Foreign buyers hoover-up established homes

By Leith van Onselen

NAB has today released its June quarter Australian Residential Property Survey, which revealed that foreign buyers increased their share of existing home sales to around 10% nationally, with foreigners accounting for particularly large shares in Victoria and New South Wales:

ScreenHunter_8437 Jul. 21 13.03

Despite much stricter restrictions on foreign investment in the established residential property market, our survey suggests foreign buyers also play a fairly significant role in this part of the market. According to surveyed property professionals, foreign buyers accounted for 11.4% of all established apartment sales and 9.4% of house sales in Q2. More foreign buyers were attracted to established apartment markets in all states, led by VIC (17.5%) & NSW (12.6%). Foreign buyers also had a much bigger presence in the established housing market in VIC, with a 16.1% share of total demand in this market in Q2. This was significantly higher than in NSW (10.2%), WA (5.8%) & QLD (5.3%)…

In the new property market, property professionals estimated that foreign buyers accounted for 16.1% of all apartment sales and 11.5% of house sales in Q2. There were, however, big differences between the states, especially in the apartment market where foreign buyers purchased more than 28% of all new properties in VIC, compared to 16.5% in NSW, 13.1% in QLD & 12.9% in WA. There was much less divergence in new housing markets, although foreign buyers were again most active in VIC (16.7%), ahead of NSW (14.6%), QLD (8.7%) & WA (8.3%).

ScreenHunter_8438 Jul. 21 13.05

One wonders how long this farce can continue. For the most part, Australia’s foreign investment rules exclude non-residents from purchasing existing dwellings. And yet, overseas buyers continue to make up a large share of sales, especially in the key bubble markets of Sydney and Melbourne (coincidence?).

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering has already warned that Australian residential property is a haven for international money laundering, particularly from China. As has the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which warned that “laundering of illicit funds through real estate is an established money laundering method in Australia”.

Viewed in this light, it beggars belief that Australia’s governments can launch thousands of prosecutions and fines against unauthorised Uber-X drivers, whilst effectively turning a blind eye to the many illegal sales of existing homes to non-residents.

With the Government’s enhanced rules on foreign investment scheduled to come into effect in November, all we can do is hope that the threat of prosecutions and penalties puts an end to existing homes being willingly sold-off to foreigners, at the expense of our young.

Full Report Here.

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  1. Who said crime doesn’t pay.
    Keep it up MB this criminal behaviour of the worst kind needs publication until the last piece of shit foreign criminal and their local criminal accomplices are stamped out and punished appropriately.

    • We might be able to help with the shit foreign criminals. Isn’t possible to actually make citizen arrests if a crime is been committed, this is what WIKI says for Australian citizen arrests

      The power to arrest is granted by both federal and state legislation, however the exact power granted differs depending on jurisdiction. The power to arrest for a Federal offence is granted by s.3Z of the Crimes Act 1914.[3] Under the Act, a person who is not a police constable may, without warrant, arrest another person if they believe on reasonable grounds that:

      the other person is committing or has just committed an indictable offence; and
      proceedings by summons against the other person would not: ensure the appearance of the person before a court in respect of the offence; prevent a repetition or continuation of the offence or the commission of another offence; prevent the concealment, loss or destruction of evidence relating to the offence; prevent harassment of, or interference with, a person who may be required to give evidence in proceedings in respect of the offence; prevent the fabrication of evidence in respect of the offence; or would not preserve the safety or welfare of the person.

      A person who arrests another person must, as soon as practicable after the arrest, arrange for the other person, and any property found on the other person, to be delivered into the custody of a constable.

      • Can this be confirmed by someone working at law here.

        Now that to me is a very powerful weapon for you Melbourne and Sydney folks.

        Make an announcement at every auction that you will making citizen arrests as granted by of XXX act if you believe the property is being purchased illegaly by someone not a citizen.

        I previously posted a link to a Google form that I set up for you to all log these on, but I don’t have the link with me (Google Drive banned at work!)

      • Arrest means little as you still have to go through the Courts.

