Singaporean interest in properties down under has not been affected by the tighter regulations introduced by the Australian government on foreign property ownership, said estate agents, reported Channel NewsAsia.
In February, additional administrative fees of a minimum of A$5,000 were proposed for property investment applications by foreigners, while stricter penalties were also proposed in May for foreigners purchasing resale homes in the country.
Overseas buyers purchasing resale homes may be imprisoned for three years or fined A$127,500, while companies may face fines of A$637,500.
Those who knowingly assist a foreigner to violate the rules may be subject to criminal and civil penalties, including fines of A$212,500 for companies and A$42,500 for individuals.
Foreigners are only allowed to buy new homes under Australia’s foreign investment regime.
On 8 August, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey ordered the sale of six residential properties unlawfully owned by foreigners, while 462 cases are still being investigated.
Authorities have also revealed plans to introduce legislation in Parliament to ensure the reforms take effect on 1 December.
Despite the tighter rules, Singaporeans remain keen on Australian properties.
Reapfield Property Consultants said sales of Australian properties have increased with the recent drop in value of the Australian dollar. In fact, the agency closed around 12 to 15 deals at its recent roadshow, compared with the usual 10.
However, some of its customers have asked about the investigations.
“Apparently what happened is that they were just more curious to find out what those illegal activities were about,” shared executive director Peter Thng. “We actually highlighted to them that some of these cases were mainly foreigners flouting rules of buying existing homes, which they are not allowed to.”
CBRE’s executive director for international project marketing, Darien Bradshaw, noted that it has always been illegal for foreigners to invest into Australia’s secondary market.
“I think what has made this a big issue is that some real trophy assets – particularly in Sydney – have been purchased by quite well-publicised Chinese tycoons, and that really brings (the issue) to a head,” he said.