Selling During COVID-19

Selling During COVID-19

Last Update: 30/04/2019

New Zealand is in the middle of a unique situation, and it is likely to be challenging for everyone involved in selling and buying property. Be kind and consider the needs of others when you’re communicating about a transaction.

For general information about the current COVID-19 situation, please visit covid19.govt.nz

You can find information about buying and selling property during alert level 4 here.

If you’re also buying property during alert level 3, there is information here.

Summary of activity at alert level 3
  • Talk to your agent and lawyer or conveyancer, about what to do if you have a transaction under way.
  • Property inspectors, valuers, engineers and tradespeople can visit properties at alert level 3 if it is necessary, if they comply with public health and industry-specific guidance and if the property’s occupants agree.
  • Buyers and sellers who deferred settlement during alert level 4 may now be able to settle if both parties agree.
  • During alert level 3, buyers and sellers can move house (including between regions).
  • If you want to sell a tenanted property, you will be affected by the new protections against terminations. For more information, visit the Tenancy Services website.
  • You can find information about what you can and can’t do during alert level 3 on the COVID-19 website.

Sellers who have received an offer

Meeting conditions

At alert level 3, professionals such as valuers, property inspectors and engineers, may visit a property if they cannot provide their services remotely, if it is safe to do so and if the property’s occupants agree. Professionals and tradespersons must observe physical distancing and comply with any industry-specific or government guidance relevant to their role.

If someone is working at your property, it could be difficult to continue to maintain 2 metres distance from them. In this case, it may be better if you and the other people who live there, leave the house until the person has finished their inspection. Remember, there could be a lot of demand for professionals because they could not visit properties at alert level 4. Please be understanding as buyers rush to meet their conditions. The conditional period may need to be extended.

If you’ve agreed to get something fixed at the property before settlement, a tradesperson can do that work at alert level 3. Make sure they maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone while they are there. Make sure you keep records of who has worked on your property in case you need it for COVID-19 contact tracing.

Changing the conditional period

During alert level 4, some sellers and buyers may have agreed to extend the conditional period until their region moves to level 2. Professionals (for example, property inspectors, valuers and engineers) are now able to visit properties at alert level 3, so you and the buyer may wish to consider changing the conditional period again. If both parties agree, the conditional period can change.

Some law firms and agents are still working remotely, and you should be prepared for delays.

Changing the settlement date

If settlements were deferred to alert level 2 because there was uncertainty over what would be allowed at alert level 3, those settlements could now be brought forward to alert level 3 if you and the buyer agree. Talk to your lawyer or conveyancer about the best approach for your transaction.

Pre-settlement inspections

Where possible, buyers should use virtual methods to inspect a property. If this is not possible, with your consent and the tenant's consent for a rental property, buyers can visit the property. A maximum of two people (from the same extended bubble) can visit the property at one time, in addition to a real estate agent.

You, and the other people who live at your property, should leave the property until the inspection has been completed.

If you (or your tenants) prefer that the buyers don’t come to your property, consider negotiating delaying settlement until alert level 2.

Read more about pre-settlement inspections and preparing for settlement here.

Completing settlement

Buyers and sellers may move to a new property at alert level 3, including moving between regions. Moving services may be in high demand, so parties may wish to delay settlement until alert level 2.

Your agent should arrange for sanitised keys to be provided with no physical contact between any party.

Read more about settlement day here.

Considering the buyer’s circumstances

Be considerate of the buyer’s circumstances and needs – their situation may be uncertain.

Tenanted properties

If the property you are selling is tenanted, you will be affected by the new protections against terminations, which are explained on the Tenancy Services website.

Your tenant will also need to give permission every time anyone visits the property in relation to the sale (for example, the agent and tradespersons). If the tenant does not agree to a visit, it cannot go ahead.

Sellers who have listed and are still marketing

Open homes and private viewings

While New Zealand is at alert level 3, you won’t be able to hold open homes. Where possible, buyers should view a property virtually, for example, by viewing a video of your property.

If required, private viewings can take place under alert level 3. Only people who are serious about making an offer are permitted to have a private viewing. However, there are some rules to protect your health and the health of your agent and buyers:

  • Potential buyers are not allowed to travel between regions to go to a private viewing
  • Anyone living at the property, including tenants, must agree to each private viewing.
  • All viewings must be booked in advance.

Before a viewing

  • Your agent will check on everyone’s health.
  • If you or someone at the property is a high-risk person (for example, a person with a pre-existing medical condition), the agent won’t be able to have private viewings at your property.
  • If you or an occupant of the property, or a potential buyer are self-isolating or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 14 days, then the private viewing cannot take place.
  • If anyone is ill with respiratory symptoms, they cannot come to the property, and if you or anyone in your family are ill, no one can come to your property.

During the viewing

  • The property occupants must not be at the property during the viewing – you could go for a walk or a short drive.
  • There should be no more than two people from the same extended bubble and the agent at the viewing.
  • Your agent will open all internal doors before the viewing, so people don’t touch door handles in your house. Anyone viewing your property should use hand sanitiser, and they are not allowed to touch any surfaces in your house.
  • There should be no more than two private viewings per day. The agent should clean all surfaces after each viewing.
Marketing the property

If you don’t yet have an offer to buy your property, we recommend you talk to your agent about how you might market your property during this time. Agents are not allowed to put flyers in letterboxes at alert level 3.