        You can criminally charge someone but it is suited in the name of the Crown (i.e., R v. John Smith). That means the DPP/OPP can step in, take over proceedings, and choose not to prosecute. This happens a lot when public officials are charged and the government doesn’t want that sort of attention.

        Ultimately if the government wants foreigners to snap up existing properties you can’t stop it. Mind you, if you’ve got the cash you may be able to curry favours with some judges:

      • bskerr2MEMBER

        I think it will help if it goes to court how can they possible not convict if it’s an illegal purchase, if the person involved doesn’t turn up maybe the court will have power to take procession of the property. By actually making an arrest at the auction, and if this is repeated a number of times it will make media attention in China and put pressure on government here to do something about it. It may also slow the tide of foreigners coming into buy property if they know they may get arrested on the spot by locals as soon as they win an auction to buy.

        Or, ok do nothing and give up, if that’s what you are suggesting.

      • bskerr2MEMBER

        Maybe we can actually arrest the real estate agents as well, if they know they are selling to a foreign national, which they will know of course then they are engaging in a criminal offense as well, as is possibly the people selling the house.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        The sales doesn’t happen until the contract is signed, so you’ll have to be there with the lawyers to do a “citizen’s arrest”. It will also be very ugly if you’re wrong and they turn out to be a naturalized Australian citizen or PR.

        Enforcement of the law is best left to the authorities.

      • Ronin yes in theory it is best left to the authorities but how’s that been working out for several years now? Lol. And what penalty or consequence have the authorities faced for failure? Keeping their jobs. FFS.

      • The idea of citizens arrests sounds good but I wonder about the practicality of it. If you see, say an Australian Chinese person bidding at an auction, how do you know whether they are buying on behalf of their friends or relatives back in China? Also, a lot of properties are bought under the radar but not at auctions. Having said that, citizens arrests might send a message to our treasonous govt.

      • This will look great to the rest of the world – xenephobic vigilantes patrolling open houses. Keep studying here Chinese and Indians, ignore the news on your TV about the poor Chinese student who just got beaten by angry Australians.

  2. I don’t know why someone doesn’t just launch a High Court Challenge.

    There are rules regarding unfairly targeting certain groups. There are also rules regarding corruption.

    I think all that would need to actually happen here is have someone simply refer one of these cases directly to the AFP. They are breaking the law. Its that simple.

  3. Retrospective action needs to be taken as well. These laws are being broken NOW – not JUST future laws.

  4. 1 in 10? More like 10/10 in the inner east of Melb. Paying $1.8M for houses yielding $400/week in rent. Cos that makes sense…

    People should be marching in the streets…

    • If you own property you should be dancing in the street at the prospect of a buyer paying you silly prices.

      Who cares where the money has come from.

      • Jumping jack flash

        Jason is right.

        It is a simple case of what should happen vs what will happen.

        The simple fact is our banks are in over their heads. The RBA and government are running scared because they know this – I’m sure the banking lobby reminds them every other week, if not with greater frequency. Everything needs to remain the same otherwise our banks will not be viewed as sound and won’t be able to roll over all the mortgage money in time. That scenario is unthinkable, therefore everyone is doing everything in their power to prevent it from happening.

        Open the gates and let the foreign cash in to remove the problem money from our banks and make it another bank’s problem. We don’t really care what happens to Chinese banks if they overlend and buy up Australian property with dodgy mortgages right before it crashes (think back to the East Coast of Australia in the 80’s with Japanese investors. Coffs Harbour in particular) I don’t really know why everyone is so up in arms about it. “If you’ve got a house, and feeling the pinch, flip it to a foreigner!” (There’s a catchy jingle right there!)

        What should happen is house prices fall and the banks take a haircut.
        It just isn’t going to work that way. Never has. Never will.

  5. ceteris paribus

    Don’t worry. Chinese buyers will pack up and sell when Melbourne and Sydney become as crowded as China.

    • I doubt it. We have a long way to go before we’re more crowded than China, but that doesn’t mean our cities aren’t already crowded enough.

  6. they are turning a blind eye to it, obviously, because its the only thing keeping this country afloat. so, yes, its against the rules, but who the fuck can stop them?

    if a legal challenge was launched by a mass of Australia’s young (crowd-funded) would it work? or would these kids all end up in internment camps once our foreign investor overlords buy up the land underneath parliament and the supreme court?

