Overseas buyers still a factor in Upper North Shore property market

COVID-19 may have disrupted our local economy, closing borders, restricting travel and changing the way we buy and sell property.

But despite all the changes, overseas buyers remain a constant in the Upper North Shore property market. We look at who’s buying right now and how to market to them.

Two categories of foreign buyers

Overseas buyers tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is expats with Australian citizenship. These buyers often grew up locally, and know and love the Upper North Shore, but now live and work overseas, in areas much harder hit by the coronavirus, such as New York and London, or Asia. They are looking for somewhere to call home when they return to our shores.

The second, and far bigger group is foreign citizens looking to secure a Sydney property with a view to moving into it when restrictions are lifted. These buyers have long found the Upper North Shore to be a desirable area to settle, given its relaxed lifestyle, ample green spaces, great schools and transport connections.

Where foreign buyers come from

Here on the Upper North Shore, Chinese buyers remain a force, with many recent sales going to buyers based in both mainland China and Hong Kong. Interestingly, Domain reported that Chinese buyers made twice as many enquiries on Australian properties in April 2020 than in any previous month this year.

However, Foreign Investor Review Board figures show that the highest number of foreign buyers in Australia are actually now US citizens. Despite topping the list of overseas buyers in 2015-2016, China now ranks number five behind Hong Kong at four.

What are they buying?

In our experience, overseas buyers are usually interested in creating a family home on reasonably sized blocks of land. Often this is one that can accommodate multi-generational living.

Given the restrictions on foreign buyers new properties are in demand, as are knock-down rebuilds.

What’s important is that the property is well located, and close to transport and good schools.

The rules governing foreign ownership

All non-resident foreigners must apply for FIRB approval before they can buy Australian residential property. However, permanent residents and their spouses, as well as New Zealand citizens are exempt from this requirement.

In 2018, the Commonwealth government tightened the laws around overseas buyers acquiring Australian property. Temporary Australian residents can buy any property if they agree to sell it when they leave Australia or become an Australian permanent resident.
Overseas residents are usually limited to purchasing new properties and vacant land – although they may be able to buy an established property if they intend to knock it down and replace it with more than one dwelling.

Foreign companies with a significant local presence can also buy property for their Australian employees to live in but they can’t rent out a property.

How to market to overseas buyers

We’ve been successfully marketing to overseas buyers through a number of channels, including through our website and property portals. We’ve also found that social media has an important role to play in helping us showcase properties and interact with potential buyers based overseas.

WeChat has been an especially effective tool for engaging with Chinese property buyers’. We’ve already had it lead to several impressive sales and we’ll be focusing our marketing efforts on this platform for properties likely to appeal to this important buyer segment.

If you’re interested in buying or selling on the Upper North Shore contact our team today.

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