 5-10 minutes. After 5 days, I received my Visa Debit Card which comes with it for free! It works like a standard ATM/EFTPOS card and can be used for online shopping.

*Here in NZ, cashless transaction is quite popular (I rarely bring cash on my wallet) and are commonly through Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale or EFTPOS.