Real Estate Today

Helpful articles for both Purchasers and Vendors

Keeping our four-legged family members happy is an important part of any successful moving day. With attention to a few small details, your pets can be safely and happily moved into your new home.

Open homes

Good pet care around moving house doesn’t start once you’ve signed on the dotted line. It’s a good idea to consider your cats and dogs as soon as you list your home for selling. Keeping your property open-home ready obviously involves your pets, as you need to ensure is free of animal related mess. If you have a dog, try and make time to give them extra walks and park visits so they’re less inclined to be destructive around the house.

Always make sure your dog is away from the property during open homes as even small, friendly dogs can make some visitors anxious. Having strangers traipse through their territory can also be very stressful for dogs and cats.

When it comes to cats, they’ll most likely have a secret spot they will sidle off to during the rush of open homes. Ensure they have a safe place to hide out and they have plenty of food and water in a discreet place outside. Make sure you call them and try for lots of reassuring cuddles when the open home is finished.

Moving day

Try and keep pets away from the hustle and bustle of packing, as they do pick up on unsettled vibes and may decide to hide out where you can’t find them until the fuss is over.

Talk to your vet about how is best to calmly transport your pets between your old and new home. Depending on the distance you’re travelling and the age of your pet, they may recommend some sedation to ease the stress.

Once you arrive at your new home, it will be tempting to set your pet free from their cage to explore, but new spaces can be very overwhelming for animals. Set aside a room for your pet that they can stay in as they get used to their new environment. Just keep in mind that if your pets don’t get along, now is not necessarily the time to lock them in a room together! Make sure they have plenty of toys and scratchy poles available to amuse them and ease stress.

Make sure they have somewhere secure to sleep, such as a familiar blanket or cushion in a box or on a familiar chair, as well as plenty of food and water – and, for cats, a litter box. Make sure you visit them often for reassuring cuddles and to make sure they’re eating, drinking and using the litter box, but if they’re reluctant to come out from under that bed, don’t force them. They’ll gradually come around once they get used to their new surroundings.

Take dogs outside for toilet breaks accompanied by you, on a leash if necessary as they get used to the new reality.

Although it might seem a logical thing to do, moving house is also not the time to do a big wash of your pets’ blankets or bedding. The familiar smell of their favourite blanket will be a big sign to them that your new house is their home now.

Make sure your pets are microchipped, even if they are not prone to roaming. If they are already microchipped, ask your vet to update your address and phone number. An unfamiliar area may confuse your cat or your dog may be excited by the new scents and sniff around a little further than they should! A collar with your phone number and address is a must too, but remember to get a quick release collar for cats, should they get caught on anything.

Use your pets behavior as a guide to when they’re ready to explore more further afield. If they still run and hide whenever someone comes into their room, they’re not ready. But if they’re friendly and relaxed, then you can start to expand their access to the rest of the house. With cats you can gradually move their litter box further afield until it’s outside. If it’s possible, locate your pets feeding and sleeping spots in areas similar to your previous home.

As they venture outside for the first time, let them explore at their own place with you nearby. You are who assures them that this is now their home!

This is an article from Law Link

How do ‘cross lease’ titles differ from ‘fee simple’ titles? And why does it matter? Seemingly, most property purchasers are either are not aware of the difference between these types of title, or simply do not care. Such ignorance or disregard can sometimes cost them dearly. This article aims to educate the reader of the unique considerations required when purchasing properties comprised in cross lease titles, and the potential dangers of ignoring those considerations.

Cross lease vs. fee simple titles

By way of brief overview, underlying ownership of all land in New Zealand vests in the Crown or is Maori Land. Land titles are classed by the term of their existence. A ‘freehold’ estate has an uncertain duration of tenure, whereas a ‘less than freehold’ estate exists for a certain length of time. While an owner of a ‘fee simple’ title enjoys the freedom of a full, permanent and absolute tenure in land (i.e. freehold), the tenure of a ‘cross lease’ development is generally limited to 999 years (i.e. less than freehold).

