Australia’s closed borders have not stopped overseas buyers from looking to get a slice of the booming property market on our shores.
Realestate.com.au data showed international search activity for properties on its portal was up 6.37 per cent — on top of what was already a mammoth 20 per cent increase in the previous 12 months to 2019.
Demand was driven by expats looking to return and opportunistic investors looking to capitalise on the strong market.
A 10 per cent growth in property prices since January had kept demand in NSW level with record growth in 2020.
United Kingdom, United States and Hong Kong buyers were more likely to search in NSW but activity from China was down 8 per cent.
New Zealanders were also searching for NSW but were more interested in Queensland.
Searches from China are now in sixth place, behind Singapore.
Realestate.com.au economist Anne Flaherty said interest remained strong in Sydney but was not growing at the pace of Queensland and Victoria due to rising values.
“Sydney is expensive by global standards and a lot of buyers like someone from New Zealand are going to find much better value elsewhere,” she said.
Byron Bay was the most searched place in NSW, driven by searches out of the United States due to it being a celebrity hotspot during the pandemic with Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron, Matt Damon and Melissa McCarthy.
“Byron Bay is your classic example of a suburb that is internationally famous from celebrities who raised its profile to a wider audience,” Ms Flaherty said.
In Sydney, the most desired suburbs were all in the city’s north suburbs with Manly, Mosman, Chatswood and Epping the most searched. Manly was popular with buyers from the UK, US and New Zealand, while Singapore buyers looked in Mosman and those in Hong Kong had Epping at the top of their list. China-based buyers had Chatswood as their top preference.
Ms Flaherty said international buyers were generally attracted to suburbs where there was an established network from their country.
“Word of mouth and online forums play a big role in where overseas buyers look to live,” she said.
Clarke & Humel principal Michael Clarke said he had never seen so much international demand for property in Manly before, with every listing having interest from overseas.
“The world clock app is my most used app at the moment to keep up with buyers in the UK, Finland, Dubai, Asia, the US and New Zealand,” he said.
“We’ve got expats who said they would never live in Australia again now desperate to come back because the pandemic has made them realise just how good Australia is.”
A Singapore-based expat up against another expat paid $6.08 million last month for a semi on Cliff St in Manly. The sale price was $1 million more than the previous record for a semi.
Selling agent Mark Skeens of Stone Real Estate told the Saturday Telegraph much of the interest was from cashed-up expats — many based in Asia and the UK.
James Pratt Auctions Group CEO James Pratt said expats were outpricing local buyers across Sydney, with some paying 10 to 20 per cent more. “They are bidding very aggressively and many feel they are still getting a discount on the property because of the exchange rate,” he said.
Mr Pratt said even more foreign investors were waiting for the borders to reopen to buy.
“Once the borders open there will be an influx of foreign investors looking to capitalise on the demand and strong capital growth,” he said.
Under Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) regulations, certain temporary residents are permitted to buy one established dwelling that must be lived in.
Foreigners — including those offshore looking to invest — are limited to new property only.