KiwiSaver pitfall could cost you your first home

KiwiSaver pitfall could cost you your first home

KiwiSaver is a pretty good deal. It has got Kiwis to save – $30 billion at last count – and helped about 14,000 of us to buy our first home.

But is it all good?

One young couple went to use KiwiSaver to build their new house and discovered they couldn't.

It was December 2013 when Peter and Jocelyn Kendrick bought a bare piece of land, but it wasn't until February 2014 that they could pay for and start building the actual house. It was at that point Peter tried to access his KiwiSaver funds.

"I was told because we'd taken title of the land earlier that I couldn't use it to pay for the final settlement on the house," he says. "If you have title of land first, that's deemed your first home, per se. I thought it's a first-home buyer withdrawal, so you'd use it for the home rather than the land. I didn't even consider it for the land purchase."

That in turn delayed their big move by a number of months. Thankfully, it's still happening, and they've been able to call on some mates for help.

Everyone knows Auckland has a housing crisis – too few homes are being built and existing ones cost too much. The average house price is $821,000, and by 2018 there'll be a shortfall of 25,000 homes.

The Kendricks' KiwiSaver provider, ASB, emailed us to explain: "As a KiwiSaver scheme provider, ASB has to follow the rules and policies set out in the scheme's legislation.

"Members may [understandably] assume they can use their first-home withdrawal to build their first home, but the legislation is clear – if you have an interest in land you are not eligible for the withdrawal."

Although Mr Kendrick would like people to be more aware of the rules, he'd also like the rules changed.

"I think it'd be the logical thing. If you're building or buying land to build your first home, then it should be one law; it shouldn't be differentiation."

So just to be clear, you can withdraw your KiwiSaver if you're under severe financial hardship, if you're looking to buy your first home, or if you are permanently emigrating from New Zealand.

But there are some rules, so be sure to check with your provider first.

Watch the video for the full Story report.