Cross lease developments evolved in the 1970s as an expedient and cheaper alternative to the traditional fee simple subdivision. Today, existing cross lease developments are very common place. When the Resource Management Act 1991 came in to effect, it included cross lease developments under the definition of ‘subdivision’, which meant that cross lease subdivisions then became subject to the same requirements (and expenses) which affect all other subdivisions. As such, new cross lease subdivisions are a rarity today.

By way of example, in a common small cross lease development containing two flats, the two buildings will be constructed on one piece of land, with each flat owner typically owning a half share in the fee simple estate. By virtue of mirrored lease documents registered on their respective titles, each flat owner then leases from both owners of the land the exclusive right to occupy their flat and the land immediately surrounding it for a prescribed amount of time (usually 999 years). Each flat owner will have their own composite title, combining their half share in the fee simple estate and a 999 year leasehold estate.

A pedestrian walking past this property could easily mistake the arrangement for two separate fee simple titles and, in practice, they are usually treated similarly. There are however some very important exceptions which anyone who owns or is considering owning a cross lease property should be mindful of.

Cross lease covenants

Leases applying to cross lease titles contain a raft of covenants with which each flat owner is bound to comply. Normal fee simple land owners are not subject to such leases and therefore are not subject to the covenants they contain. Some examples of the more notable covenants include:

  • A flat owner must not carry out any alterations or improvements to leased structures unless and until prior written consent is obtained from all other flat owners.

  • The exact dimensions of the flats being leased are recorded on a ‘flats plan’ attached to title. Technically, if additions are made to the building without being reflected on the flats plan, the flat owner does not have exclusive rights of occupation in respect of those additions.

  • Each flat owner must keep the interior and exterior of their flat in a good state of repair, they must not use the flat for any illegal or immoral purposes, and they must not cause excessive noise or disturbance to the other flat owner.

  • The respective owners may inspect each other’s flat to ensure compliance of the lease covenants.

  • Each owner must punctually pay all charges for water, electricity and any other outgoings relating solely to their flat.

  • Each flat owner must keep in place a comprehensive insurance policy for their flat.

Some of these covenants might be seen as an invasion of an owner’s rights, and may cause difficulties for prospective purchasers of a cross lease title.

Common cross lease title requisitions

Clause 5.3 of the current (2012, 9th edition) Auckland District Law Society agreement for sale and purchase provides a right for the purchaser to ‘requisition’ (or ‘object to’) title if the outline of the building on the flats plan does not accurately reflect the actual outline of the building, or if alterations to external dimensions of any leased structure have been carried out without the other flat owner’s consent. In our experience, these are the two most commonly raised requisitions when conveying cross lease titles.

If the outline of the building does not reflect the flats plan, giving rise to a defect in title, this can be an expensive problem. In order to resolve this problem, a surveyor will need to be employed to prepare and lodge a new survey plan with Land Information New Zealand. Then each flat owner and any charge-holders on their titles (such as their mortgagee) needs to consent to registration of the new flats plan on both titles. Basic examples of this exercise could cost the owner up to, and sometimes over, $4,000.

Needless to say, a cross lease title owner will not be terribly excited about paying such a significant sum to remedy what they may see as a mere ‘technical’ defect in title. If you are purchasing a property comprised in a cross lease title, it is imperative that the flats plan be examined to ensure it correctly reflects the true outline of the flat, in order to avoid a purchaser being liable for footing the bill to correct this title defect when they come to sell the property in the future.

The second common issue whereby the consent of the second flat owner was not obtained for alterations to the external dimensions of any leased structure undertaken by the first flat owner is usually easier and cheaper to resolve. Importantly, if this consent is not obtained, it is a technical breach of the lease by the flat owner who undertakes the alterations.

Typically, a reasonable flat owner neighbour will be happy to sign a document confirming their consent to the unauthorised alterations. Sometimes this consent may need to be issued retrospectively, which is certainly better than having no consent at all. The neighbouring flat owner cannot unreasonably withhold their consent to the unauthorised alterations, but they can, on good grounds, withhold their consent and become entitled to remedies under the lease if such alterations proceed without their consent.

