Retire To New Zealand: The Expat Complete Guide

new zealand flag

Have you ever considered retiring to a developed country with excellent healthcare and one of the safest in the world? Has New Zealand ever crossed your mind? This article will cover everything you need to know to retire there.

Here’s all you need to know about living and retiring in New Zealand:

  • Is New Zealand a good place to retire?
  • How much does rent cost in New Zealand?
  • Can US citizens retire in New Zealand?
  • Can American citizens buy property in New Zealand?
  • Does New Zealand have free healthcare for foreigners?
  • What is the cuisine of New Zealand?

Let’s look at each of these questions and see if New Zealand is the right destination for you to retire.

Is New Zealand a good place to retire?

Population: 5.1 million

Average Temperature: 10 °C (50 °F) in the south island and 16 °C (61 °F) in the north island

Currency: New Zealand Dollar – NZD

Hiking, sailing, climbing, skiing or simply strolling along a gorgeous beach are all possibilities for those who desire to retire in New Zealand. There is a world class food and wine scene. If you want to spend your retirement traveling New Zealand has some of the most beautiful sites in the world as well as being in a great location to see Australia, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

New Zealand has a temperate climate, which means the summers are warm and sunny (December to February) with maximum temperatures of 25°C or 77°F.  The winters are cold and rainy with snow in the mountains and an average low of 4°C or 39°F on the south island (June to August). Because New Zealand’s weather isn’t as harsh as other parts of the United States, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy outdoor lifestyle all year. 

Because New Zealand is such a huge country, the weather varies depending on where you live with the north island being warmer than the south island. Winter snowfall is typical in Queenstown which is located at the bottom of the South Island but very rare in Wellington on the North Island providing you a wide range of weather options.

LINK: Official Tourism Guide

How much does rent cost in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, finding a place to stay should be relatively simple. The real estate market is well-regulated with flexible and prolonged contract choices available and buying a property might take only a few weeks.

In New Zealand rent is paid weekly so bear that in mind while evaluating the advertised rent. A small residence of one or two rooms costs roughly 400 NZD (265 USD) each week.  A 2 or 3 bedroom apartment or house costs around 530 NZD (350 USD). Apartment or house prices in New Zealand on the other hand will vary greatly depending on the area. The most costly city is Auckland where rent ranges between 600 NZD (400 USD) and 850 NZD (560 USD) per week largely depending on the size of the apartment.

A studio apartment in the city center typically costs 1,500 NZD (990 USD) a month while an apartment outside the city center costs 1,200 NZD (790 USD). A three-bedroom apartment in the city center would cost 2,500 NZD (1650 USD) and 2,000 NZD (1,320 USD) beyond the city center.

When renting in New Zealand you will be required to pay a deposit often known as a bond. This deposit is normally four weeks rent and should be refunded to you at the completion of the rental if there has been no damage to the property or its contents.  The rent is held in trust by a third party tenancy authority that will also handle any disputes.  

LINK: Tenancy Services New Zealand 

As well as the bond you will need to pay typically two weeks rent in advance.  So in total you will need 6 weeks rent with 4 weeks as bond.  And have to keep your rent in advance from then on.

Here are a few websites where you can check for rent prices in New Zealand:

Can US citizens retire in New Zealand?

Yes, US citizens can and are allowed to retire in New Zealand. For individuals considering retiring in New Zealand there are two visa options available. The two visas are the Parent Resident Retirement and Temporary Retirement Visitor visas. 

The Parent Retirement Visa is a visa for those who have children already in New Zealand.  To qualify for the first visa you must be at least 66 years old, have no criminal record, and be of good health.  You must also have invested  in New Zealand of NZ $1000,000 (about $715,000 USD) over four years. For most people this just means buying a house in the country or business to that value.  When you apply for the visa you have to show half of these funds available.  You’ll also need to establish that you have at least NZ $60,000 (about $42,000 USD) in annual income for living expenses. You can not work while in New Zealand and the visa renews every 2 years.

The Temporary Retirement Visa has the same basic requirements as the parent visa but you don’t have to have a child in New Zealand.  The entry monetary requirements are also a little lower with investing $750,000 NZD (about $525,000 USD) and you still have to have the same living expense money and money in the bank account.

LINK: New Zealand Visa Requirements

Can American citizens buy property in New Zealand?

Only residents and citizens can own property in New Zealand but if you get the visa then you can choose to invest that money in a property to live in.

Once you find a property the procedure of purchasing a property in New Zealand can be completed in as little as three weeks or less depending on the time required for finance, building inspection and the existing owner to move out. There can be no last-minute offers after a proposal is formally accepted. This makes purchasing here a lot simpler than in other parts of the world.

It’s critical to understand what you’re buying since the form of ownership has a direct effect on what you can and can’t do with the property. A real estate agent is used in the majority of home and land sales. Private sales account for a smaller percentage of all sales. It’s better and safer to receive independent legal advice from a conveyancer who specializes in home purchases before you start the negotiations and bargaining. These are special lawyers used to settle property in most countries that can be quite cheap and will sort out all the fees and taxes as well as the legal paperwork.

Here are a list of recommended real estate agents in New Zealand:

TIP: Use the website and the agents will be attached to the listing.

Does New Zealand have free healthcare for foreigners?

New Zealander residents and citizens benefit from a thorough free health care system with medications that are significantly subsidized by the government. It’s all part of New Zealand’s idea of giving everyone a “fair shot” at life.

Getting an appointment with a doctor is simple. If you have a two-year or longer work visa, are a citizen, or are a resident then you will have access to free or low-cost public healthcare. Health coverage for private healthcare is also available albeit many local citizens choose not to use it due to the quality of the public system.

You can still use New Zealand’s public healthcare services if you are not a resident but it will cost you. Before you visit here you need to obtain health coverage from your own country.

Private Insurance for expats in New Zealand will start at for as little as $199 USD with a $1000 USD deductibles for any major surgery. 

Here are a few recommended private health insurance in New Zealand:

What is the cuisine of New Zealand?

Locally sourced ingredients and seasonal variations dominate New Zealand cuisine. New Zealand is an island country with a predominantly agricultural economy that produces goods from both land and sea. New Zealand cuisine has a broad British-based cuisine with European. Asian and Pacific elements and is mostly cosmopolitan just like Australia..  

The weirdest thing you will see is boiled sausages in bags at the supermarket.  While meat prices, especially lamb, were very cheap in New Zealand, these prices have gone up with exporting.  The lamb prices specifically have gone up significantly due to farms swapping from lamb to dairies instead.  You will be spoiled for choice with most world cuisines being available in the bigger towns.

Here are a few restaurants to visit in Auckland:

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