You’ve found the house you want, now you’ve just got to make it yours. Do your homework so you don’t end up with a lemon and get a lawyer involved to help you through the paperwork.

Before you make an offer

1. Get your lawyer involved

It’s important to get a lawyer on board before you make an offer. They’ll be able to make sure you have all the necessary conditions included in your offer and that you’ve done all the necessary homework on the property.

2. Complete all your checks on the property

Your lawyer should be able to advise you on the checks and reports they think you need.

Common checks and inspections

Check the title

The Certificate of Title is the legal document that records the boundaries of the land and any restrictions on its use. The title will also tell you if you’re likely to have problems adding a deck or extension later.

  • How do I get this? Your lawyer should do this as part of the conveyancing process. If you’re buying by auction, the agent will provide you with copies of the LIM and Certificate of Title when you register your interest.
  • How much will it cost? It should be included in your conveyancing bill – but check this with your lawyer.

Talk to the council

Check with the town planning department to see what zone the house is in, and whether there’re any changes or developments planned in the area.

  • How do I do this? Call your local council or check their website – many of the councils have zoning maps available online.
  • How much will it cost? It’s often free – but it’ll depend on your council.
Check the LIM (Land Information Memorandum)

A LIM contains lots of information about building consents that have been issued, erosion or subsidence, roads and flooding or any contamination of the land.

  • How do I do this? LIMs are available through your local council. You can request it yourself or your lawyer can get it for you - sometimes they can take weeks to come through, so get onto it early if you can. If you’re buying by auction, the agent will likely provide you with copies of the LIM and Certificate of Title when you register your interest.
  • How much will it cost? $150 - $400 – it’s more expensive in the bigger cities.

Check the valuation

All homes have a Rateable Valuation (RV) – homes can sell above or below it, but it’s a quick way to get a fix on whether the asking price is fair. Rateable Values are generated by a company called QV.

  • How do I do this? You can find out the RV of a property from your local council (usually online) but if you want a more comprehensive report, check out QV.
  • How much will it cost? The council will usually provide basic information free on their website. You can also find property reports from the QV website, you will need to pay for these.

Get a builder's report

A builder’s report will check things like whether the house is structurally sound, if the wiring is in good condition and if there’s any risk of leaks. You’ll need to find a builder or a building inspection company to carry this out for you.

  • How do I do this? The Department of Building and Housing has a list of registered building certifiers on its website – dbh.govt.nz.
  • How much will it cost? It varies depending on the home and the amount of detail you want – on average it might cost around $600.

Get a full valuation

A full valuation is when a qualified valuer will go and visit the property to provide a market value of the property. They'll look through the house and provide a comparison to recent sales within the area you're looking to buy.

You may decide that you don't need a valuation but sometimes your bank will want one as part of the terms of your approval for a home loan.

If we require a valuation as part of your approval, we'll organise this on your behalf.

You'll need to cover the costs of the valuation, which usually cost between $650-$900 depending on the location and type of property you're looking to buy.

3. Confirm your finances

You’ve possibly got conditional approval, but before you make an offer it’s important to talk to your bank to confirm how much they’re willing to lend on this particular property.

4. Know what conditions you want to include in an offer

You can make a conditional offer or an unconditional offer. An unconditional offer is one without any conditions attached, this means if your offer is accepted you can’t back out for any reason. You should talk to your lawyer before making an unconditional offer, make sure you’ve got your finance confirmed and have done all the necessary checks (like building reports, LIMs, valuations or other inspections) on the property you want to buy.

If you’d rather not pay for all of those checks before making an offer, you can make a conditional offer. A conditional offer means that whatever conditions you include, need to be met within a set time before the offer is finalised. For example, you might make a building report a condition of your offer, with the report having to be completed within a week.

If the conditions are met within the specified time, your offer goes unconditional and you’re legally bound to buy the house. If the conditions aren't met, then you have options on what to do next. For example, if a builder’s report shows problems with the house, you may be able to have the vendor fix the issue, lower the price, or you may be able to withdraw your offer.

It's important that the wording of each of condition states that the results be ‘satisfactory to you’, then only you can decide if the condition has been satisfied.

Some common conditions

Conditions can be just about anything you specify, but the most common ones are:

Finance satisfactory to you

This gives you time to arrange your home loan with the bank. Make sure you specify that it must be ‘satisfactory to you’ – otherwise if you have a loan approved but the interest rate is higher than you can handle, the seller could force you to accept it.

Valuation satisfactory to you

This gives you time to get a registered valuer to tell you the market price of the property – if the valuation doesn’t meet your expectations, you can withdraw your offer.

Building inspection satisfactory to you

Gives you time to get a licensed building surveyor to inspect the property to check for any issues. Ask them to give you an idea of what it might cost to fix anything they find.

If the builder finds any problems, you may also want to get a report from an engineer.

Insurance satisfactory to you

If you haven’t already confirmed that you can get insurance on the property, you may want to add it as a condition.

Conditional on any other report

See the reports and checks you might need.

Subject to due diligence

This can mean almost anything – it’s usually used if you want to make additions or improvements to the house, and you need time to check with the authorities that you’ll be allowed to do the work.

Sellers' conditions

Sellers can also specify conditions. Usually this is an ‘escape clause’. This means that if they get a better offer, they can give you a deadline to make your offer unconditional. If you can’t meet the deadline, they’re then free to accept the other offer.