There are two top issues at the moment for Chinese property buyers in Australia that have been highlighted by the global Juwai network. We hear what they are as we catch up with Dave Platter from Juwai.
Kevin: We seem to be continually talking about the impacts on the Australian market and a lot of people, probably unfairly, align activity coming from overseas, particularly Chinese investors. But there are two top issues at the moment for Chinese property buyers in Australia that have been highlighted by the global Juwai network. Joining me now, global spokesperson for that website, Dave Platter.
Hi, Dave. You’re obviously getting a bit of feedback about what’s concerning Chinese property buyers in Australia right now. What are they?
Dave: Hey, Kevin. Thanks so much for having me on. Yes, at Juwai.com, we have a customer service center up in Shanghai and talk to customers all the time. It’s not just web forms, but people on the phone, on WeChat.
There’s a lot of new red tape, new taxes and regulations in Australia that are confusing them and causing them to ask a lot of questions. Something new is the vacancy tax proposed in the federal Budget.
Kevin: So, they’re concerned about these issues. I want to dig a little bit deeper into the two issues too, but is there any indication that these two issues are stopping them from investing in Australia?
Dave: We haven’t seen that yet. We expect investment in 2017 to be lower than 2016, but 2016 was an all-time record. It was the highest amount of Chinese property investment ever seen in Australia. It was something like $32 billion of approved real estate investment. That’s the official stats from the FIRB.
So, we expect it to be lower than that. But the first quarter was already on par with 2015’s first quarter, and in its time, 2015 was a record year as well, with something like $24 billion of investment. I think it might be around there.
Kevin: You mentioned there about the vacancy tax proposed by the federal Budget. How many Chinese buyers would that actually impact? How many are not planning to occupy?
Dave: It would hardly impact anyone as far as we can see. Most Chinese investors who are buying property for investment, just like probably most of Australian investors, they need to rent out that property in order to get the income stream. They can’t just buy an investment property and leave it empty.
About one-third of Chinese buyers are buying for investment, with the others buying mostly for their own occupation. And of that one-third, it must be a miniscule percentage who would actually leave their investment property empty.
Kevin: What is the second issue that’s concerning them, Dave?
Dave: Another issue would be the new levies proposed by New South Wales. You know, this just came out as well on the news, that New South Wales wants to [2:48 inaudible] Chinese buyers with some extra [2:50 inaudible]. And they’re hoping that they might be able to somehow benefit first-time buyers from this.
Kevin: Do Chinese buyers see this as a bit of an insult? Is this what they’re questioning?
Dave: When you’re buying in another country, you expect there to be local regulations and taxes that you have to comply with, and you just have to get to know what those are, so you ask a lot of questions. But on the whole, they don’t take it personally because it’s not just Chinese buyers who have to pay these things; it’s all buyers.
Kevin: When you do your research, do you try to gauge… Well, you obviously do because you indicated to me that you felt that investment this year was going to be lower than 2016. What is the level of investment in Australia by Chinese investors?
Dave: Last year, in the last financial year, it was $32 billion, and the one before that, it was about $24 billion.
Kevin: And this year, you’re predicting that it’ll actually be lower than that?
Dave: I wouldn’t want to put a hard number on it, but we think it’ll be lower than the most recent year and closer to the prior year, yes.
Kevin: Just your view now, as an individual – I know you’re a spokesperson for Juwai – do you believe that the impost by the federal government on particularly foreign buyers is fair?
Dave: If you’re talking about the vacancy tax, it strikes me as a perfect example of bad policy. First of all, it’s been tried in other places, like in Vancouver, and they just don’t know how to enforce it. There’s no way to find out who has left their property vacant.
For example, the data that we have here in Australia, some academics did research and they decided that 50 liters a day of water usage was the minimum that the typical person would have and therefore if you use less than 50, the property was vacant. Most of the properties they found vacant were in the inner city, but if you think about someone living in inner city in a small apartment, using a laundry down the hall, showering at the gym once in a while, it’s easy to come in under 50 liters a day.
Kevin: I guess the same criticism could be leveled and has been in the past at those who have large homes and leaving anything up to 60% or 70% of the home largely vacant when it could be let out – the empty room story in Australia.
Dave: Absolutely, yes, I know what you mean. Does everyone who has worked hard and raised their kids and is now living in empty nests, do they all have to take in roommates? I don’t think so. I think what’s driving the market right now seems to be low interest rates, so affordable loans over the long term, and just a shortage of supply compared to population growth.
Kevin: I appreciate you joining us today, Dave. Dave is from the global website Juwai. I appreciate your time. Thanks, mate.
Dave: Thank you, Kevin.