Expats expected in late spring 2015 arrival

Expats expected in late spring 2015 arrival
Expats expected in late spring 2015 arrival

The upcoming spring auction of the romantic Woollahra trophy residence, Listowel has been pushed back a week, and not for want of buyer interest.

Ben Collier at McGrath Estate Agents rescheduled so his expatriate prospects have time to fly in and attend the auction of the $16 million listing of the home that dates back to the 1930s.

With the Australian currency at six-year lows, expatriates are expected to have a keener eye for house purchasing back here in Sydney during spring.

But most expectant agents aren't yet sensing any surge quiet yet in expat buying interest.

The Australian dollar briefly dipped below US70¢ for the first time since April 2009, down from US81c in January this year, it was at US$1.10 in mid-2011.

Expat interest is beginning to emerge in select pockets highlighted last month when three of the five registered bidders for a Manly auction offering were expats.

It sold for $4,550,000 under the hammer with the buyer from Singapore beating buyers from the UK and the USA for 8 Bower Street overlooking Cabbage Tree Bay.

"Plenty of international enquiry is being received," Belle agent Anthony Calacoci said.

"The UK expat flew in for a few days to personally view it," he said.

 But many agents aren't seeing any increase in expat numbers.

"I would like to say that the expats are back in strength given Australia’s currency is now at a six year low however that’s simply not the case," Mosman Richardson & Wrench agent Robert Simeon said.

"There is a global problem with households struggling with declining real wages.

"Some of the reason relates to job security with individual households are refusing to take on more debt," he suggested to explain their absence.

"With the Australian dollar weaker, property is around 25% cheaper than the A$0.94c it was just 24 months ago for those who are paid in foreign currencies," Robert Simeon noted.

Scott Chadwick at Chadwick Real Estate Turramura said the lower exchange rate was more fueling offshore purchases from Chinese interest than Australian expats.

"However that market typically gets a little more active towards the end of the year," he said.

Haberfield hasn't seen much expat interest since a $2.85 million sale last year to a buyer who flew in from Singapore, looked at three properties, placed an offer and had his solictor attend to due diligence once he left and exchanged contracts the next week.

"The Aussie dollar was stronger then, so I would be hopeful more of this occurs with the dollar trimming back," McGrath Haberfield agent Michael Tringali said.

Some Australian expats rely heavily on their Australian-based relatives to inspect, at least initially, possible purchases.

And many expats hire buyers’ agents to search and negotiate for properties that match their criteria.

Often bought to rent for a time, expats typically have in mind their eventual return to what will be their family home when their overseas assignments end.

Leading buyers’ agents say there are good buying opportunities for cashed-up expats particularly at the upper end, but suspect many might hold off buying until the dollar is in the 60s. Given Joe Hockey has announced a crackdown on illegal foreign property acquisitions the expats might not now face the same level of competition coming from overseas.

"It’s hard to imagine a better time for expats to buy back home with their buying power appearing to simply be unmatchable by any other buyer segment," Ray White agent Chris Watkins suggests. 

But buyers’ agent note some vendors regard expatriate buyers as "wood ducks", or easy targets especially if the expat buyers unwittingly send a message to vendors that they have plenty of money, are poorly informed about the local property market and have little time to inspect properties.

This article was first published in the Saturday Daily Telegraph.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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