Cashed-up foreign buyers are buying more Australian property, but it's just a fraction of the market (2024)

Anthony Sin always knew he wanted to live in Australia.

He is not yet a permanent resident but he has already bought his first home with financial support from his family in Macau.

"Chinese parents are really willing to help out, especially if the kids are willing to explore new areas or new countries," he tells ABC News.

Mr Sin purchased a house in Canberra last year because it was more affordable than Sydney.

He now works as a real estate agent in Sydney and hopes to be able to buy a townhouse there in the future.

"I'm single right now but the fact is that for me, I'm planning to stay here long term, (and) I will build a family."

Cashed-up foreign buyers are buying more Australian property, but it's just a fraction of the market (1)

Who's buying?

After a downturn during the pandemic, foreign buyers are back.

Most are coming from China, Hong Kong and India, with the value of transactions hitting almost $5 billion over the past financial year.

While many of those overseas buyers are investors, real estate agents say it's becoming more common for families overseas to buy property for their children who want to study and work in Australia and eventually become permanent residents.

The latest data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) shows foreign buyers made 5,360 purchases worth $4.9 billion in 2022–23, compared to 4,228 worth $3.9 billion in 2021–22.

Their average purchase price was $914,000.

Top 10 sources of investment by value of approved residential real estate proposals

Number

Value ($billion)

2022-232021-222022-232021-22
China2,60123173.42.4
Hong Kong (SAR)6506890.60.6
India4513060.30.3
Vietnam4233910.40.4
Taiwan3301330.30.1
Nepal2811400.20.1
Singapore3161730.30.1
Indonesia190950.20.1
South Africa63790.10.1
UK2262010.20.2
This table is sorted by the value of approved proposals in the current quarter. (Source: FIRB)

Of the 5,360 purchase transactions in 2022–23, 164 registrants became permanent residents or gained Australian citizenship during the year and are included in these statistics.

Residential properties with values under $1 million made up most of the residential property purchase transactions. They accounted for 78.2 per cent of property transactions in 2022–23.

But foreigners still make up about only 1 per cent of all purchases in Australia, which were valued at more than $407 billion over the past financial year.

China again topped the list of foreign buyers according to the latest quarterly data from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

This is followed by overseas buyers from Hong Kong, India, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Affordability impact?

CoreLogic head of research Eliza Owen says there are limits on what non-residents can purchase.

"We hear it all the time that to fix housing affordability, we need to ban foreign buyers — that is completely overblown," Ms Owen said.

"Whenever house prices go up, and affordability deteriorates, we come back to this idea of banning foreign investment. But at the end of the day, it really doesn't do anything to help affordability."

Cashed-up foreign buyers are buying more Australian property, but it's just a fraction of the market (2)

Ms Owen notes that last financial year, where foreign investment increased, nationally, home prices fell 2 per cent.

"There is a different relationship here with foreign arrivals and the rental market because most overseas arrivals are renters when they first come here," she said.

"So now that net overseas migration is starting to normalise, we might get a little bit of a slowdown in growth in the rental market."

Ms Owen says in the meantime the rules around foreign investment are strict.

"It comes with a lot of additional fees and states have their own additional levies for foreign buyers," she said.

"And generally, you can only buy new property — unless you're coming here to live in the property while you're in Australia — then you have to sell it or develop it after you move on."

Luxury taste and champagne budgets

Real estate agents like Michael Christie report some buyers are investors who have cash to splash on luxury apartments in Melbourne and Sydney.

Mr Christie, the CEO and co-founder of Christie & Co Property Group, sells across Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and Brisbane.

Cashed-up foreign buyers are buying more Australian property, but it's just a fraction of the market (3)

"A lot of the buyers that I've seen have been coming out of places like Thailand, China, Hong Kong," he said.

"We recently sold a $4 million penthouse on Collins Street (in Melbourne) to a prominent Thai person.

"So there are a lot of different buyers coming from all over Asia. And I can say that a lot of these people are very powerful in the business space."

Mr Christie's company is currently marketing an apartment in Melbourne for foreign buyers, with a $7.5 million price tag.

He said wealthy overseas business people, including a prominent Chinese billionaire, have previously purchased in the same building.

Cashed-up foreign buyers are buying more Australian property, but it's just a fraction of the market (4)

Sustained demand

But agents also report an increasing number of foreign buyers wanting established homes in inner suburban areas and say the outlook is bright.

"Coming out of COVID, we did see a spike in especially students and family sales that were happening because we're selling the luxury space, but we're also selling to ... first home owners, students," Mr Christie said.

He says COVID also hurt the development market.

"Building costs went up. A lot of developers we saw in some cases went bankrupt. And there became a bit of a housing shortage nationwide in major cities," he said.

"So for prices to slump, I don't see that happening. I see that there still will be a major demand.

"We are in a national shortage of property, and we're going to still have international students, we're going to have families coming from overseas, we need that to drive our economy.

"And we're going to need to continue developing."

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Safe harbour

Melbourne's south-east has become a hot spot for overseas buyers from China, Hong Kong and India looking to spend over $1 million, according to Ray White real estate agent Leigh Kelepouris.

"A lot of the foreign buyers are coming to Australia, it is considered to be on a global scale, quite a safe economy to be in, quite a safe political environment as well," he said.

"So a lot of families are wanting to come and set themselves up here."

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He says many of the buyers are cashed up.

"A lot of them may have sold a property or to overseas, and then say, 'I'm moving the money over here.'"

If they can't purchase completely outright, they are taking on loans.

"We're seeing a lot of banks are favourable with overseas income where they might support up to 50 per cent LVR (loan to value ratio) for any particular purchaser," Mr Kelepouris says.

"So in most cases, the buyers are trying to take advantage of that if they're able to qualify for a loan."

Mr Sin hopes his parents will be able to experience the benefits of some of the cash they sent his way.

"My family is still in Macau. But they love travelling," he said.

"They retired already, so they always come and visit me. Which is why it's also for them, it's more like a holiday base.

"For me, it's more towards myself, to live in, in the next two to five years."

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Cashed-up foreign buyers are buying more Australian property, but it's just a fraction of the market (2024)
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