Australia remains the top destination for Chinese property investors amid an expected rebound in travel from the world’s second largest economy.

That’s according to data from international real estate group Juwai IQI, which analysed buyer enquiries received through the first six months of 2023.

Other top investment destinations for Chinese property buyers include Canada and the United Kingdom, despite foreign investment being banned in the former.

“The most popular destinations are all the traditional, wealthy Anglo countries with world-leading educational sectors,” Juwai IQI co-founder and CEO Kashif Ansari said.

Meanwhile, consumers from China have been stashing plenty of cash, accumulating US$3.6 trillion (around AUD $5.3 trillion) of savings in the first nine months of 2022 alone.

“Even with China’s slower economic growth in 2023, the country is adding more households to the upper-middle and high-income classes than any other,” Mr Ansari said.

“Logically, Chinese demand for international real estate will also increase proportionately.”

People who don’t hold Australian citizenship or permanent residences have to apply for approval to purchase property in the country.

Chinese buyers have led the way when it comes to foreign investment in Australian real estate in recent years.

Around $700 million worth of residential real estate proposals from Chinese buyers were approved in the first three months of 2023, according to Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) figures.

Looking further back, Chinese buyers were behind $2.4 billion of the total $4.2 billion of approved residential real estate purchases by foreigners from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

The clear majority of properties purchased were new dwellings or vacant land.

Meanwhile, more than 70,000 Chinese expats are expected to move to Australia between 2023 and 2025, making up around 7% of forecast migration.

It follows a period of negative migration of Chinese nationals recorded in 2020 – the most recent figures available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Could foreign investment help lessen the housing crisis?

Some claim foreign investment could worsen the crisis by driving up demand for housing, and in turn, property prices.

However, the crisis is also a result of a supply crunch. And foreign buyers could help alleviate that - particularly in the rental market.

“Changing our foreign investment policy does portray an action item in the face of housing crisis, but it also comes with some potential consequences that is currently a contributor to the housing crisis: Supply,” PRD chief economist Diaswati Mardiasmo told Savings.com.au.

“Foreign investment is limited to new products and so they contribute to supply in two ways.

Firstly, when it comes to the rental market, foreign investors can increase supply.

“As non-residents they do not occupy the property, they lease it out to local renters," Dr Mardiasmo said.

“A decline in foreign investment could equal a decline in available rental properties, and we all know we are in a rental crisis at the moment.”

Secondly, foreign buyers can play a key role in allowing the construction of large projects.

“Many big residential or mixed-use projects require lenders signing off their loans, in which lenders require a certain percentage being achieved at pre-sale,” she said.

“Foreign investment makes up a portion of this pre-sale percentage. If the percentage is not reached the lender doesn’t sign off, the development does not go ahead.

"There goes housing supply for local buyers and investors.

“All in all, we need better data, better information, to determine what percentage does foreign investment feature in the new developments, and how many developments would not go ahead if foreign investment was not part of the pre-sale figures?

“This will give us better information and thus more informed decision making."


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