There are a few ways to buy a house in New Zealand: tender; auction; or offer and negotiation. Some people also sell their house privately, bypassing real estate agents, which means you need to negotiate directly with the owner.

Tender

When a house is to be sold by tender, everyone who’s interested in a property has to get their offers (tenders) in by a set date and time.

In this type of sale, you'll have the opportunity to make a conditional offer. This means you can specify conditions you need to meet before the contract is unconditional.

The seller can: pick the offer they like the most (which may not always be the highest offer); reject all the tenders; or enter negotiations with one or more of the bidders. You won’t be able to find out what everyone else offered.

The real estate agent will help you fill out the tender document. You may need to include a refundable deposit - this is paid to the real estate agent, who’ll hold the money in a trust account until any conditions have been met.

Auction

Anyone who’s watched The Block knows that auctions can be high-stress, high-adrenaline environments, as you’ll be bidding against other people to get the house you want. In an auction, the winner takes it all, with the highest offer nailing the sale, as long as the seller’s reserve is met.

If you decide to bid at an auction your offer will be unconditional, which means if you win the auction you’re legally bound to buy the house. There’s no backing out, so you need to make sure you’ve done your homework and you've got your unconditional finance sorted before auction day. You'll need a deposit ready to pay on the day if you’re successful.

You also need to get a builder's report and LIM report.

Offer and negotiation

The offer and negotiation process is what it says on the tin – you get to make an offer and negotiate with the seller. These negotiations happen via a real estate agent. You make your offer in writing and then the real estate agent will pass it on to the seller, potentially coming back to you with a counter-offer. This back and forth will go on until you and the seller agree on a price and conditions.

If there’s more than one offer it turns into a multi-offer situation which is similar to a tender.

Private sales

Private sales usually follow the same process as offer and negotiation – but all the negotiation is done with the seller instead of a real estate agent, and you’ll pay the deposit to your lawyer. You're more likely to require a valuation of the property to confirm your finance.

It’s important that you consult your lawyer before signing or committing to anything in a private sale.