    • lol jawboning, ATO prosecutors are a joke. Failed private sector graduates and/or family men who are there for the flex/super/comfortable hours.

  7. None of this is capturing those buying through local Chinese networks. The reality is that the number could indeed by several times higher when proxy buying is accounted for.

  8. Actually come to think of it – the people to sue are the Victorian department of Transport, planning and Local Infrastructure.

    These people have an obligation to ensure that when transferring a title it is legal. For a government department to be transferring title illegally surely has grounds for legal action ?!

    A class action law suit right there would put a pretty massive halt on the entire issue in a second.

    All we need now is Julian Burnside to do a Pro Bono case for something which actually matters and is not entirely self serving.

    Who knows him.

    Anyone here a Savage ?!

  9. SamscoutMEMBER

    Does anyone know what happens to the rent earned on property owned by foreigners – do real estate agents deduct withholding tax before they transfer it offshore to the foreign buyer – a lot has been said about housing prices but what about forgone tax collections i.e. base erosion profit shifting through rental properties.

    • Non residents are barred from owning properties for the purpose of renting them out. Therefore many seem to be kept vacant.
      If they are not vacant, a plausible answer is that they are treated by the RE agent exactly the same as locally owned properties to keep up the fiction that that’s what they are. That would probably include having a local account to transfer the rent to and pay any bills out of, to ensure plausible deniability on the part of the property manager.

      In the event that Mr Hockey gets around to prosecuting any of the investors he claims to be asking the ATO to investigate, some of the details will presumably emerge in the court proceedings.

      • SamscoutMEMBER

        StatSailor – thanks for your feedback – the reason I ask is that when I rented in Sydney our landlord was a German lady who lived in Germany. I know because whenever I needed something fixed it also took ages to get her permission. I often wondered how the ATO would capture the rental income. Re ownership I thought foreigners could buy new dwellings – didn’t realise they also had to live in them. Not disagreeing just didn’t realise the second condition as well for new dwellings.

      • Sorry Samscout, I didn’t mean to say that foreigners couldn’t rent out properties, such as newly built properties, at all – I was thinking specifically of TRs when buying established properties, based on the headline of this article (and then seem to forget to get around to selling them on leaving).

        And also that if they’ve bought an established home illegally, they would have to make the RE agent think they were a PR to avoid getting the agent into trouble.

        Also have had an apparently O/S based landlord (I say apparently because there seemed to be an Australian mailbox, but the property manager claimed he was permanently in Greece). Big problem getting stuff done also. It seems when dealing with landlords that they have a number of reasons for obfuscating their actual residency.

    • I wonder what happens when Marijuana crops start appearing on the empty lots burned down by disaffected locals.

      Can the houses be seized as part of the proceeds of crime ?

  10. This is based on a survey only, so made up figures. Probably closer to 50% for Sydney and Melbourne.

    • + many

      A survey of ‘property professionals’ who are getting rich from this scam and don’t ever want it to end…

  11. The Patrician

    10% = 50,000 existing Australian dwellings sold annually to foreign nationals
    The FIRB approved 7500
    Zero prosecutions commenced in 8yrs
    Do the math.

    • Noble Person,
      Thank you for adding some substance.
      Without wishing to defend the indefensible, this level of sales could in theory be readily absorbed by temporary visa holders with “family money”:
      The Australian (2 July 2015): “Immigration data shows there were about 1.1 million temporary residents on December 31 last year, although this includes more than 400,000 holders of visitor visas, which are usually issued for 90 days. (These visas can be extended if visitors can show the department they have significant assets.). That leaves 770,000 temporary visa holders who could qualify to buy established homes under the foreign investment regime, according to December 2014 immigration data.”

      • The Patrician

        Mr Kodjer
        TVHs require FIRB approval to purchase existing dwellings.
        Read my second line.
        Do the math

    • Thank you Noble Person. I have reread your second line and revisited your maths.
      You are as correct as you are succinct. Yes they do. And yes they should have.

