People from Hong Kong pushed to breaking point by China’s strengthening grip on the former British territory are increasingly seeking out Australia as a potential new home, new data reveals.
Amid the introduction of a draconian new security law by Beijing, and the Morrison Government’s offer of Australian work rights with a path to citizenship for residents in the territory, interest in Aussie property from Hong Kong has spiked.
The political unrest, which dramatically escalated in June last year, boosted interest in Australian real estate by as much as 34 per cent year-on-year, on Australia’s leading property platform realestate.com.au.
Due to the latest developments, search activity from Hong Kong has peaked by as much as double that again.
Interest in property in Victoria has lifted by 25 per cent, year-on-year. In NSW over the same time frame it has grown by 36 per cent, in Queensland by 38 per cent and in Adelaide by 65 per cent.
Unusual search activity
“This basically began 12 months ago when we started to see the riots in Hong Kong and since then things have gone from bad to worse for a lot of people and then we have had COVID-19. So, that search activity keeps going up,” said REA chief economist Nerida Conisbee.
“It is a very unsettled economic and political situation. The data tells us that a lot of people there are looking to move and a lot of ex-pats are looking to come home.”
Search activity from Hong Kong is characterised by notable differences from other overseas locations.
“The price point they are looking at is around $1 million and above whereas the more typical price point we get from overseas is lower at $750,000,” Ms Conisbee said.
“That could be due to the extreme pricing of property in Hong Kong.”
Australia as a safe haven
Sebastian James, a buyer’s agent with Hunter James, is witnessing this search interest translate into on-the-ground transactions.
“We’ve definitely seen a larger than normal level of inquiry from Hong Kong buyers and expats in general this year – with many citing global uncertainty as a primary reason,” he said. “There has definitely been a lot of concern on the impacts of security and privacy whilst others are just looking at Sydney as a safe haven for their money.”
Doncaster, Doncaster East and Melbourne are the most-favoured Victorian suburbs for those searching from Hong Kong.
In NSW, it is Sydney, Chatswood and Epping. In Queensland; the Gold Coast, Indooroopilly and Brisbane City are high on buyers wishlists.
And in South Australia, Adelaide, North Adelaide and Norwood lead the way.
Ericka Wong, property partner with The Agency in Melbourne focuses on the above suburbs in her role as a seller’s agent.
“On the ground late last year I was meeting lots of people at those four particular suburbs [including Balwyn] at the opens that were from Hong Kong and had come to Australia to specifically look at real estate,” she said.
“This time around we are in lockdown but we continue to get lot of inquiries.
“We have always seen a lot of activity in these areas that are attractive to people from Hong Kong or even mainland China.
“It’s close to the city, they are areas that have traditionally appealed to the Asian demographic and the schools there are very good which seems to come at a premium.
“There is a lot of investment interest and given Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, their real estate prices over there are crazy for cramped, high density apartments.
“For what they pay for tiny living quarters over there they can get a house with land here so in many ways it is a lifestyle move as well.”
We are marketing to Hong Kong
Australian property has emerged as a safe investment over several decades and that is even more so the case during this global pandemic.
“The other thing that is happening alongside high levels of search from Hong Kong is that a lot of developers are marketing to Hong Kong,” Ms Conisbee said.
“There is a strong appetite for Australian property over there and offshore buyers are restricted to buying new property.
“There are a lot of people wanting to get their money out of Hong Kong and relocate and Australia is a very safe economy. There is a low sovereign risk here whereas in Hong Kong there are a lot of unknowns.
“Australia looks comparatively safe to the rest of the world, including the US and the UK and that includes when it comes to how we have dealt with COVID-19.”