Although accommodation in Christchurch is relatively cheaper than in other major New Zealand cities, high demand and potential for future growth have resulted in rising prices. This has also led to homes selling quickly once on the market, so expats must act swiftly once they find a property that suits them.
Christchurch's housing market suffered severe damage following the 2011 earthquakes, which resulted in the destruction of many homes and the demolition of around 10,000 more. Consequently, the city experienced soaring demand and a low supply of accommodation. However, the housing market has since stabilised, and thousands of new homes have been built.
The earthquakes also led to the temporary closure of the city centre, causing many businesses to relocate to the outer suburbs and the industrial area around the airport. Consequently, the prices and demand for housing in these areas have increased significantly.
The decision to rent or buy in Christchurch depends primarily on the availability of suitable properties and expats' long-term plans.
Areas and suburbs in Christchurch
Christchurch is a diverse city with various areas and suburbs to suit every expat's lifestyle and preferences. The central business district (CBD) is the heart of the city and is home to many offices, restaurants and shops. The CBD has a range of apartments and flats, making it a convenient location for expats who prefer to live close to their workplaces. However, rental prices in the CBD are generally higher than in other areas in Christchurch, and the availability of properties is limited.
Expats who prefer a more relaxed lifestyle can consider the suburbs of Christchurch. The eastern suburbs, such as Sumner, Port Hills and Redcliffs, offer stunning ocean views and a beachy vibe. These suburbs are perfect for expats who enjoy outdoor activities such as surfing, swimming and hiking.
The western suburbs, such as Riccarton and Ilam, are home to the University of Canterbury and the Westfield Riccarton shopping mall. These suburbs offer a lively atmosphere, with various restaurants, bars and entertainment options. The outer reaches of Christchurch, such as Rolleston, Prebbleton and Lincoln, provide more space and are popular for expats wanting larger homes.
The southern suburbs of Christchurch, such as Cashmere and Halswell, offer a peaceful and scenic setting with many parks, reserves and walking tracks. These suburbs are perfect for families or expats who enjoy a quieter lifestyle. The northern suburbs, including St. Albans and Merivale, offer a blend of residential and commercial areas, with various shops, cafés and restaurants. These suburbs are perfect for expats who want to be close to the city centre but also enjoy a suburban lifestyle.
Types of accommodation in Christchurch
Within the city, housing is mainly offered in the form of apartment blocks or townhouses, while the suburbs offer mid-sized homes with gardens of varying sizes.
The quality of accommodation varies with the age and location of the property, as well as the damage sustained from the 2011 earthquakes. Modern apartment blocks offer compact one or two-bedroom properties, usually with private parking (either behind a security gate or in a designated parking zone) and a communal garden area. Modern townhouses provide a larger living space, typically within a group of similar properties, whereas older ones tend to be detached.
It is possible to have a garden area within the city limits. The further from the city centre, the higher the chance of getting a garden and also the bigger the outside areas become.
Owing to design regulations following the earthquakes, new properties are built to a more exacting standard than older buildings, many of which have been altered to meet the new codes. Some properties deemed safe to live in may still have superficial damage, such as minor cracks or internal fittings that aren't entirely level.
These should be corrected in time, and as a tenant, it may be necessary to vacate the property during repairs. Confirming the likelihood of this happening before signing a lease is best.
Furnished or unfurnished
Expats looking for accommodation in Christchurch have the option to rent both furnished and unfurnished properties. Renting a furnished property is an excellent option for those who do not want to bring furniture or prefer to avoid the hassle of buying and moving furniture. Furnished properties generally have all the necessary appliances and household items, making it easier for expats to settle in.
Expats who are not looking for a long-term commitment or are unsure about the duration of their stay can opt for short-term rentals in Christchurch. These types of rentals are a fantastic option for those who need a temporary place to stay while they search for more permanent accommodation, or for those who are visiting the city for a short period. Short-term rentals are typically fully furnished and equipped with all the necessary amenities, making it easier for expats to settle in.
The rent for short-term rentals is often higher than for long-term rentals, but the fact that utilities are often included in the rental price could compensate for this. Expats should also remember that short-term rentals may have stricter policies regarding deposits and lease agreements.
Finding accommodation in Christchurch
Several websites such as Real Estate NZ and TradeMe list properties available for rent or sale and provide links to established estate agents.
Expats can find estate agency offices throughout Christchurch, and they shouldn't struggle to find an agent with offerings in their desired area. Many of these agencies also produce property newsletters that expats can pick up for free from their offices to help with their house hunt.
Renting accommodation in Christchurch
Renting in Christchurch is reasonably straightforward once a property has been selected.
Making an application
Expats can apply for accommodation by contacting real-estate agents or landlords or responding to advertisements. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will handle housing legislation and all official property renting processes. Once the relevant checks have been done and references verified, the landlord and tenant can sign a lease.
Costs and fees
Rent in Christchurch, as in the rest of New Zealand, is usually paid weekly. Although estate agents have traditionally charged a fee for their services, recent legislation prohibits agents from charging tenants letting fees.
Unfurnished properties are more common than furnished properties in Christchurch, and tenants are therefore required to supply their furniture and anything else they may need. Expats should make room in their budget for furnishing their property or shipping their belongings to New Zealand.
When securing a lease, landlords will frequently require a deposit equivalent to one month's rent and the first two weeks of rent in advance.
When using an estate agency, leases tend to be for a fixed term of 12 months and allow for changes to rental agreements when renewing a contract. If dealing directly with the landlord, lease terms can be more variable and even negotiable.
See Accommodation in New Zealand for more details on the rental process.
In Christchurch, tenants are usually responsible for paying for their utilities, which include water, gas, electricity, rubbish and recycling. Expats should therefore consider this when looking for accommodation.
To set up utilities, expats can typically contact the respective utility companies directly or through their property manager. Most utility companies in New Zealand have online portals where tenants can register and manage their accounts, pay bills and view their usage history.
Christchurch City Council is responsible for water, rubbish, recycling, and many other services. Expats can register for an online account on the council's website, set up automatic payments and view their billing and usage history, or pay in person at a council service centre or by mail.
There are several electricity and gas providers in Christchurch, including Trustpower, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Orion. Expats can compare their rates and plans on websites such as Glimp or Powerswitch. Piped gas is available in Christchurch for both residential and commercial properties. Two major gas companies, Contact Energy and Nova Energy, supply the gas. If it's not already installed, expats must arrange for a gas fitter to install a gas meter and connect the property to the gas network.
Expats must note that some properties may have pre-existing contracts with utility companies, and tenants may be required to continue using these providers. Clarifying the utility arrangements with the property manager or landlord before signing a tenancy agreement is essential.