A new visa system opening the door to international primary-school students and their guardians is boosting interest among Chinese property buyers.
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16 Jun 2016 - 5:36 PM  UPDATED 8 Aug - 5:29 PM

Receiving an Australian education and being near a good school are major drawcards for foreign investors when considering property.

From July 1, students aged six and above would be able to apply for student visas regardless of their country of citizenship - and their guardians can also apply for Guardian visas (subclass 580). 

Currently, the system assesses applications based on immigration risk and most Chinese students are ranked at level three, the highest risk, requiring the most evidence to support applications.

These visa-rule changes, which were announced during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's visit to China in April, also mean non-residents can buy several new properties or one existing property.

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Dave Platter, from the leading Chinese international-property portal Juwai.com said there has been a nearly 20 per cent jump in inquiries for properties in Australia since Mr Turnbull's announcement.

He says the portal does not arrange visas, but offers advice about applying. 

"We're already seeing inquiries about these new visas from Chinese families who want to have their children study here," he said.

While that may increase demand, Mr Platter said it would also result in the construction of new homes.

"In school catchment areas, where there's potential for new development, Chinese interest actually increases the supply of housing by making it possible for developers to build new buildings, and that creates new supply, which can help keep prices down," Mr Platter said.

"The government has done studies on this, and they've found that Chinese buyers actually keep prices down by encouraging new supply."

The visas are valid for two years, and visa holders cannot work, nor apply for different visas while they are in Australia.

This week, New South Wales followed Victoria's lead to introduce stamp-duty and land-tax surcharges that will add about $50,000 to the average purchase price.

The average house price is already at around $1 million.

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No guarantee of permanent property ownership

Immigration lawyer Alex Kaufman stresses the scheme was not a gift to rich foreign investors.

"Anyone who's got an ulterior motive, really, in this space, whether it's property development or otherwise, property acquisition, will very soon find themselves having to deal with a higher level of scrutiny from the Foreign Investment Review Board," he said.

"There are other state measures which are designed to perhaps cool (inhibit) entry."

Mr Kaufman also pointed out that keeping the property permanently would require becoming an Australian citizen.

"It's not a free pass, if you like, or a ticket to property ownership in perpetuity," he said.

"You would necessarily need to convert that to permanent residency or citizenship at some stage in order to hang onto that piece of property."

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Estate agents Vera and Geoffrey Wong have hosted an open home in Sydney's Eastwood.

Most of their clients are either Chinese or South Korean investors, and Mr Wong says when they were choosing a property, there is no doubt their children's education is considered most important.

He said buyers are planning purchases that cater for their children's entire education.

"Schooling ... that is - I can't emphasise it enough - is one of the main factors," he said.

"Our clients, I would say over 70 per cent, (are looking,) at schooling and the university afterwards." 

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