Australia’s introduction of several new taxes on foreign property investors has been partially blamed for a dive in sales but just how bad is Australia compared with other countries where investors might want to share in a piece of the action?
The biggest foreign buyers of Australian real estate are Chinese – in NSW Chinese investors account for 87 per cent of foreign purchases. They have by and large gained from the 70 per cent increase in Sydney house prices in the last six years.
But when it comes to foreigners trying to buy property in China, where prices have been rising by an average 10 per cent per year, you can largely forget about it. Foreigners, with no evidence of having lived in China for more than 12 months, are not allowed to buy property in China.
A major Chinese developer with several apartment projects in Sydney but declined to be named told AFR Weekend earlier this month that “foreign buyers don’t want to invest in a country that doesn’t welcome them”.
The Australia managing director of Chinese development giant Country Garden, Guotao Hu, has also said surcharges in Australia have affected the number of buyers and others have said that the red carpet should be laid out, not the red tape.
But in Hong Kong where home prices rose 11 per cent last year and are set to rise again according to grow even further according to UBS, a foreigner looking to invest in property in that city has to contend with a 37 per cent tax upfront.
Credit Suisse analysts Hasan Tevfik said the introduction or increase of a tax on foreign buyers seems to slow demand to a point where property prices decelerate, but that it “does not cause housing values to contract”.
“The exception here was in Singapore when it introduced a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax in 2013. However, we think much of the price decline was due to the simultaneous introduction of taxes on domestic buyers as well.”
Ray White executive chairman Brian White also said the foreign buyer restrictions haven’t bothered Australians when they look to invest overseas.
“The fact that most countries have restrictions on property ownership have not worried Australians who have largely continued to re-invest at home. This reinvestment has led to a continuing strong local market that is not reliant on massive overseas investment.”
Luke Filei, the former Vice-President and General Counsel of Real Estate for Walmart Asia Realty, lived and worked long enough in China to enable him to buy and own a property in Beijing.
“In 2009 China temporarily relaxed restrictions on foreign buyers in residential apartments – they needed to support the market. It went for about 12 to 18 months. It was a response to a need in the market.”
But it is not just Australia (where foreign buyer tax has doubled to 8 per cent) and Asian countries that have such punitive measures when it comes to restricting foreign buyers.
The Australia managing director of Chinese development giant Country Garden, Guotao Hu, says surcharges affect property buying.
In Canada’s Vancouver, the local authorities introduced a tax on foreign buyers of 15 per cent last year. Toronto followed. The US has no such big foreigner tax. On the US’ other border in Mexico foreigners can’t buy land within 50 kilometres of its golden beaches.
In New Zealand there will be a ban on foreigners from buying existing homes.