The shift back to Alert Level 4 brings some 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 4?

Yes, but with some significant restrictions. Real estate agents will not be able to open their offices, and open homes and private viewings are prohibited. Any appraisals and the signing of documents such as listing agreements or sale and purchase contracts must be carried out remotely.

Will auctions be running under Alert Level 4?

Prospective buyers will not be allowed to attend auctions in person, however auctions may be run virtually via online video or phone. 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 4?

Face to face meetings are not allowed under Alert Level 4, and so any contracts will need to be signed remotely. The real estate agent or your lawyer at Cavell Leitch will be able to present you with a number of options which allow you to sign the necessary documents from the comfort of your own home.

Can contracts go unconditional under Alert Level 4?

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 also discuss our findings by phone or video calls.

Banks and insurers also remain operating during all Alert Levels and are able to 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.

It is important to note however, that purchasers who are new customers of a bank may not be able to obtain loan documents until they are able to have a face to face meeting with their bank. They can still progress their finance application, however banks have advised that they will not send loan documents to lawyers until that face to face meeting has happened.

Builders, valuers and other experts will unfortunately be unable to attend properties to undertake building and contamination inspections under Alert Level 4.

Can I move homes under Alert Level 4?

No, buyers cannot move into new properties and seller cannot move out of their current home during Alert Level 4. Moving companies will also be unable to operate under Alert Level 4

Can property settlements be completed under Alert Level 4?

Whether settlements can be completed under Alert Level 4 comes down to the wording of the specific sale and purchase contract. It may be possible for settlements to continue to go ahead if this doesn't involve people moving (e.g. the settlement of a bare section or a tenanted property that the buyer isn't planning to move into).

However, many sale and purchase agreements now contain 'Covid clauses' which set out that settlement will be delayed until the local region moves back to Alert Level 3. We suggest that you contact a member of Cavell's property team for guidance on your specific circumstances.

Any documents necessary for settlement will need to be signed remotely as physical meetings with your lawyer and bank are not allowed under Level 4. Cavell Leitch has established several workarounds during the lockdown, and we can discuss which options will suit you best.

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.

Generally speaking, if an agreement is unconditional then you will not have a legal right to cancel the contract. In fact, the vendor may have rights to retain your deposit, and sue you for the remainder of the purchase price as well as their costs. It is possible that a practical agreement could be reached nonetheless. We can assist you in having these discussions.

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 overcome.

We have also amassed a detailed knowledge of the trends that have developed in the marketplace, and are ready to assist you with your specific situation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.