      But even under a regime of stricter FIRB policing, there are no current grounds for denying approval to 770,000 temporary visa holders, or 15 times your annual figure of 50,000 purchases – my stupid extrapolation but you get the point.

      Close that access pathway and there is still the 6.2 million Australian citizens who were born overseas, including 865,000 (2011 census) persons of Chinese ancestry, each presenting another conduit for “family money” sourced from overseas.

      • The Patrician

        Mr Kodjer,
        We are talking about tens of thousands of unapproved and illegal sales of Australian dwellings just in the last year.
        Potentially billions of dollars of illegal transactions.
        We are talking about the complete regulatory failure of oversight of foreign transactions in residential real estate.
        This needs to be fixed NOW.

      • From my first hand experience, nearly all visa holders, be it temporary or permanent are not buying Australian houses, because they are too expensive, and people from the real world know that they are going to crash. Therefore, this is just an orgy of existing investors and corrupt money laundering going on. Who in the right mind would pay this much for a house??? It’s still a fuckin coconut!

      • Tony-with-the-big-cups,
        I struggle with legal academic papers. Are you suggesting: (a) that we should not be surprised that the Law has left us with a “legacy of confusion”; and (b) that a civil remedy through the Courts is uncertain?

  12. But unlike Uber, policy makers think this is a gift to incumbent owners of capital.

    It is certainly a gift to the banks, and to the development and construction sector, who wouldn’t be able to get a single residential project off the ground right now were it not for Asian investors. 1/3 of new projects pre-sold within days at marketing events in Singapore and China, the rest sold domestically through other fronts for non-resident investors, with your SMFSs and a few old school Australian property investors mopping up the remainders.

    Now, all we need to fill those empty 40 story residential towers is more Asian immigration, and public policy aimed at making things easier for the businesses hoping to attract them. There’s the rub, and the political class are still struggling to spin away the fact they are entirely selling this country out.

    That is Plan A, B, C through Z. Australia is open, and For Sale.

    • McPaddyMEMBER

      Bingo. And the stupid masses, led by the nose by the MSM, rage and storm about a $5000 helicopter ride. Straya.

    • ceteris paribus

      Well said Green. We are not custodians of this land. We are recipients of hard foreign currency for party time.

  13. Well when Bronwyns helicopter escapade was made public, several private citizens reported her to the AFP for investigation. It seems to me this is proof of ongoing illegal activity.
    Why should one or more private citizens not report this illegal activity to the AFP for investigation.

    • Clearly reports from members of the public are one of the most important ways that any police department discovers crimes to investigate.

      The flipside is, as anyone who has tried to report say, a theft from a parked car would know, is that they have their own internal criteria for how much effort to put into an investigation, which doesn’t correlate all that well with how important the public might believe an issue is.

    • I don’t think it is a criminal offence. If you do it and get caught you just need to sell it.

      There is no reason for the police to be involved.

  14. Who needs armies these days to occupy a country. Just flood it with corrupted money and buy up all its assets, then force your rules once their banks bankrupts down the track and you’re DONE. LONG LIVE CHINA

  15. Ronin8317MEMBER

    The Affordable Housing Party is looking to hand out fliers in August. and I’ll see if they’ll hand out fliers stating ‘foreign buyers of existing properties is illegal’ outside an auction. It can get ugly though.

  16. St JacquesMEMBER

    Nobody believes the stats come anywhere near the truth. As this accelerates it is going to generate ever more frustration and anger. Some have already talked about property damage. Just look at the furore in NZ in recent days, and this is only the beginning.

  17. HahahahahaLOLOLOLOL! As an Australian with 3 kids, whose descendants have all been in Oz before the 1860’s (not sure when as I ran out of easily accessible records) I would give a shit, except the whole damn country turned against my industry (and every other trade exposed industry but red dirt and flammable rocks). For a 50 year mining boom that never eventuated. And now that it hasn’t eventuated, Australians are super eager to sell out the proverbial farm so long as it keeps them in positive equity and new Land Cruiser Prados.

    So now you can all get stuffed as far as I’m concerned. You all deserve the Chinese to end up running the joint, which based on how willing you all are to sell EVERYTHING to them for trinkets, will be the obvious result.

