Any event that causes uncertainty and possible loss of money results in a ‘flight to safety’ from investors. And uncertainty has been supplied in bulk recently by the British people’s vote to leave the European Union, so investors are also looking for the door.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has bailed out, as has most of the Opposition; Scotland and Ireland have had enough of the UK; and the EU is telling the lot of them to take their cricket bats and balls and get out.
Australia becomes attractive
For Australia, it doesn’t really matter if the British government listens to the will of the people and removes itself from the EU or not – our property market could benefit regardless.
REA Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee says Australia normally attracts a lot of global capital for commercial property but usually competes with European locations for this money.
It looks like that competition will lesson for a while. In fact, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has warned that Britain’s property prices could fall for the first time since 2012, and London’s house prices would be affected the most.
UK property investor sentiment about Brexit
“With the level of uncertainty now in Europe and Britain, Australia will look even more attractive for commercial property seekers,’’ says Ms Conisbee.
“Australia is going to be seen as increasingly safe, particularly compared with the volatile European environment.
“If you’re a pension fund in Europe, and you’re looking at London or you’re looking at Australia – whether Sydney or Melbourne – then all that turmoil makes Sydney or Melbourne look like a great investment.”
This is because of Australia’s perceived political stability, strong economic growth and low sovereign risk.
Optimism about the local market
Ms Conisbee says only large macroeconomic events such as a surge in unemployment or a drop in economic growth cause big, sudden falls in the local property market, and neither of these are likely.
“Overall, I’m pretty optimistic about Australian property. I’m really optimistic about Sydney, just given the supply issues, and Melbourne, to a limited extent,” she says.
She adds that many Asian property buyers who had favoured London may now consider Australia a better alternative, and the residential property market may also get a lift.
Proportion of investor-owned dwellings by state
Even so, various state governments are making property more expensive for international investors.
The NSW Government added a 4 per cent stamp duty surcharge on the purchase of residential property by foreign purchasers on 21 June 2016. A 0.75 per cent land tax surcharge on foreign-owned residential real estate is also applicable from the 2017 tax year.
Victoria will add a 7 per cent foreign investor surcharge to residential stamp duty from July and a 1.5 per cent surcharge on some land tax.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt revealed in the state budget that foreign investors will begin paying a 3 per cent transfer duty later this year.
But these are unlikely to be major deterrents, given the alternatives.