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More Overseas People Selling Than Buying Homes

People who didn't hold New Zealand citizenship or a resident visa sold or transferred more homes in New Zealand than they bought or acquired in the March 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

“Overseas people sold twice as many homes as they bought in the March 2020 quarter, continuing a trend seen over the last year," acting property statistics manager Dave Adair said.

“This is in stark contrast to two years ago when overseas people bought twice as many homes as they sold.”

We refer to the parties involved in home transfers as buyers and sellers for simplicity. Home transfers often involve a sale, but transfers may be due to other reasons such as marriage settlements or boundary changes.

In the year ended March 2020, fewer than 700 homes were transferred to people without NZ citizenship or resident visa, down from more than 2,900 in the year ended March 2019.

The number of transfers from overseas people remained relatively stable at almost 1,300 in the year to March 2020, with over 600 more sellers than buyers in the past 12 months.

The Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018, which came into force in late 2018, prevents most people who don’t hold NZ citizenship or a resident visa from buying residential property in New Zealand.

“Overseas buyers accounted for 2 or 3 percent of home transfers prior to legislative changes that took effect in late 2018, cutting their share to 0.5 percent of home transfers in the year ended March 2020,” Mr Adair said.

Home transfers to overseas people relatively unchanged at 0.5 percent in March 2020 quarter

Transfers to people without NZ citizenship or a resident visa accounted for 0.5 percent (or 153 home transfers) of all home transfers in the March 2020 quarter. The proportion is relatively unchanged since the law change in late 2018. Typically, the total number of home transfers in March quarters is lower than other quarters, while they often peak in December quarters.

Text alternative for Home transfers by buyer citizenship or visa status, December 2017 to March 2020 quarters

Frequently asked questions

How many ‘foreigners’ are buying New Zealand homes?

It depends how you define ‘foreigner’. In the March 2020 quarter, of all home transfers:

  • 81 percent were to at least one NZ citizen
  • 10 percent were to corporate entities only (which could have NZ or overseas owners)
  • 8.2 percent were to at least one NZ-resident-visa holder (someone who can live and work in New Zealand for as long as they like)
  • 0.5 percent were to no NZ citizens or resident-visa holders.

When we talk about transfers to ‘overseas people’, we mean the 0.5 percent of transfers where none of the buyers were NZ citizens or resident-visa holders (excluding transfers where all the buyers were corporate entities). We focus on this measure because it aligns most closely with the definition of ‘overseas person’ in the Overseas Investment Act 2005.

What is the net change in ‘foreign’ ownership of New Zealand property?

We don’t produce a measure of the net change in property owned by overseas people.

If you subtract seller statistics from buyer statistics to calculate a net change in home ownership, it is important to note that:

  • between the time of buying and selling a home, owners can move between affiliations (for example, a work-visa holder could become a resident-visa holder or NZ citizen)
  • some types of affiliations may sell many newly built homes (for example, corporate entities).
  • some properties don’t include a home at the time of one transfer, but do include a home in a later transfer.

Therefore, net changes for a given affiliation could be understated or overstated.

What about the Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018?

The Act affects contracts signed from 22 October 2018. As transfers are not counted until completed, it was more obviously reflected after the December 2018 quarter statistics.

The Act prevents most people who don’t hold NZ citizenship or a resident visa from buying residential property in New Zealand. For further information see Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018


Why is the number of home transfers to overseas people not zero?

The number of home transfers to overseas people may never be zero due to Overseas Investment Amendment Act 2018

exemptions (for example, some new homes, and Australian and Singaporean buyers).

Some contracts signed before 22 October 2018 may take many months before they are completed and counted in these statistics. Apartments bought off the plans may not be transferred to an overseas buyer until construction is complete years after the contract was signed.

How many of the corporate entities have ‘foreign’ owners?

Information on the ownership of corporate entities (by New Zealanders or overseas people) is not currently available, as it is not collected on land transfer tax statements


How much New Zealand property is owned by ‘foreigners’?

We do not currently have a register of property owned by overseas people. These property transfer statistics measure overseas involvement in property transfers in any given quarter, but not the total amount of property owned by overseas people.

Can transfers of bare residential land be identified in these statistics?

No, we can’t currently identify bare residential land in these statistics, but it is included, along with homes, commercial, and other land, in total property transfers.

Are overseas investment laws being enforced?

The Overseas Investment Office administers NZ’s overseas investment laws.

Decision summaries and statistics has information on applications by overseas people to buy New Zealand property.

Enforcement action taken  has information on enforcement where overseas people have bought property without appropriate consent or not met the obligations they made when they applied for consent.

What about ‘foreign’ buyers in Australia?

The Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) reports on approvals of purchases by overseas buyers.

For further information see Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) 2017–18 Annual Report


Why do you talk about ‘transfers’ not ‘sales’?

A transfer is not the same as a sale. Transfers often involve a sale, but there are many other possible reasons for a transfer (such as marriage settlements, boundary changes, trustee changes, and changes in the share of ownership).

Every sale is a transfer, but not every transfer is a sale. We refer to the parties involved as buyers and sellers for simplicity.

We know the number of transfers to overseas people because this information is collected on land transfer tax statements , which cover all types of transfer and not just sales.

Text alternative for Home transfers by buyer citizenship or visa status, December 2017 to March 2020 quarters

This stacked column graph shows the number and percentage of home transfers by buyer citizenship or visa status (at least one NZ citizen, at least one NZ-resident-visa holder but no citizens, corporate only, and no NZ citizens or resident-visa holders). Also indicated is on 14 December 2017, the Overseas Investment Act (OIA) amendment bill was introduced to Parliament, on 22 August 2018 OIA amendment got Royal assent, and on 22 October 2018 OIA amendment came into force.

Data for this graph is available on table 1 of the following file.

The Government Statistician authorises all statistics and data we publish.

For more information about these statistics:

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