Potential property buyer numbers from Hong Kong soar

Potential property buyer numbers from Hong Kong soar
Potential property buyer numbers from Hong Kong soar

There were very few Chinese property buyers flying out of Sydney after the recent Golden Week.

It is the annual early October period when Chinese tourists, taking advantage of their national holiday, have often departed Sydney with an investment property.

Agents advise there aren't as many Chinese apartment buyers, and those interested don't have the same buyer intensity they once did. There is also the desire for privacy which appears to becoming a paramount concern.

Prior years saw Australia's top agents pull out all stops with their welcoming red carpet. Chauffeurs in Bentleys were at the airports to then tempt the Chinese holidaymakers to make a residential investment purchase, sometimes even then throwing in apartment site inspections by helicopter.

For a few years now, data from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) has shown a reduction in investment.

There have been changing push and pull factors over recent years. Consecutive federal governments headed by Kevin Rudd, through to Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have obliquely or expressly sought to dampen Chinese investment to allow locals to have a shot at buying.

In 2010, the Assistant Treasurer Senator Nick Sherry announced a hotline for members of the public to report suspicious property buyers, amid measures to ensure foreigners did not put "pressure on housing availability for Australians".

The former Treasurer Joe Hockey ratcheted up the issue when he suggested one of his Hunters Hill neighbours be investigated by the FIRB after he became suspicious of the circumstances surrounding a purchase.

The sentiment of successive governments had been accompanied by a string of new and higher fees for foreigners.

The past few years have also seen significant policy changes in China, including tighter capital controls, such as limiting the outflow of foreign currency.

All these changes are likely to prevent foreign buyer activity rebounding anytime soon to its previous peak.

But it is significant that buyer website search activity from Hong Kong on realestate.com.au has been rocketing over the past six months.

Due to unfolding political unrest in Hong Kong, buyer search interest sits at its highest level ever recorded on the site, REA Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee has noted.

But while searches from Hong Kong are up, the same cannot be said for China.

Over the past 12 months it has dropped by over half.

Conisbee suggests factors at play include there being fewer Chinese developers being active in Australia.

She says there was also "a general negative sentiment towards Australian property".

The current Hong Kong turmoil reminds many of the heightened purchasing interest in Sydney property in the lead up to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, when the United Kingdom ended administration of the colony.

For several years after 1997, the property market in Hong Kong did fall sharply, in part because of the unease about China's political grip on its regained territory.

But the 2020 econo­mics of migrating and investing in Sydney, or the cheaper capital cities like Melbourne, makes sense to many in Hong Kong and China who are looking for a more affordable place to live.

Earlier this year, the Econo­mist Intelligence Unit ranked Hong Kong as the equal most-­expensive city in the world.

And a modest two bedroom apartment in China with no car park costs at least $1 million in most places in Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou/Shenzhen, according to Michael Yang at the GiFang website.

This article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.  

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

Foreign Buyers Hong Kong

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