    Anyone expecting an influx of Han Chinese to suddenly start believing in multiculturalism is smoking some bad weed. These people have a strong cultural identity. The guest will switch places with the host. And Australians accepted this wilfully.

    Even more amusing is that even given the appetite of the Chinese for Australian property, it will at some point fall over anyway. That’s because there is a LOT of land in Oz, you’re not meaningfully going to run out of usable land any time in the next 50 years.

    What you will end up with is an irresistable wave (you’ve shown you’re unable to resist it by your actions) of rich Chinese who WILL capture your regulatory system. Then at some point, Australian property will become as cheap as dirt anyway, because the country is the size of the continental US, and you ain’t getting to 50 million any time soon, let alone 320 million.

    Frankly, given how awful Australians have been at managing the joint in the last 20 years, I suspect the Chinese won’t do any worse. So bow down to our new Chinese overlords, because God knows they can’t do any worse than the useless embiciles who have been running the country for the last couple of decades.

    Ha ha ha ha ha!

    • St JacquesMEMBER

      Spot on. The country has been taken over by pure greed and is even selling out its children. The fault is not with the foreigners, it is with us who gambled on our lucky break with resources.

      • fitzroyMEMBER

        The fault is with the foreigners who break the law both here and in China, and no enforcement from a succession of incompetent treasurers, the ATP and AFP. The local victims of this criminality are disenfranchised by the major political parties.

      • St JacquesMEMBER

        True fitzy. I have always advocated automatic confiscation of their properties as the proper punishment, but I’m referring to “our” responsibililty for allowing this to happen right under our noses. Ultimately it is a country out of control with greed, that has come to the point where it is selling out its own childrens’ future. What sort of country is that?

      • fitzroyMEMBER

        The electorate have not chosen this, Wayne and Joe have imposed this on us. They, and Kevin who started this debacle by changing the rules (also not voted for) are all pond life.


        Full agreement. With all the incompetency, ineptitude and venality shown by so many, there is zero hope of a good outcome for a very long time.

    • I don’t really see a problem with foreigners buying established/new property in OZ. More capital inflows making each citizen generally richer. Australia is a massive country. Those with money will live in CBDs/near coastal areas, whereas those less fortune will live further inland. If you have been a tinhat foil fool whose been sitting on the fence waiting for a property crash, then bad luck, you failed to speculate despite spending hours and hours researching the market. This is what happens when you over speculate and procrastinate.

      • My FOMO gland is throbbing with all the fear and the missing out and the other things you said!

        I give this particular troll a B-. You’ve got to work on your style before you are indistinguishable from a genuine moron/crackpot.

    • fitzroyMEMBER

      The problem is political. That said, there is no justification for temporary visa holders to buy property, that law should be changed. Look at Patty’s stats, most foreigners don’t give a rat’s arse about our laws; why should they? Joe Hockey doesn’t enforce them. Maybe things will change when the new laws come into effect in December, but obviously the Chinese buyers don’t think they will be enforced either.

  18. Given the following (applies to both sides of politics):

    – Government’s deliberate lack of enforcing the rules on foreign ownership
    – Continuing with the population ponzi
    – Approving mining projects that are lacking sound business case and at the same time are causing damage to the environment and agriculture resources
    – Lack of a vision for the future and Australia’s role in a rapidly changing global economy
    – “Kicking the can” politics prevailing over the years

    We’ve become a retarded country.. and it’s clear to see where we’re heading.. I do not see how things can be turned around.. the only hope is a massive correction and significant economic pain. Only then people might rise from the ashes with a motivation to do things differently, until then, it’s business as usual.

  19. The Patrician

    FFS Victoria (read Melbourne) is out of control (now 17% of existing dwelling sales!).
    This is in KO’D’s home town since her “inquiry”!
    What a fantastic job she did.

    • The Patrician

      Lets break down the Vic numbers.
      17% = about 17,000 existing Victorian dwellings sold to foreign nationals
      FIRB approved 3842 sales of existing Victorian dwellings to foreign nationals (about 4% of total sales)
      13000 sales (13%) of existing Victorian dwellings were illegal…in the same year a Victorian was supposed to have fixed the problem.
      O’Dwyer has failed her own constituents worst of all.

