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Australia continues to put money into housing. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows in June this year, property investment rose 2 point 8 per cent - it's now worth more than 32 billion dollars. With record low interest rates, demand for new and established dwellings from investors and first home buyers continues. Does your cultural background affect how you see this investment?
By
Cho-wai Cheung / SBS Cantonese Radio

15 Oct 2015 - 11:26 AM  UPDATED 8 Apr 2021 - 3:34 PM

German born architect Chris Bosse is the designer of the 2008 Beijing Olympics' iconic 'Water Cube' Aquatics Centre.  He's now living in Sydney, having moved there ten years ago. While house-hunting, he was initially stunned at Sydney's sky-high property prices.

"When I arrived ten years ago ten years ago, I was in complete shock that a house in Bondi would cost one million dollars. The building substance, like a derelict 1930's brick bungalow, could never worth one million. But what I didn't realise was that the house wasn't actually worth anything the location was worth a lot."
 
Chris Bosse finally bought his home last year. He says it's an investment many Germans wouldn't even consider. Despite having the European Union's largest country population, it has the region's lowest home ownership rates, at 52 point 6 per cent in 2013. Switzerland is the lowest at 44 per cent.
 
And many Germans are happy renting. A 2004 OECD survey shows 93 per cent of German respondents are satisfied with their housing situation.

Chris Bosse says Germany's regulations are renter-friendly; they keep rents low and tenants happy.  

"Well generally you could say that renters are much more protected. For example, if you own a house and you want to get rid of your tenants, then you can only get rid of your tenants if you want to move in yourself."

Germany's low homeownership rate is in sharp contrast to Australia's.  The 2011 census showed Australian homeownership at 67 per cent.  For an Italian perspective, we head to Dee Why in Sydney's northern beaches.

Local First National Real Estate Managing Director John Caputo says post World War II migrants highly value home ownership.
 
"The Italians like to buy homes for themselves, they like brick and mortar. They will then buy a second home for an investment, a third home for investment and also to look after their children so their children, that when they'll get married, they'll have a home. The next investment will be commercial, industrial and the next one would be farming, acreages but not shares. The Italians are not that interested in shares."
 
Mr Caputo says while Italians invest in the share market, most invest in properties.

"Well I think the reason is that they feel secure with brick and mortar. They like to see something that they invest  in."

Greek investors also have a preference for property. University of Sydney Chair of Modern Greek Studies Professor Vrasidas Karalis says many Greeks first invest in a family home, then in a time-share* where they can spend summer holidays. Professor Karalis says Greek parents often gift properties to their children at weddings.

"One of the main traditions of the Greek family is the parents or the grandparents bought the house and the house goes from generation to generation especially either to the first-born or to the last-born. Always it has to be inherited from the older generation to the younger one."

Professor Karalis says in the past, small businesses favoured among the Greek community.

"But that stopped in the 90s, when the country develops its capitalist economy and it was impossible for small businesses to compete with big supermarket chains or bigger businesses which came from outside of the country to invest in Greece."

Australian Arab Business Council President Hassan Moussa believes owning a home is the second highest priority for the Australian-Arabic community, after children's education.

Investing in a business comes third. Mr Moussa says regardless of their country of origin, most Arabic speakers see property as a good investment.  However, religious beliefs can play a role when investing.

"There are obviously some issues to deal with people who might observe the Islamic religion, who might be strict in their application of the Islamic religion, and prefer not to have any investment that attracts any interest payment."

However home loans has become a necessary part of the purchasing process.

"Most people have come to the realization that it's impossible to get a property at this stage without procuring some sort of loan"

In Asian cultures, investment preferences vary. A century ago land ownership was valued due to agriculture being the dominant force behind the economy. Traditionally, in Vietnam and China, investing in gold or jewelry was the preferred way to ensure against inflation and political turmoil.  

Western Sydney University Associate Professor in Properties Dr Chyi Lin Lee says investors are now active in a range of assets.

"Well obviously, there are several different asset class investors can consider and will consider them in their portfolio, like share, stock market, housing market or bonds market , or put it as a term deposit. But, say, from the Asian perspective, I'll like to say, housing market is an important asset for them, it's a top one, not just for investment, but for the shelter perspective as well as it's a consumption goods for them."

Dr Lee says investing in property reflects a desire to provide for the family unit.

"In Asian culture, buy a house, own a house is something very important. They see this as a priority, even before they form their families. It provides security for the family as well."