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From its harbour to its air, China is sold on Sydney real estate

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From its harbour to its air, China is sold on Sydney real estate
Real Estate News
Date
December 14, 2013
(1)
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Lucy Macken
Prestige Property Reporter
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Shanghai Luxury Properties Showcase
Domain's Lucy Macken checks out some of the most luxurious real estate from around the world.
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Tiffany Liu, 27, is a Shanghai socialite and marketing executive who wants to buy a house in Sydney by the water and in the coolest neighbourhood. Her budget is between $2 million and $5 million.
Jack Yin is the head of property development company Brandmont, based in Hebei province. He is looking for investment opportunities that could double as a small holiday home for his family and friends. He is coy about his budget.
Ms Liu and Mr Yin were joined this week by about 6000 similarly cashed-up shoppers at the Luxury Properties Showcase in Shanghai to browse some of the world's most expensive homes. Of the 70-odd agencies spruiking real estate, eight were from Australia.
The estimated $20,000-plus cost to Sydney agents to meet and greet potential buyers makes sense when you consider those invited are only a small fraction of China's rapidly growing middle class: 160 million people at present and 320 million by 2022, according to accountancy firm IMA China.
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''This is a great opportunity for Australia but it won't be without its challenges,'' said Michael Clifton, Austrade's senior trade commissioner in Shanghai.
Fuelling the appetite for overseas real estate are the increasingly stringent rules limiting home ownership in China to curb the country's property boom.
Some of the measures include cutting home ownership from two houses to one for each single adult and a 20 per cent capital gains tax on property.
Adam Wu, chief operating officer at China Business Network, was at the showcase to look at investment opportunities on behalf of high-net worth clients and private equity firms.
''It is China's private individuals who are the biggest investors in Australia,'' Dr Wu said. ''Our personal savings are the highest in the world.
''We have private savings worth $US10 trillion and that money needs to be invested somewhere, and the property restrictions to only one house for each family makes Australian property an attractive option.''
The evidence of that spending is everywhere. There are the two highest trophy home sales this year to Chinese buyers, both on the waterfront at Point Piper, of $52 million for Altona and $33.5 million for the Bang & Olufsen house. Then there is the speed at which many of our apartment developments are selling, the latest being a 66-storey tower on Bathurst Street by China's state-owned developer Greenland. Of the 250 apartments that went on sale in the Greenland Centre last weekend, 241 sold that first morning, 95 per cent of those to Chinese buyers, half of them from overseas.
Commercial real estate also has its attractions. This week the Chinese developer QY Group bought a potential development site on Yurong Street, East Sydney, for $11 million, through Knight Frank's Alex Tsaoucis.
Daniel Yong from the Shanghai office of Auton Investment says much of China's foreign investment is about people securing their wealth in a safe, stable environment, with the added benefit of potentially leveraging that investment into an emigration strategy either now or later.
''The government changes the rules all the time and that makes rich people nervous about any new rules governing their money,'' Mr Yong said.
At present, the Chinese government limits foreign currency exchange to $US50,000 a year, although education and medical treatment are two exceptions. The many loopholes mean that limit has not dented China's response to Australia's Significant Investor Visa and its minimum $5 million outlay on complying investments.
There have been 239 applications for the 188 visa, of which only 15 have been approved by the Immigration Department.
The appeal of local education institutions has long helped the real estate market, particularly neighbourhoods that boast some of the best-performing state and private schools, and that traditional market is also expected to grow.
China is the largest source country for foreign students in Australia. Figures show the number of student visa applications rose 22 per cent in the 2012-13 financial year.
Jan Kot, general manager of China's largest real estate search website Juwai.com, said their overseas property searches have consistently ranked Australia as the second most popular country for property searches throughout this year, after the United States.
And then there is China's pollution. Britta Battogtokh, who was last year named Miss Mongolia and is the director of international relations at one of the country's largest construction companies, ECC Construction, said Mongolia's air pollution problem is just as bad as China's during the winter months, November to March.
For Ms Liu, it is not so much about capital return, education, securing her savings in an overseas investment or even the cleaner air. Like her Versace sunnies and designer leather dress, a Sydney pad is just the latest must-have acquisition.
Ms Battogtokh is in Shanghai on behalf of the Mongolian government and a few high net worth clients to look at overseas investment opportunities that will also specifically offer families a place to retreat to from the pollution in winter.
''These investments aren't for emigration purposes. Our pollution problem is so bad, these clients want to send their family away during winter so they don't get sick.''
Lucy Macken flew to Shanghai courtesy of Black Diamondz Property Concierge.
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