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The Real Estate Industry and the Law Society are scrambling to find solutions for more than 800 house sales across Canterbury that have been derailed by the Covid-19 lockdown.
In most deals, the seller of one house is the buyer of another, and that vendor is looking to buy another, so a last-minute failure of just one sale can trigger a chain reaction which affects large numbers of people.
In some cases, people will be unable to move into the houses they have bought and the vendors will be unable to move out, due to the lockdown, while in others it will not be possible for anyone to do a pre-settlement inspection.
Some 6694 properties across NZ were bought or sold over four weeks in February.
Harcourts managing director Bryan Thomson said common sense would have to apply.
He said people could mutually agree to defer final transfers until the crisis passed.
Similar solutions would apply to the rental market, where people had agreed to lease a property but could not move in.
The Real Estate Institute has provided figures that gave a rough indication of the size of the problem.
"By looking at the last three years of settled sales between 26 March and 23 April, we can expect that there may be around 5,800 properties due to settle during the New Zealand Alert Level 4 lockdown period," Bindi Norwell, chief executive at the Institute said.
This included 1485 properties in Auckland, 801 in Canterbury and 699 in Wellington.
The total number for New Zealand is 5781.