We’ve seen a spate of stories and articles recently about how foreign investment is unlikely to slow down. There’s been much print around the unabated interest of Chinese investors in Sydney. We’ve also read about the eagerness of foreign investors to find building opportunities in Melbourne. There are now predictions that Perth will have another housing boom off the back of foreign investment. So across most of Australia, the enthusiasm for property from overseas buyers is still aflame.
This is partly to do with current world factors – the easing off of capital controls in China; the freeing up of other markets like India and a rapidly growing middle class in various parts of Asia. But this only tells part of the story.
The restrictions brought in by APRA earlier this year and then passed on by the main mortgage lenders were aimed to curb the rising tide of investment. However these measures have plainly had little effect.
Australia is now firmly in the sights of foreign investors and it’s highly unlikely that this will change. Here are some reasons why:
1) Growth of apartments in capital cities: The Asian investors, especially, are very attracted to apartments as an investment. It’s a commodity they understand well as it’s the mainstay of most major Asian cities. Melbourne has been going through a frenzy of apartment building over the last few years and this doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. With Melbourne predicted to outstrip Sydney in terms of population in the next fifty years, buying an investment property in the city is a pretty safe bet. Sydney also has seen an expansion of apartments into traditional suburban areas such as the North Shore and Sutherland Shire.
2) Sydney and Melbourne now truly global cities: For many years Australia was in a little bubble and something of a secret tucked away from the world. Most of the investment was European and British. It wasn’t roughly until the 1990s and the determined push to make Australia’s major cities international and cosmopolitan that it really turned up on the radar of overseas investors. Certainly events like the 2000 Sydney Olympics helped promote the country. With major financial headquarters in Sydney and Melbourne, both cities offer an easy and accessible base for the foreign investor.
3) It’s the lifestyle: Australia has an extremely friendly environment compared to other countries. It’s worth noting that much of the foreign investment has been aimed at the eastern seaboard: Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and other parts of Queensland. The weather, beaches, excellent health care and a small population make it a honey pot for Asian investment. International agency CBRE reports that of the total foreign investment into Australia in the lat few years, two thirds of it is from Asia. This is highly significant as Australia’s lifestyle and environment compares very favourably to most Asian countries and is unlikely to change.
4) Economic advantages: When Australia survived the GFC in 2008, its strong and stable economy meant that it was very attractive proposition to foreign investors. The government’s tax breaks for property investment make it even more so. Other cities like London and Hong Kong have clamped down heavily on overseas investment, making Australia, with its relaxed foreign investment rules, a prime target.
Will this hurt local property investment?
It’s actually unlikely that foreign investment will damage local property investment. While it adds a bit more competition it also boosts the building and architecture industries. It creates jobs and energises the economy. It drives up property prices, but this simply means that capital growth on all investments move upwards. So all investors benefit from the upsurge. It’s also worth remembering that foreign investors are often playing in a different pool. Mum and dad or first time investors may typically go for cheaper investments in the outer suburbs, as a way of cautiously dipping their toes in the water. Foreign investors (Asian investors especially) tend to zone in on specific areas and types of dwellings. So while there’s been much alarm sounding and panicking about the effect of foreign investment, there really doesn’t need to be. If anything it confirms the desirability of Australia as a property investment option. And as long as the local investors ensure they have sought out information and a comprehensive service from a property professional they’ll be in a strong position.