Chinese prefer Melbourne to Sydney

China property

Chinese investors prefer Melbourne over Sydney and there’s been a huge spike in interest in Australian property generally, according to a survey of Mandarin speakers looking to buy in Australia.

A report, “Top Destinations for Chinese Buyers” by the No. 1 Chinese international property website, released exclusively to Fairfax Media, shows the scale of Chinese investment around the world.

It says 63 million Chinese have sufficient wealth to buy international property, including 2.8 million very rich individuals. More than 60 per cent are already engaged in overseas investment, immigration or education. Chinese buyers spent $US50 billion on overseas real estate last year.

ChinaThis house in Hopetoun Road, Toorak, sold to a Chinese investor for $14 million.

The top five countries ranked by activity on are the US, Australia, Britain, Singapore and Canada.


The report names 118 destinations in 36 countries where Chinese are searching for property online.

The revival of Kevin Rudd as prime minister and the “plummeting” dollar have been offered as reasons for a surge in Australian property searches on the internet in the past month.

During the past six months, Melbourne had the most hits, Sydney was second, the Gold Coast third, Brisbane fourth and Perth five.

Andrew Taylor, 42, who set up 18 months ago with fellow Queenslander Simon Henry, 43, said: “The big interventions have been the Aussie dollar plummeting and also Kevin Rudd . . . 24 hours after he was sworn in we noticed a huge surge in Australian page views.”

The Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister was hugely popular, Mr Taylor said.

The impact of the $5 million Significant Investment Visa, introduced last year, had everyone “everyone scratching their heads” because only a small number had been issued, despite 500 people expressing interest. Bureaucratic red tape has been blamed. But Mr Taylor said: “For marketing Australia, this visa’s been fantastic.”

Sydney property agents expressed shock, then disbelief that Chinese buyers appeared to be more interested in Melbourne than Sydney.

“Melbourne’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there and I think the Chinese feel the same way, said Richardson & Wrench Mosman principal Stephen Patrick. “Most of the Chinese want a water view and Sydney obviously wins there.”

One in five of his clients were Chinese investors, he said, compared with “one a year” 20 years ago.

A couple of “big Asian heavy hitters” were looking to buy the $20 million waterfront block in Cremorne owned by property developer Bob Ell. Mr Patrick said he thought the Juwai findings could reflect the fact that Melbourne was cheaper than Sydney and offered more new developments, which were easier for Chinese investors to buy.

But Melbourne agent Tim Fletcher, principal of Fletchers, said Chinese investors recognised the city’s superior lifestyle. “This isn’t a Sydney-Melbourne thing. It’s what I hear from them. We’ve got a more relaxed lifestyle,” Mr Fletcher said.

He said wealthy Chinese investors were buying big homes in Balwyn and Kew so their children could be near good schools.

Malcolm McCulloch, of Belle Property Killara on Sydney’s upper north shore, said Chinese buyers also liked the schools there. “A lot have businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong and China and spend half the year here,” he said. “Killara High is particularly popular with the Chinese market.”

Melbourne buyers agent David Morrell was quoted recently as saying the supposed influx of Chinese investors was the “biggest con” and that they were “nowhere to be seen”. On Friday he clarified this by saying: “You do see them around but they never do anything”.

But at an auction late last year he had seen a Toorak house go to a 19-year-old man who, he had heard, was on a student visa. “It was unusual – must have been dad’s money,” he said. And he phoned later to advise that a house in Hopetoun Road, Toorak, had sold to a Chinese buyer for $14 million on April 3. Other sources confirmed the home sold to a Chinese investor from mainland China.

Karin Mackay, of Australian Property Buyers, says Chinese investors refuse to pay for buyer agent services. “But if I go to an auction and they’re bidding, I tell my clients ‘I don’t think we’ll buy today’. They’ve got unlimited funds.”

Sothebys principal Michael Pallier said he was showing 10 Chinese investors through homes in the eastern suburbs this week. “They were staying at the casino and they were looking at farms in the Hunter Valley, too.

“And this week I sold a house in Rose Bay to a Chinese lady for just under $4 million. Her daughter’s going to school here, so that’s why she wanted the house.”

The biggest sale this year was that of Altona in Point Piper in March for $54 million to Xiuzhen Ding, 75, a China-born Melbourne resident and sole director of Chaimovich Investments. There’s been speculation that Mr Ding is a front for an offshore Chinese buyer.

Another Point Piper home, which Elton John named the Bang & Olufsen house, sold to Chinese millionaire Qiu Yafu for $33 million in April. Last year he also bought Australia’s largest cotton farm, Cubbie Station, in Queensland. “If you go to the price point just below that, there are certainly more Chinese in the market this year and they are buying,” said prestige agent Ken Jacobs of Christies.


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