Foreign investment at record level in Queensland

While Australians have put buying property on the back burner as global commodities markets stabilise, foreigners have ploughed a record $621 million into Queensland's residential property market during the 2007/08 financial year.

Latest research by Colliers International has revealed a massive 1,495 residential property transactions were recorded to international purchasers in Queensland, with $383.5 million or 63 percent for investment purposes and the remaining $237.2 million or 37 percent for owner occupation by foreigners.

Colliers International Gold Coast research manager Lynda Campbell, who has been monitoring the transactions annually since 1990/91, said this is the largest foreign investment figure ever recorded in Queensland.

"This period's findings have exceeded the previous high by $120 million, which was during the 1997/98 financial year when it stood at $501 million," she said.

"Those hailing from the United Kingdom have remained the most active residential property buyers among foreign investors, accounting for 17 percent of sales with a combined spend of almost $106.4 million.

"UK buyers edged ahead of those from New Zealand, which represented 13 percent of sales or $83.9 million."

The other top spenders were Singapore ($51.1 million), China ($50.9 million), South Africa ($42.7 million), Russian Federation ($41.5 million), Korea ($28.6 million), United States ($26.4 million), Japan ($23.5 million) and Malaysia ($22.1 million).

Other foreigners, from 60 different countries, ploughed $143.4 million into Queensland's property market.

Ms Campbell said of the $620.8 million spent in Queensland, about 48 percent was spent on the Gold Coast in 525 transactions. The Gold Coast has been the number one local authority since Colliers International began monitoring this data.

"Once again the Gold Coast has retained its place among foreign investors as the darling of Queensland's residential property market with spending reaching $297.3 million, an increase of $28.1 million over the previous year," she said.

"Of that, Singaporeans have emerged as the biggest spenders splashing out $43.2 million, followed by the Russian Federation with $41.4 million and New Zealand with $33.6 million.

"Although the Russians have fallen from the number one mantle this year they still spent more this period, with just $35.2 million invested in the 2006/07 financial year and $41.4 million during 2007/08."

Brisbane came in second as the preferred local authority capturing $117.6 million of the total spend, followed by the Sunshine Coast with $54.2 million.

Other local authorities in the top 10 were Cairns ($32.3 million), Moreton Bay ($28.8 million), Logan ($14.3 million), Gladstone ($9.8 million), Ipswich ($9.8 million), Townsville ($8.4 million) and Redland ($7.9 million).  26 other local authorities accounted for $40.2 million in sales.

Colliers International Gold Coast director of project marketing, Brinton Keath, said the Gold Coast was a favoured destination for foreigners with year round sunshine, attractive lifestyle opportunities and with two international airports – Brisbane and the Gold Coast – making it easily accessible both domestically and internationally.

"The rate of stamp duty in Queensland is also lower than most of Australia's other states and territories and is calculated using a sliding scale," he said.

"One of the first steps for foreigners to buy Australian property, be it residential real estate, built commercial property valued at $AUD50 million or more vacant land, is to secure approval from the Federal Government's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

"FIRB approval is most commonly granted to internationals looking to purchase property off-the-plan or apartments in new developments.

"However, it is rarely granted to those seeking to acquire residential property that has been previously owned or occupied.

"That said, there are several developments on the Gold Coast though which have Integrated Tourist Resort status, such as Hope Island Resort, Sanctuary Cove and Royal Pines Resort, where homes in those communities have automatic FIRB approval.

"This is something experienced real estate agencies, like Colliers International, can advise on further and assist with during transactions."