House · Moving · New Zealand

House Hunting – Renting A House In Christchurch

Over the last 27 years I’ve moved a lot. 12 times to be exact. I think that moving around so much is a big part of how I came to love traveling. Every city offers new streets to wander and interesting people to meet. This desire to explore is what took me to California in 2013 and has kept me moving almost every year since.

For a long time I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get that buzzing out of my ear, that insatiable need to see more. Lately though, the idea of not packing up my life in boxes is sounding better and better. I think I’m ready to give up my IKEA furniture and invest in something more permanent.

Christchurch may not be the last stop on this train but I have a good feeling we’ll be there for a while. I’m stoked to have a proper house that’s more that 800 square feet (I’m looking at you San Francisco and Portland) and even has a garage and a proper yard!

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In my last post I told you Pete had found us the sweetest three bedroom house. I wanted to share some tips about house hunting in New Zealand, what to look for and how to end up with a place that’s right for you.

Know The Market

First things first, decide what you’re looking for and start getting a sense of what you’re going to have to spend to get it.

We were lucky to already have friends in Christchurch who could give us recommendations on which neighborhoods to look at. Based on their advice we narrowed our search to the southern neighborhoods near the Port Hills.

Our checklist included:

  • 3 bedrooms
  • A good kitchen for cooking and entertaining
  • Standalone house with no noisy neighbors (AKA University students)
  • A fenced yard for our dog Cash to run around
  • At least one off street parking spot

I started checking the property section of Trade Me about once a week when we decided to move. Based on our criteria I knew we could expect to find something to rent in the $350-$400 range.

Pro Tip: In New Zealand rent’s listed in weekly amounts. There’s a big difference between $350 a week and $350 a month so budget accordingly. 

What To Look For

One thing you’ll find is that most homes in New Zealand are a bit older. Besides trying to avoid some seriously scary 70’s carpet patterns, this means you should pay close attention to heating and insulation when looking at houses.

Insulation

In 2016 the New Zealand government passed a law requiring new rental units meet a minimum standard of insulation. Many older homes have been retrofitted, including ours, to meet these new standards. Landlords are not required to retrofit their older properties but they do have to disclose any uninsulated areas in the lease. You can read more about it here.

The new requirements cover the floor, ceiling and walls but it’s also smart to make sure the windows are double glazed to keep the heat in. The cost of energy in New Zealand is EXPENSIVE. When that southern wind from Antarctica blows, you won’t want to feel like you’re living inside a freezer. Double glazed windows are also a great way to reduce any outside noise.

Heating

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Here’s an example of a typical New Zealand heat pump in our living room.

Central heating is pretty much nonexistent in New Zealand. You may notice that Trade Me posts often mention heat pumps and electric heaters as selling points. Log burners are also fairly common across the country although this might be changing as they are phased out due to fog and pollution concerns.

Earthquake Damage

A few noteworthy earthquakes have occurred in Christchurch over the last few years and tectonic plates are active throughout the country. Renting or buying, it’s always important to check that your house is built to withstand an earthquake.

If you are planning to buy a house you also want to look for preexisting earthquake damage. One of the biggest things to look for is liquefaction, which is when the soil loosens and the ground becomes unstable. Other signs of damage include uneven stairs and split concrete.

Appliances

As an American, I was surprised to learn that houses don’t often don’t come with major appliances. Any house that does will specify ‘includes whiteware’ on the listing. Homes are only legally required to have a stove. That’s it. Some houses will provide a dishwasher, especially true if the kitchen is designed with a place already set aside for the dishwasher and its plumbing.

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The empty hole where our fridge will go.

Pro Tip: If your budget’s tight after moving, it’s common to rent appliances like a fridge, washing machine, dryer and dishwasher. Mr. Rental is a popular rental company which offers plenty of appliances you can rent by the week. [No affiliation]

When it comes to laundry, hanging out clothes to dry is very common. Like I mentioned earlier, energy is expensive and dryers use a lot of it. Our house doesn’t even have a place for a dryer and I think my clothes will be happier for it.

I’m so excited to unpack those boxes and make Christchurch home. And if you’re considering a visit, don’t worry, that’s what the extra bedroom is for!

 

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