Thousands of home buyers, sellers in limbo waiting for settlement amid Covid-19 restrictions

Thousands of home buyers and sellers are in limbo while waiting for settlement processes that can’t be completed during lockdown, however, their experiences can vary.

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A group of apartment owners has told 1 NEWS it's furious the developer of its complex is pushing through with the process, despite legal advice recommending otherwise. Source: 1 NEWS

A group of apartment owners are furious after the developers of a downtown Auckland residence are pushing through with settlement processes amid the lockdown despite legal advice recommending otherwise.

Two buyers of apartments in the Antipodean told 1 NEWS they’re distressed because the developer wants them to settle, even when they can’t do pre-settlement inspections, valuations, or move into the property.

They’re now pleading for compassion and compromise.

The developer of the multimillion-dollar complex is Paul Doole.

In a statement to 1 NEWS, lawyer John Heimsath said the development finance for the Antipodean was quite significant, and that the settlement should go ahead because the apartments were now vacant.

Mr Heimsath said buyers would still be protected with a maintenance period after the settlement where the developer must fix any maintenance or completion issues.

He acknowledged it was a difficult situation for all involved.

Meanwhile, first home buyer Steph Rowe’s settlement is on hold until alert level four is lifted. She was originally due to settle on the day of the lockdown but has since had to delay it.

Her lawyers came to the rescue and helped come up with a solution.

“Our lawyer answered calls well beyond business hours,” she said.

“In terms of the inconvenience of this, it's nothing compared to how lucky we've been. We've all got our health.”

Until the country exits out of lockdown and drops to alert level two, the Law Society advises that settlements should be held off where possible.

Property lawyer Duncan Terris said times like these would “will inevitably mean compromise on both sides”.

“It doesn't give someone the right to walk away from a contract, but it certainly would be wise for them to document what their situation is to the developer and say we can't possibly settle because of X, Y and Z,” he said.

But he stressed that no two settlements would be the same.

Bindi Norwell, CEO of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ), said the situation with developers can vary.

“People have been understanding and kind, but there's other cases where the financial penalties or the consequences are just too great for them so they've had to push through in terms of keeping their grounds, and it's really down to the lawyers,” she said.

REINZ estimates 5800 home buyers and sellers are stuck in the settlement process as the lockdown continues.