A third, less common issue seen in our experience, is where the two registered leases significantly differ or contradict each other. Examples of this issue include where the leases grant exclusive occupation to a flat owner of the wrong flat or the wrong area, or where common usage areas are incorrectly defined. Resolving such an issue can be an expensive task. It will often involve surrendering the current lease, preparing a new correct lease and potentially a new survey plan (if necessary), obtaining consent from each flat owner and any charge-holders, and lodging the new lease and plan with Land Information New Zealand. This highlights the importance of carefully checking the terms of the registered lease.

Importantly, by default provisions in the standard sale and purchase agreement, the purchaser will have 10 working days from the date of the agreement to requisition title, otherwise they will be deemed to have accepted title to the property.

The issues discussed above are by no means exhaustive, but are surprisingly common. Other issues confined to cross lease titles also arise, such as conflicting insurance policies between flat owners in post-earthquake Christchurch. Although significant, such issues are outside the scope of this article.

This article helps to explain why cross lease titles are sometimes viewed as being ‘inferior’ to fee simple titles. People should not be concerned about purchasing a cross-lease property, but simply must exercise due caution when doing so. Your lawyer has the expertise required to prevent the above ‘worst case’ scenarios occurring at your expense.

Once you’ve made the (often difficult) decision to sell your home; it is important to do the right things to ensure that you get the best sale price you can!

Presentation of your property is extremely important and can make a substantial difference to the price you achieve. I have personally seen a very poorly presented home in which the owner was not in a position to tidy it up because they were overseas, they didn’t have surplus available funds, and then also decided not to borrow money to pay someone to spruce it up a little. As soon as it ‘hit’ the market this property sold to someone who buys and on-sells properties. They moved the tenant out prior to settlement and did a quick tidy up spending less than $1,000, then arranged for the property to be staged with nice furniture throughout ($850 inclusive GST) and sold it for an additional $35,000. I have seen many profits like this, when sadly some of this money could have been in the original owners pocket!

Below are a few tips which truly can make a world of difference and help keep that money in your pocket. If you can’t do the work yourself, students are often a good resource, if you belong to a club – ask around, many people know of someone who does these sorts of things for a bit of spare cash.

First impressions are extremely important. Many people ‘drive-by’ before taking the time to go in – if it doesn’t look like something they want or has a bad first impression – they drive off. I’ve been at many open homes where people have taken the time to drive to the property, pull up outside for a second or two and then leave.

1) Believe it or not - a tidy letterbox can indicate whether or not you are someone who maintains things. Paint your letterbox, weed around it – if it’s rusty, replace it. If your letterbox looks old and run down, then a drive by may give the impression that the house may be like that inside. If your fence needs painting, paint it or hire someone who can. Make your gardens look tidy and prune things back away from the house if it shades it in any way. Mow your lawns on a medium setting - a lush lawn is always inviting.

2) Clean the house. If there is mould anywhere, get rid of it as it gives the perception that the house is damp – neat bleach is a great solution. If you can’t reach it safely, ask someone to help. It doesn’t take long. Make the bathroom clean and inviting. Don’t cook anything with strong odours if you know you have viewings. Buying something simple like a plug-in vanilla air freshener can mask strong smells and creates an 'inviting' aroma.

3) De-clutter! Clutter always makes a house look smaller. Keep surplus items boxed in a shed….(or someone else’s shed). Remove your personal photos. A few photos are ok, but too much personal matter like ribbons, medals, family photos are all very personal memories - you want this to be someone else’s home, so help them to envision it as their home, not someone elses.

4) Let there be light! This is so important. Always have as much natural light as you can. If you have one room in particular where nettings are appropriate then speak to your agent. Having a light home is more important than obscuring something in most cases.

5) Tackle the dreaded ‘to do list’. If you know notice it, then a viewer may see the uncompleted tasks also. However do ask your agent, because sometimes things may not be as important as you may think. An agent deals with viewers on a daily basis – they know the most common objections, and whether or not it is worth the money to attend to them.

Please feel free to give either Jess or myself a call if you would like any further advice. We are always happy to talk!