Softening market sentiment
By Roxanne James

Chinese Sentiment for Australian Property Remains Strong into 2016

Australia's real estate market is predicted to slow this year but appetite among foreign investors will remain strong despite the introduction of new fees for overseas buyers.

Monika Tu, a realtor who specialises in the sale of Australian prestige property overseas particularly to wealthy Chinese investors, said that despite a slowdown Australia remains the leading destination for Chinese investors.

"First it was for education but now the clean environment has become top priority," said Ms Tu, who runs estate agents Black Diamondz, marketing prime property to some of China's most successful business people and celebrities.

Ms Tu, who has sold more than €135m of Australian property in the past nine months, said Point Piper, Vaucluse and Rose Bay, along with Mosman and Hunters Hill, remained the top destinations, but increasingly cost-conscious buyers are now considering cheaper areas like Blakehurst and Burraneer in Sydney's south.

Many forecasters expect significantly lower home price growth this year, after three years of rapid growth across Sydney and Melbourne.

Home prices rose 8.9% across Australia's capital cities for the year ending in mid-December, jumping 12.8% and 11.7% in Sydney and Melbourne respectively, according to figures from researchers CoreLogic RP Data.

Tim Lawless, head of CoreLogic's research team, said auction clearance rates appeared to "have found a new floor" last month, with auction sales in Sydney at just 50%.

"With conditions softening during the normally active spring season and over the first month of summer, the outlook for the housing market in 2016 is looking less positive than the strong growth conditions seen through the first three quarters of 2015," he said.

The latest property survey compiled by National Australia Bank economists showed softening market sentiment as expectations for future price growth and rent increases were scaled back.

Despite this, and additional measures introduced to tighten existing foreign investment regulations, overseas buyers continued to increase their exposure to Australian real estate.

The NAB survey estimated 19% of all new apartment sales and 14.9% of all new house sales in the three months to the end of October were to foreign buyers.

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