Majority of Chinese property investors buying homes with cash


Australian banks may have restricted borrowings to international property investors, but that has hardly proven an obstacle to foreign buyers.

The Foreign Investment Review Board said Chinese property buyers spent more than $24 billion on Australian real estate in the 2014/15 financial year, making the group the largest source of foreign purchasers.

The CEO of Crown, one of Australia's biggest residential developers, said foreign interest in the Australian market isn't waning.

"Foreign demand is still constant, we're seeing into the new job that we're launching, we're seeing the number of foreign buyers is constantly the same," Iwan Sunito said.

Mr Sunito added that 30 per cent of the company's sales have been to foreign buyers.

"That is a policy that is adopted by Crown group and the banks are insisting that certain amounts of numbers need to be met for funding requirement.

In terms of international buyers, there is no doubt that the biggest numbers are from China, second is Indonesia, thirdly is Singapore for us," he said.

Chinese investors are looking to diversify their own portfolios with international property becoming an increasingly attractive as they are being priced out of their own exorbitant real estate market.

The average price for a new home in China's 70 major cities rose by more than 9 per cent since last year, but in some places like Shenzhen, prices have risen by as much as 37 per cent.

Chinese international property investment website attracts 2 million unique visitors every month.

"Forty per cent of those are looking at the US, so that is our biggest market, Australia is not far behind (at) around 35 per cent but ... Canada, the UK, certain parts of Europe, Dubai, there are a number of countries in between as well," CEO of Charles Pittar said.

"We've seen an increase, certainly the trend over the last few years has been increasing, and in the last 12 months, we've seen an increase of around 15 per cent of inquiries into Australia."

Melbourne is searched the most, followed by Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.

Mr Pittar said buyers were not always looking for the premium end of the market.

"Most popular (search) is (between) US$500,000 and US$1.5 million, that's 70 per cent of our audience, which I think is interesting because I think there is a perception in Australia which is (that) the Chinese coming into Australia (are) buying super, super expensive properties. It's not really the case."

And the majority of homes being sold are for the buyer's children.

"Roughly 50 per cent of inquiries we get globally are connected with education, so it's a long term-trend.

"This is something that culturally, the Chinese do want: their kids (being) educated internationally. Yes, they want their kids to come back to China with that Western education and the Western connections, but it's a very long term trend."

Mr Pittar also said they were not always reliant on financing to purchase those homes.

"Seventy per cent of the audience that we deal with are paying in cash. So they've saved over one generation, a significant amount of cash, so realistically they're not looking for financing."

Mr Sunito has also found that many of Crown's clients do not rely as heavily on banks.

"The book value of bank lending to offshore buyers is one to three per cent, so it's actually quite tiny. The foreign buyers have always had access to international banks, global banks and their own local banks. When it comes to cash buyers, typically we had about 15 to 20 per cent pay cash, the rest could pay cash if they need to."

And Bloomberg China's Chief Economist Tom Orlik believes China's economy will be able to sustain those purchases.

"We had a lot of stimulus from the end of 2015 and early 2016 that's now passing through to the economy. Based on our estimates growth ... the start of the third quarter is comfortably inside the government's 6.5 to 7 per cent range. Of course there are challenges like credit risks, over building.

"We are going to see bumps along the way, periods where we see larger outflows, periods of smaller outflows, but the general trend is going to be more capital going out of China into the rest of Asia; into Australia; into the rest of the world," Mr Orlik said.

Mr Sunito also urged Australians not to fear foreign investment.

"It's important for us to keep sending a message to foreign buyers because we spend a lot of money to bring them here: 'Come on, study here, come and invest here, come and invest in a house'. The next step is invest in a business, it is important for us to send a message of more red carpet, rather than red tape."

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