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Monday, June 1, 2009

Strong foreign demand for Australian properties

KUALA LUMPUR: Buying interest in Australian properties by Malaysian as well as other foreign investors has been on the rise the past six months and this trend is expected to continue for some time, say real estate agents and developers.

Jalin Realty International Pte Ltd, a real estate agent that specialises in properties abroad, expects a stronger demand for Australian properties this year.

Ian Chen

Chief executive officer Ian Chen said the company was seeing encouraging response for properties Down Under this year, especially from Malaysian investors.

“We are definitely getting a lot of enquiries,” he told StarBiz in an interview before the launch of the Artists apartments promotions here recently.

The Artists apartments, located in Fitzroy, Melbourne, have a gross development value of about A$100mil and is expected to be built by late 2010.

Only 30%, or 50, of the total 173 units are now available and priced from A$600,000 at about A$700 per sq ft. The average size of the two-bedroom apartment is about 860 sq ft.

Chen said because of the good response by Malaysian investors in its previous launch of the Milano Service apartments on Franklin Street, also in Melbourne, last year, the company decided to continue with the promotion of Australian properties here.

He said there were several reasons for the higher uptake in Australian properties.

“Clearly the weaker Aussie dollar against the ringgit is the main factor, which makes Australian residential properties very attractive, especially in this current economic environment when property prices are depressed due to the downturn,” he said.

Chen said there was potentially a 25% upside to the properties in Australia over time and generally properties there had a compounded growth rate of 8% to 10% per annum, depending on the states.

An Australian real estate agent from LJ Hooker said there was stronger buying interest in Australian properties this year.

“The bulk of the foreigners buying Australian properties is from Britain. There is also an increase in interest and purchase of properties from Asian investors, including Malaysians, compared with previous years,” he said, but declined to give numbers.

A spokesman from another Australian property agent said Victoria appeared to attract more foreigners than other states, possibly because of its incentives.

He said that besides federal funding to prop up the property market in Victoria, property buyers in the state would pay a lower stamp if they could choose to buy the land first and pay the full amount when the building was constructed.

On property investors, he said there were mainly four classes – those that buy to invest for capital gain, those that migrate, those that buy for their children to live in and affluent people attracted to a lifestyle of having homes in different countries.

Australian property developer PDG Corp sales manager Charles Vraca said the company was very bullish about properties in Australia, especially Melbourne, going forward.

“Purpose-built properties in choice locations in the inner city with a strong theme should sell well,” he said, adding that developers needed to understand the buying power and needs of the community first before starting construction.

PDG was the developer for the Milano Service and Artists apartments which were 70% sold before their construction.

Vraca said another reason locals and foreigners were attracted to Australian properties was the ease of getting loans to purchase residential homes.

“Generally they can get 70% to 80% financing for their property purchase,” he said.

A local property analyst, who declined to be named, said the Australian government was very supportive of the property market by coming out with a slew of incentives to stem the loss of confidence due to the global economic meltdown.

The Australian government made several interest rates cuts to lower the cost of mortgages for property, pumped in A$10.4bil to prop up the property sector and gave first-home buyers A$21,000 initially to buy their homes and has now extended the programme to June next year.

“There is also a good chance that the amount of assistance for first-home buyers could be significantly increased further,” the analst said.

Moreover, in another positive development, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently announced a whopping A$42bil allocation (in stages) to extend the broadband network reach across the country, which will help support the property sector’s growth.

“All these positive moves done by private sector initiatives in tandem with government funding and support help tremendously to strengthen foreign investors’ confidence in the value of Australian properties,” said the analyst.

By The Star (by Danny Yap)

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