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Investors eye Aussie property safe-haven

Updated: 2014-03-04 11:32
( Xinhua)
SYDNEY -- The consistency in Australian property has begun to shore-up the relative dearth in mining investment as foreign buyers doubled their injection of capital into residential property, according to the latest figures from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

While the global financial crisis (GFC) curdled global property confidence, Australia's powerhouse property market reaped the benefits with overseas investment rising more than sevenfold during the global financial downturn.

Anxiety over Australia's need to transition from a two-speed economy driven by mining and resource investment appeared to have been confirmed with the FIRB revealing mining investment slipped 12.6 percent between 2012 and 2013, so the latest FIRB data will go far to assuage what sectors can take up the strain.

The FIRB data shows total foreign investment (FI) in Australia plummeted 20.5 percent to A$135.7 billion($121 billion) in 2012-2013, while property investment surged.

The FIRB says that offshore and foreign buyers, rather than withdrawing from the Australian market, broke records in purchasing 5,091 established homes worth A$5.5 billion($4.9 billion) last financial year, compared with just 647 properties worth A$810 million ($723 million) in 2009-10.

Off the plan new apartments and homes worth A$2.9 billion($2.58 billion) -- doubling the previous recorded data three years earlier were sold to offshore investors last financial year, with a Canberra-based Director of Sunrise Property Group Richard Grainger telling Xinhua that Australian property was just about on par with gold as a global safe haven.

"The FIRB data suggests that the established home sales were in Melbourne and Sydney, where predominately sophisticated and well- informed Chinese buyers have been targeting properties close to major capital (Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth CBD's) and on Sydney's inner west and northern shores.

"It's such a solid, reliable, high-return investment that provides a tactile, joyful return, beyond dollars that Chinese buyers invested almost A$6 billion ($5.36 billion) over the last financial year. Its hard to argue with that level of confidence." Grainger said.

The release of the long-awaited FIRB data on foreign investment provides a revealing insight into the diversion of foreign capital into the local property market, as well as the relative failure of local developers to grasp the momentum.

While foreign investment turned to purchasing vacant land (doubling in 2012 - 2013 to A$1.4 billion) barely 50 new property projects -- estimated to be valued at A$5.7 billion ($5.09 billion), were given FIRB approval to be sold directly to foreign buyers off the plan -- half the value approved the previous year.

In fact, overall investment in real estate dropped surprising 12 percent last year, to A$34.8 billion ($31 billion) for commercial property and A$17.2 billion ($15.3 billion) for residential.

Richard Grainger said despite limitations on foreign buyers directed investors to buy off the plan -- without regulatory hindrance -- but can only purchase established housing "if they are temporary residents, use it to house Australian-based staff or plan to demolish a home for redevelopment."

Speaking to News Limited, Colliers International's Asian director of investment sales, Steam Leung, suggested China's restrictions to owning more than one investment property was drawing attention to Australian real estate, while the lack of options in developments was highlighting including vacant land.

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