Chinese buying of Australian homes surges

Mainland investors have overtaken Americans to become biggest buyers of land in Australia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 5:44am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 5:44am

Ausin Group (Finance), which offers property and mortgage broking in Australia to Chinese buyers, expects to sell two-thirds more homes and to double the amount of loans it arranges as demand from the mainland surges.

The company forecasts A$1.5 billion (HK$10.8 billion) in sales of new residential properties in the year to June 30, compared with A$900 million over the previous 12 months, Sydney-based managing director Joseph Zaja said. The value of mortgages the closely held company arranges through Australian banks is expected to climb to A$500 million in the 2015 calendar year, he said.

Ausin is benefiting from surging demand from China, where the housing market is faltering. Chinese purchasers overtook Americans to become the biggest buyers of real estate in Australia in the 12 months to June last year, ploughing A$5.9 billion into commercial and residential property, a 42 per cent increase from the previous 12 months.

"I don't see the trend slowing down," Zaja said. "It's here to stay."

Real estate is the biggest short-term risk to the Chinese economy, Markus Rodlauer, mission chief for China at the International Monetary Fund, said last week. Authorities are trying to avert a collapse of the real estate market after data showed housing prices fell in 55 of 70 cities in June from May, the most since January 2011 when the government changed the way it compiles the statistics.

Ausin sources projects from local developers, including Stockland and Mirvac Group, marketing them in China where it has 11 offices and 280 staff, he said. The average price of the properties Chinese buy in Australia is A$630,000 according to the company.

When Zaja and a partner based on the mainland, whom he declined to identify, first set up Ausin in 2009, banks would only finance developments where less than 30 per cent was sold to overseas buyers, he said. "Now, that's up to 100 per cent in some cases," Zaja said.

The company also offers immigration services to Chinese wanting to move to Australia and is setting up a fund targeting those from the mainland applying for a Significant Investor Visa, he said.

The visa allows foreigners investing at least A$5 million in Australia to qualify for residency. Chinese nationals accounted for 91 per cent of applications and 86 per cent of grantees as of the end of June, said the office of the assistant minister for immigration and border protection.

Ausin has seen a 300 per cent increase in demand for its immigration services over the past six months, the company said.

Concerns by locals that overseas investment in Australian real estate, particularly from China, is driving up prices and reducing affordability has prompted a parliamentary inquiry.

The report from the inquiry will be released in October.