    • Yep, I can walk through central Melbourne and feel like a stranger in my own country.

  20. We are selling off the farm.

    With 70% home ownership & close to a quarter of the Australian economy reliant on housing & it maintaining its value, it is little wonder that most turn a blind eye.

    This is really simple if you ask me:

    1. “no passport – no buy” for all existing properties

    2. Maximum of 50% selling to overseas interest for new & off plan digs & vary this down to say 25% in over speculated markets such as Sydney; Melbourne, inner Brisbane & Gold Coast

    3. Very high stamp duty & annual land tax for all foreign buyers – most don’t use the asset, they are buying a future home, so the economic benefit of accelerated building is short term – it needs to be longer term (so tax them)

    I do think that the Chinese Government will stop the outflow of capital from mainland China in the coming year or so, as their economic transformation from govt/building to consumerism splutters big time.

    If this happens this might see a major housing correction here.

    Take your money – RE owners – while you can.

    And hence we are back to where my reply started – many of us have a vested interest in selling our home for the highest price. This means increasingly selling it to an overseas buyer.

    • “Take your money – RE owners – while you can.”
      In my view a seller who does this knowingly is a traitor to Australia.. Yet they gloat about how they sold their place to a foreigner for an exhorbitant amount like they won the lottery. Nope, truth is they’re scum… An enabler of criminal activity. Can’t illegally buy what isn’t for sale.

      • All I am saying is that most will sell at the highest price they can get. Let’s change the rules so that only Australian citizens can buy a resale. In fact that is the rule, but it isn’t being policed. Maybe a Aussie passport rule might actually work.

      • Agree with that! The fix is soooo easy yet bozo “let them eat shit” hockey chooses to let rampant crime continue. State titles office has a lot to be desired… It’s so systemic this *sigh*

    • It doesn’t matter how much you sell your house for if you still live here. Our biggest vested interest is in ensuring this is a country worthy of our forebears, and worthy of our children’s future. This is the extent to which the rot has set in. Some might argue we deserve out fate, I would rather we all fight for an alternative future that doesn’t place maintaining the inflated value of our housing stock as our driving objective.

    • They have to stop the boats as boat-people do not have the millions of dollars to buy a house in Sydney or Melbourne.


  22. TailorTrashMEMBER

    So tell me this ……watching the ABC news ….and a graph pops up that says foreigners are pulling out of property in Australia …..No No ..this can not be so ..!!!!…..OH GAWD !!! …….there I was thinking I could sell my brick veneer ,damp ,smelly Sydney PROPERTY / STORE OF WEALTH for enough to fund my travel dreams on the Danube …..tell me I was dreaming …..!!!
    Help I’m confused ……

  23. This is a universal problem. In the apartment complex where I live currently (US midwest), there are a couple of Chinese “students” – one drives a Jag XF and another a Porsche Cayanne. They have 2 apartments, one where they stay and one for their dog and 2 cats.

    • Ha ha! You should see my apartment building 3 blocks from Berkeley University. 20 year old kids driving 4 door Porsches, BMWs, Mercs, all with the factory sticker still on. Some of the apartments run $4k per month in rent.

      No envy here though. As an excellent former boss once said to me, “one of the worst things that can happen to a young man is to have a lot of money”.

      Mark my words… a lot of the little emporer kids in these families will blow the lot in an astonishingly short period of time.

      • That might work. Not sure. What I do know is that there is definitely some very peculiar enthusiasm for latex sex toys happening based on what is being discarded when people move. So you’re probably right; I’ll have to keep an eye out for the local coke dealers.

      • What I do know is that there is definitely some very peculiar enthusiasm for latex sex toys happening based on what is being discarded when people move.

        I assume you mean because silicone toys are superior in terms of natural feel, washability etc, which probably explains why the latex ones get discarded.

  24. Meanwhile, in Germany:

    “Foreign buyers hoover-up new BMW X5s and Miele dishwashers thus cementing Germany’s position as the masters of Europe.”