The shift back to Alert Level 3 brings a little loosening on the level 4 restrictions, but there are still temporary limitations on how properties can be bought and sold. We answer your common questions below:

Can a property be marketed for sale during Alert Level 3?

Yes, real estate agents can start operating again under Alert Level 3. Agents will not be able to open their offices to clients or the public, however much of the sale and purchase process can be carried out remotely.

While virtual appraisals will still be encouraged, agents will be able to visit properties if they maintain social distancing, and the property’s occupants are not feeling unwell.

Are open homes allowed under Alert Level 3?

Open homes in a traditional sense won’t be allowed to operate under Alert Level 3, however agents will be able to arrange private viewings with some restrictions. Any visitors will need to sign in before viewing a property. There must only be a maximum of two staggered visits to the property per day, whether by prospective buyers or professionals (such as building inspectors or valuers). Records will need to be kept of all visitors, and again they’ll need to follow social distancing protocols including signing in, wearing face masks, sanitising their hands, and remaining more than two metres apart from others. The seller will not be able to be at home when the inspections take place. People who are considered high risk (e.g. elderly or those with medical conditions) should not attend a private viiewing. Similarly, homes where occupants are high risk should not be viewed under Alert Level 3.

Will auctions be running under Alert Level 3?

Auctions can only take place by phone or online booking. Some sellers may choose to delay auctions until Alert Level 2. Sellers will also have other options instead of auctions such as deadline sales, price by negotiation and offer and acceptance via pricing a property.

How can sale and purchase agreements be signed under Alert Level 3?

Face to face meetings are not allowed under Alert Level 3, and so any contracts will need to be signed remotely. The real estate agent or your lawyer at Cavell Leitch can present you with a few options which will allow you to sign the necessary documents from the comfort of your own home.

For example, the ability of couriers to take on ‘non-essential’ business under Level 3 could be another option for clients who aren't able to sign electronically or who don’t have access to a printer or scanner at home.

Can contracts go unconditional under Alert Level 3?

Cavell Leitch will still be able to order copies of the title documents and the Council’s LIM report during all Alert Level stages and then review these for you. We won’t be able to meet with you face to face, but we can email our reports to you and discuss our findings by phone or video calls.

Banks and insurers also remain operating during all Alert Levels and can process finance and insurance applications. Due to the current circumstances, it may be that applications take a little longer to process than they would normally, so please talk to the agent and your lawyer about making sure you allow yourself enough time.

Builders, valuers, and other experts are also allowed to attend properties to undertake building and contamination inspections under Alert Level 3 provided this is pre-arranged, and if they follow strict hygiene and social distancing requirements.

Builders, electricians, plumbers, and the like will also be able to undertake work provided they comply with the same requirements.

Can I move homes under Alert Level 3?

Shifting houses will be allowed under Alert Level 3, provided you are undertaking a ‘permanent’ move. You are also allowed to move between regions as required provided both regions are at Alert Level 3 or lower. Moving companies will also be allowed to start operating within Alert Level 3 regions.

Can property settlements be completed under Alert Level 3?

Settlements can be completed under Alert Level 3. Pre-settlement inspections will also be able to occur, provided the conditions mentioned above for private viewings are complied with.

Any documents necessary for settlement will need to be signed remotely as physical meetings with your lawyer and bank are still not allowed under Level 3. Cavell Leitch has established several workarounds during the lockdown, and we can discuss which options will suit you best.

We are aware that the timeframes for settlement may have been delayed under some current contracts until New Zealand reverts to Alert Level 2. If your contract is affected in this way, then please get in touch with your contact in Cavell Leitch’s property team as there may be some scope to negotiate a new settlement date.

Can I cancel my contract if my circumstances have changed?

We appreciate that people’s circumstances may have changed. Perhaps your budget has tightened and a move to a new home is no longer practical. Whether or not you are able to cancel your contract will depend on the specific circumstances. We would need to review your situation and provide you with specific advice so please contact us.

Our advice for now:

Cavell Leitch’s experts are working remotely and are ready to assist both vendors and purchasers (as well as agents) with their queries about buying and selling. New Zealand’s property market is moving into an interesting period where there will be opportunities but also complexities for buyers and sellers to navigate.

We have also amassed a detailed knowledge of the current market and are ready to assist you with your specific situation. Please contact us today for assistance.

Disclaimer: as this is an ever-evolving situation, our summary of the legal position is subject to change. For updates, please contact the writers or a member of Cavell Leitch’s property team.