Election focus should not fall on foreign property ownership: Ewan Morton

Uh oh. Say it ain’t so. It appears that one of the main issues to capture the attention of the media as a result of the final political leaders debate last week was their positions on foreign ownership.

That old chestnut.

In what has been a relatively dull election campaign, and with a foundation of rising property prices, I hope we’re not about to see the focus return to Chinese property investors. It does seem to be one of the go to topics when property prices begin to rise as they are right now.

In the debate last weekend Kevin Rudd said he was "a bit nervous, a bit anxious" about foreign ownership of Australian land. Tony Abbott said "Australia should not have a 'colour ban' on investors."

It’s one of those emotive topics that has the ability to raise the collective national pulse. Remember a couple of years ago when talk of Chinese buyers outbidding locals at auctions led to the government responding by tightening the rules around temporary residents buying property?

And then there was the dob in an agent hotline. I actually rang it today to see if it still works and can report that it was answered by a helpful FIRB employee who explained that I needed to put any information on a suspected breach in writing!

Yes we do continue to see significant interest in the high-end, Sydney apartment market from Chinese nationals. Yes it has slowed a little over the last twelve months but there is no denying that for premium priced properties the Chinese buyer is a key target market to achieve a potential sale.

So I hope that the increasing competition in the property market doesn’t ignite the flame of anger and blame that Chinese buyers are solely responsible for pushing up prices. From where I sit, rather than fear their presence in the market, we should be nervous about what it means if they leave.

Ewan Morton is managing director of the Sydney based Morton & Morton.

Ewan Morton

Ewan Morton

Ewan Morton is managing director of the Sydney based Morton & Morton.

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