If you don’t want to continue marketing your property at alert level 3, talk to your agent. You might agree to withdraw your property from the market or put your marketing campaign on hold. Usually, sellers pay the marketing costs upfront, and it may be that most of the budget has been spent, for example, Trade Me advertising may have been placed and paid for. Talk to your agent about what will happen to any unspent budget if you put your campaign on hold.

Sellers who are thinking about selling

Listing your property

At alert level 3, you cannot visit a real estate agency office. You can use REA’s public register to find agents who are working in your area here. Most agencies have a website where you can find information about their team. You can meet agents by phone or video call to help you decide who you’d like to sell your property.

Read more about deciding to sell with an agent or privately here.

If you do want to sell with an agent, read more about the process here.

Signing the agency agreement

At alert level 3, the agent will explain the agency agreement by phone or video call. Make sure you take the time to have the agreement checked by your lawyer or conveyancer.

When you’re ready to sign the agency agreement, you can’t meet to do this in person. You may sign it electronically, or in some cases, you could receive it by contactless delivery from either the agent or a courier. You will need to sign it and courier it back.

Read more about agency agreements here.

Complying with the anti-money laundering obligations

When you sign the agency agreement, the agent will need to confirm your identity to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009. This can’t happen in person at level 3, so expect your agent to confirm your identity using methods that aren't face to face or to follow up on this when the country (or your region) moves to alert level 2.

Getting an appraisal

At alert level 3, it is preferred that agents create an online appraisal and update it when they’ve visited the property at alert level 2. Be aware that the appraisal may change after the agent has visited the property because they may see things that affect the potential sale price (for example, problem building materials like asbestos.)

If it’s not possible to do an online appraisal, agents can visit your property, with your permission (and the tenant’s permission if the property is tenanted) to conduct an appraisal.

The agent needs to keep a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone at the property and ensure that they follow good hygiene practices (for example, using anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down any areas they touch).

Because they will go through all rooms in your property, if you think it will be difficult to maintain 2 metres distance from them, you and the other people who live there, should leave the property until the appraisal has been completed.

If you are a high-risk person, are self-isolating or have any upper respiratory symptoms, you must let your agent know as they will not be able to come to your property.

Professional photographs and videos

At alert level 3, a photographer or videographer may visit your property if it is safe to do so. They must keep 2 metres from anyone at the property and wipe any surfaces they touch. It may be better if you leave the property while they are there.

You may prefer to take your own photos and videos instead.

Receiving offers

All offers, including auctions and any multi-offer process, will be presented to you by email, phone or video call. This may slow things down, so it is important to coordinate time between your lawyer and the agent for you to discuss the offers and any terms they have included in the sale and purchase agreement.

If you are ready to accept an offer and countersign a sale and purchase agreement, you can’t meet to do this in person. You may sign it electronically, or in some cases, you could receive it by contactless delivery from either the agent or a courier. You will need to sign it and courier it back.

New Zealand may continue to change alert levels, which could impact the sale of your property. Before you start receiving offers, talk to the agent and your lawyer about the conditions you might need to put in the sale and purchase agreement to protect you against changes in alert levels (for example, not being able to settle on settlement day because of the alert level).

Selling by auction

If you’re thinking about selling your house by auction during alert level 3, we suggest you get your own property inspection or engineer’s report for your agent to share with buyers. This is because, under alert level 3, buyers may only ask a professional to inspect your house if you’ve accepted an offer from them and that offer is conditional on a satisfactory inspection report. Usually, any bids made at an auction are unconditional, so buyers may be put off bidding on your property if they don’t have a report to review.

The selling process

The general selling process hasn’t changed, so we recommend you look through settled.govt.nz to read about planning and preparing to sell. You may have time during the lockdown period to prepare your property for sale.

Appraisals & Listing

Your local agent can visit your property for the purposes of inspecting your property. Strict procedures must be adhered to and your agent will provide you with these prior to the visit. If you prefer, the property inspection can be carried out virtually by video link.

Level 3 restrictions do not allow close personal contact so the appraisal presentation will be conducted by video conferencing, not in person. Paperwork will be provided digitally, including any agreements you need to sign.

We recommend that new listings are professionally photographed, and a video tour conducted to allow potential buyers the best opportunity to view the property virtually.

Making an offer

You can make an offer to buy a property.  Your offer will be drawn up and presented to your preference - digitally (email or DocuSign) or by courier. Due to strict rules around reduced contact with clients, we are unable to take an offer in person.  Your agent has access to the latest technology that allows you to sign on glass (digital signature) when making accepting an offer.

If your contract is subject to terms requiring specialist inspections (e.g. building report) these can be conducted under strict conditions including physical distancing.

Auctions

Auctions will be conducted virtually by video link and telephone bidding.

Contact your local agent via phone, email or social media to discuss.

Settlements and moving

Settlements and moving to a new house can occur.  Your final pre-settlement inspection can proceed under the guidelines of private inspections. Your agent will arrange sanitised keys to be provided with contactless delivery. There are no domestic travel restrictions for the purpose of relocation.

Rental inspections

Inspections of properties available to rent can proceed under strict guidelines. Rental inspections can only go head in emergency situations, such as if a property manager needs to confirm that emergency maintenance is required.

Customer Safety

To support continued services for our customers, the following hygiene protocols have been implemented.

  • Wash/sanitise hands regularly
  • Social distancing – no handshakes
  • Avoid touching your face including eyes, mouth and nose
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or cough /sneeze into your elbow
  • If you are feeling unwell, please stay home, cancel your appointment and seek medical attention

Should you have any concerns or questions about health and safety protocols, please connect with your agent directly.