Can Americans Buy Land In New Zealand? | askBAMLand

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New Zealand is a breathtaking and remote English-speaking country which is attractive to Americans, but can they buy land there?

Typically, Americans can’t simply buy a house or property in New Zealand. Unlike the United States, there are special residency requirements to purchase property in New Zealand. However, there are ways to work with the rules.

The information used in this article was sourced from real estate guides in New Zealand and online sources familiar with the topic.

Key Takeaways

  • New Zealand bans foreigners from purchasing existing property
  • Americans must become permanent residents to buy land in New Zealand
  • Residency takes at least 12 months to achieve
  • Home prices in New Zealand average around $500,000 USD

Table of Contents

Why Buy Land In New Zealand?

New Zealand is a highly desirable place to live. For Americans, there are a myriad of benefits to moving to New Zealand. It’s an English-speaking country with top-notch infrastructure, medical care, and many aspects of life that will be familiar. It has warm weather, little crime, and beautiful views.

Plus, salaries in New Zealand are good–and the economy is surprisingly diverse for such a geographically small country. However, property is expensive, and this is mainly due to high competition from locals.

New Zealand Property Prices

The average house price in New Zealand is around $810,000NZ, which is equivalent to about $525,000 USD. The average home in this country costs about the same as a large home in many upscale American suburbs.

Prices vary based on location. According to most sources, here’s a list of house prices in New Zealand’s most popular and desirable areas.

  • Auckland ($800,000nz+)
  • Bay Of Plenty ($900,000nz+)
  • Nelson ($700,000nz+)
  • Wellington ($800,000nz+)
  • Northland ($700,000nz+)

As you can see, home prices in New Zealand are quite high compared to the United States. Locals have a hard enough time in this growing market, so be prepared for the financial implications of purchasing a home here.

New Zealand Property Rights

Property rights in New Zealand are strong like most western countries, and the government land regulation system openly states most of the regulations on property. Land itself can be protected, like in the United States, based on environmental status and geological conditions. In other words, you can’t just build a house anywhere.

Houses and land can be owned as you would expect in any western country. However, many of the building and property maintenance regulations are stricter than most areas in the United States, so be sure to investigate the local, regional, and national permit and code regulations, along with property inspection rules, before embarking on a project or purchasing land for building.

Recent Foreign Buyer Ban

New Zealand has a highly regulated property market. Buying property can be costly and time consuming for New Zealand citizens–let alone foreign buyers. Foreign investment is partially responsible for soaring home prices, which hurt the local population and resulted in the ban.

So, can Americans buy land in New Zealand if they don’t reside there? After 2018, the answer is generally no–Americans can’t purchase residential property, and neither can most other foreign buyers, regardless of if a real estate agent is involved. But there are exceptions to the ban, and an experienced local real estate agent can walk you through the process.

Who Can Buy Land In New Zealand?

A typical foreigner or overseas investment office will have a hard time writing up any legal purchase agreement for land in New Zealand. Essentially, anyone who is legally allowed to live permanently in New Zealand can buy land there unrestricted. Only residents have these privileges.

An exception applies to any Singaporian or Australian citizen, as existing free trade agreements between these countries and New Zealand existed prior to the new law. So, if you’re a dual citizen, you’re in luck–but if not, no mortgage broker, team of real estate agents, or any amount of money can get you a typical house in a typical neighborhood without jumping through additional hoops.

Why Did New Zealand Ban Foreigners From Buying Land?

New Zealand has long been a retreat for the wealthy, as its remote location and geography make it an ideal vacation spot. Over time, foreign investors began flooding the housing market with cash and making property purchases–often never seeing or living in the property.

Property in New Zealand is limited, so this had a dramatic effect on the market. Locals found they couldn’t afford to buy property in their own country, and there simply isn’t enough space in major cities to meet demand.

What Can Americans Buy In New Zealand?

Americans and other foreigners are still able to purchase some kinds of property with relative ease in New Zealand. Examples include units in some apartment complexes, and houses under limited circumstances.

How To Buy Property In New Zealand

If you’re set on developing property or moving into a house in New Zealand, you’ll have to become a resident. You don’t have to become a citizen–New Zealand will let foreigners buy property if they reside there permanently. Here are the basic steps to getting property in New Zealand after the 2018 ban.

1. Become A Permanent New Zealand Resident

The first step to buying property in New Zealand is to move there and begin working on residency. This will also give you a chance to get your local credit history in order, which will be helpful for getting a loan from New Zealand banks.

Essentially, you’ll need to live and work in New Zealand for a year to even qualify for a permanent resident visa. There are a few ways to legally stay in the country long enough to do this, and getting hired and working at a local company is a great way to start.

2. Get Your Resident Visa

To become a permanent resident, prospective overseas buyers must meet several criteria and get a visa before they even think about land ownership. Here are the requirements for prospective New Zealand permanent residents:

  • Identity
  • Have good character
  • Hold another visa for at least 12 months
  • Meet resident visa criteria
  • Demonstrate commitment to live in New Zealand permanently

Once you meet all of these criteria, former overseas buyers (now locals) will be able to start researching properties and investment opportunities with the same purchasing rights as other New Zealand residents.


Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.

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