The Russian bear invades Australia’s Gold Coast

Australia's popular Gold Coast is undergoing a transformation of the Russian kind. The latest sales data shows the Russians are the biggest foreign buyers in the area.

With them they are bringing their luxury yachts and exacting demands. They don't just want a water frontage but a bathroom for each bedroom and a luxury purchase for their expensive lifestyles.

Russian investors are flush with funds from oil and gas and slightly fed up with Europe. In particular the seriously rich want to steer away from the headlines and negative publicity surrounding recent activities in resorts like Courcheval. So going 'down under' is their latest escape.

Sales figures from Queensland's Natural Resources Department sales data complied by property companies DTZ and Colliers International show that Russian nationals purchased $36million worth of Gold Coast properties in 2006-2007. That is compared with $12 million spent on real estate along the tourist strip by Russians in each of the years 2005-06 and 2004-05, with negligible investment in the early 2000s.

Expectations are that there is plenty more Russian money on the way. Up-market Gold Coast estates such as Sovereign Islands are catching their eye.

Colliers agent John Ashworth is currently negotiating with a Moscow family with printing business interests over a $5million mansion sale. 'They want five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom,' he says. 'It's all about lifestyle. Then of course they want a water frontage.'

'About 25 per cent of my customers are Russian,' says Russian born Elena Shakirova who works for First National Real Estate on the Gold Coast. 'What appeals to them most is the weather and the easygoing lifestyle here. In Russia you seem to work all the time and you're tired all the time. Here you can relax more.'

DTZ project market director Paul Barnett is enthusiastic about the Russians. 'These are lifestyle-driven people from a drab environment with enormous amounts of money they want to invest in large chunks. They flit around the world picking out prime real estate in attractive places like the Spanish Mediterranean coast or here on the Gold Coast.'

Irina and Victor Drozg moved from icy Vladivostock to the Gold Coast. 'It could be minus 25C where we used to live. Here, the climate and the beaches and everything is so beautiful,' said Irina. The couple live in a luxury apartment on Ephraim Island, across the water from the Sovereign Islands.