Chinese Pass U.S. as Biggest Australia Property Investors

Chinese buyers have overtaken Americans to become the biggest investors in Australian property, drawn by the nation’s strengthening housing market, as their government tightens rules on buying at home.

Chinese investment in Australian residential and commercial real estate surged 42 percent to A$5.9 billion ($5.3 billion), compared with an 85 percent slump to A$4.4 billion in purchases by U.S. buyers, according to an annual investment update from the Foreign Investment Review Board on its website.

Home prices in Sydney and Melbourne, the most popular cities for Chinese property investors, rose 13.4 percent and 11.9 percent respectively in the year ended Jan. 31, according to the RP Data Home Value Index. Chinese buyers are flocking to overseas markets to escape government measures to rein in escalating home prices, including restrictions on buying more than one home and higher capital gains taxes.

“Chinese buyers are a rising tide,” said Andrew Wilson, senior economist at Sydney-based real estate data company Australian Property Monitors. “We’ll continue to see a lift in Chinese investment into this country as the Australian dollar continues to fall and as residential property continues to strengthen.”

At least 10 Chinese cities, many of them provincial capitals, have tightened local property prices since November, with population centers such as Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou raising the minimum down payments on second homes to 70 percent from 60 percent.

Investment Weakens

Overseas investment in the Australian housing market fell to A$17.2 billion from A$19.7 billion a year earlier. In commercial real estate, it slid 12 percent to A$34.8 billion. The report doesn’t break down investment in residential and commercial property by country.

Total foreign investment in Australia fell to A$135.7 billion in the 12 months ending June 30, from A$170 billion a year earlier, the FIRB report showed. The real estate and mineral exploration and development industries were the biggest recipients of foreign investment, accounting for 35 percent and 30 percent respectively, the data showed.

The U.S. remained the biggest investor in Australia, pumping A$20.6 billion into the country, with about a third of that going into services, according to the report.

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