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QUEENSLAND’S reputation as a safe haven from COVID-19 and global unrest is fuelling a spike in inquiries for property from overseas expats.
International searches for buying property on Realestate.com.au has jumped 22 per cent year-on-year, while local agents are reporting there is strong interest from Queensland expats, especially from Hong Kong.
One Gold Coast real estate agent said the combination of COVID-19 and political instability had been a “call to come home” for many overseas expats.
“They’re mainly long-term residents who have witnessed a lot of change and unease, and just want to come back to Queensland,” sad John Pirie, sales manager at Mantra Realty Broadbeach.
“There is also an element of these expats seeing value in the properties available on the Gold Coast. For example, I’m selling high-end units for about $10,000 a square metre at the moment and I’ve got a client in Hong Kong who told me she had paid $60,000 a square metre.”
Mr Pirie said the number of properties being sold “sight unseen” had also increased.
“Buyers are very educated now, and measures such as online videos allow them to do virtual inspections from the safety of their own homes, rather than travel to see them first-hand,” he said.
“While most of my business is in south-east Asia, I’ve been contacted by expats in the US who want to come home because they see Queensland as a safe destination.”
Realestate.com.au chief economist Nerida Conisbee said there was strong anecdotal evidence many expats were re-evaluating their circumstances due to the coronavirus, and the low Australian dollar and record low interest rates proved an attractive value proposition.
“It makes sense given how we’ve been impacted by COVID-19, it’s pretty light on,” Ms Conisbee said.
“That means our economic recovery will be quicker. Also, the dollar is fairly weak, which makes Australian property more attractive.”
Ms Conisbee said the majority of people searching for property in Queensland were based in New Zealand, the UK, the US and Hong Kong.
She said beach locations Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast and Noosa on the Sunshine Coast were the most in-demand among overseas buyers.
“Brisbane doesn’t see a lot of overseas searches,” Ms Conisbee said. “When people think of Queensland, they think of the beaches.”
Tom Offermann, principal of Tom Offermann Real Estate, who sells prestige property in Noosa, said about 5 per cent of his buyers were from overseas, mostly Asian expats.
“While the percentage is low, expat buyers typically have larger budgets and have made quite an impact to the value of prestige property,” Mr Offermann said.
“Recent events in Hong Kong are likely to drive more expats to invest back home.”
Place Estate Agents managing director Sarah Hackett said a growing number of Hong Kong buyers were looking to diversify their portfolios and secure a home now for when they eventually returned to Brisbane.
“I’m excited about (Brisbane’s) top-end market and what is to come,” Mrs Hackett said.
“We are currently working with a number of buyer’s agents in Hong Kong to help secure opportunities.”
Josh Cross of LJ Hooker Brisbane City Residential said he had been inundated with inquiries from expats since COVID-19 struck.
Mr Cross said he had shown a number of Hong Kong expats through some of his high-end rentals, with many prepared to pay up to $1500 a week for an apartment.
“I’m also actively finding a home for a couple and their daughter returning from New York who can’t wait to get home,” Mr Cross said.
“COVID and political unrest are making them eager to come back. School catchments are important to them and I find they’re looking towards Bowen Hills, Spring Hill, West End.
“Before COVID, it was all Melbourne buyers, which is still happening as well.
“I’ve spoken to probably 20 people in the last week from Melbourne saying; ‘We’re selling, we’re done, we’re moving to Queensland.”
His client Sandy McFadden has just bought a unit in New Farm after living in San Francisco on and off for more than 20 years.
Ms McFadden said she had been toying with the idea of investing in Brisbane and returning to the US in March, but decided to stay.
“I have to say I am very, very pleased to be here during this period because Brisbane’s an amazing city,” Ms McFadden said.
“My mother lives in Hervey Bay so I’ve been coming back and forth to Queensland for a very long time.
“Things started getting crazy in the San Francisco Bay area, both politically and environmentally, so I’m very glad I’m here.”
Ms McFadden said the only reason she could afford to buy a property in New Farm was because of the weak Australian dollar.
Her only challenge has been finding work in her field of architecture, engineering and construction.
QLD’S 10 MOST SEARCHED SUBURBS FOR PROPERTY BY OVERSEAS BUYERS
1. Brisbane City
2. Surfers Paradise
3. Noosa Heads
5. Burleigh Heads
8. Coolum Beach
10. New Farm
THE TOP COUNTRIES SEARCHING FOR PROPERTY IN QLD
1. New Zealand
2. United Kingdom
3. United States
4. Hong Kong/China
QLD’S 10 MOST SEARCHED DEVELOPMENTS BY OVERSEAS BUYERS
1. Queen’s Wharf Residences, Brisbane CBD
2. Brisbane 1 South Brisbane, South Brisbane
3. Lot 923 Astor Street, Newport
4. 21 Ironbark Ave, Park Ridge
5. Halo, South Brisbane
6. Magnoli Apartments, Palm Beach
7. 1/47 Lysaght Drive, Pimpama
8. 116 Brookbent Road, Pallara
9. Natura, Burleigh Heads
10. 14 Tranquillity Way, Palm View