How foreigners can buy investment properties in Australia.

Foreign buyers can purchase Australian property as investors. But there are strict rules.

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The Australian residential property market has been a popular destination for foreign investors for many years. But buying property as a foreign buyer comes with extra rules and regulations that you'll need to follow. The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) oversees foreign property purchases and has its own application process

Can foreigners buy property in Australia?

Yes. Non-Australians can buy property in Australia as investments. In Australia, foreign property purchases are regulated and there are limitations in place. Foreign buyers must apply for approval through the FIRB before buying residential real estate.

According to the FIRB website "The Government's policy is to channel foreign investment into new dwellings as this creates additional jobs in the construction industry and helps support economic growth. It can also increase government revenues, in the form of stamp duties and other taxes, and from the overall higher economic growth that flows from additional investment."

In other words, Australia's foreign property investment rules encourage foreign buyers to purchase new buildings and therefore stimulate the construction of new housing.

Purchasing new and established dwellings

It's much easier for foreign investors to buy new buildings or vacant land (provided you construct a property on the land). You will need to apply through FIRB, but there's much less scrutiny.

  • New buildings. There are generally no conditions attached when purchasing a new dwelling.
  • Vacant land. If buying vacant land, the main condition is that you need to complete construction of a dwelling on the land within four years. You can't just buy vacant land and hold it.

It's a different story with established dwellings (that is, buildings that are not new). Foreign investors can't get approval to buy established dwellings except in the following cases:

  • Buying a home to live in as a temporary resident. You're allowed to purchase a home to live in if you're a temporary Australian resident. You have to sell it once you leave, unless you become a permanent resident or citizen.
  • Buying an established dwelling to demolish it and develop more dwellings. Because the aim of the foreign investment regime is to encourage housing construction, you can apply to purchase an existing dwelling if you're planning to demolish and build new housing. The condition is that you should be building more dwellings than were originally there. For example, you buy a house on a large block then demolish it and build two townhouses.

How does the FIRB application process work?

Before you apply for approval to purchase an investment property, it's recommended that you obtain expert legal advice to make sure you understand and comply with all the necessary legal requirements. Then you can follow the steps below to apply for foreign investment approval:

  1. Check the FIRB website to read the guidance and check if you need FIRB approval.
  2. Visit the ATO website and click on "Start your application".
  3. Fill out the application form with your contact details, passport, visa documents and any previous FIRB application reference numbers.
  4. Provide the address and title details of the property you wish to purchase.
  5. Read and sign the declaration.
  6. Submit the application and pay the relevant fee.
  7. A decision on your application is usually made within 30 days and you will be informed of that decision within 10 days.

Application fees are as follows

You will also need to pay an application fee as per the table below:

Purchase priceFee payable
$1 million or less$5,700
$1 million - $1,999,999$11,500
$2 million - $2,999,999$23,100
$3 million - $3,999,999$34,600
$4 million - $4,999,999$46,200
$5 million - $5,999,999$57,700
$6 million - $6,999,999$69,300
$7 million - $7,999,999$80,900
$8 million - $8,999,999$92,600
$9 million - $9,999,999$104,100

Source: Foreign Investment Review Board. Details are correct at time of publication.
For purchases above $9,999,999 you will need to contact the Australian Tax Office to get an estimate.

You must obtain approval from the FIRB before you can apply for a home loan with an Australian lender.

Penalties for breaking rules on foreign investment

There are serious potential penalties for breaching Australia's rules on foreign investment. Acquiring property without FIRB approval can involve fines of up to $157,000 or up to three years in prison. There are higher penalties for foreign companies breaching these rules.

Home loan restrictions

If you need a home loan to cover your purchasing costs it's important to compare loans and lenders carefully. Many Australian lenders impose tighter lending criteria on foreign buyers. This can include:

  • A lower loan-to-value ratio (LVR). LVR refers to your deposit size relative to the price of the property. You may need a larger deposit (around 30-40%) to qualify for a mortgage.
  • A higher interest rate. A lender may only offer a loan for your investment with a higher interest rate than the lowest rates on the market.
  • Restrictions on foreign income. Some lenders won't accept loan applications from temporary residents unless they earn an income in Australia.

If you want to get a home loan for your foreign investment you should approach lenders and ask directly about borrowing as a foreign investor. You could also focus on international banks which operate in Australia, such as HSBC or Citibank.

Speaking to a local mortgage broker is also a good idea.

Don't forget your tax obligations

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that there are tax implications for investing in Australian property. Any rental income you receive from your investment will need to be declared on an Australian tax return. You will need to pay Capital Gains Tax on any profit you make when selling the property.

What if I’m an Australian resident living abroad?

If you’re an Australian resident temporarily living overseas and you want to buy an investment property in Australia, the good news is that the strict foreign investment laws don’t affect you. You are exempt from needing FIRB approval in a range of circumstances, including if you:

  • Are an Australian or New Zealand citizen.
  • Hold an Australian permanent resident visa.
  • Have a spouse who fits into either of the above categories and the property is being purchased in both names as joint tenants.

However, you’ll need to check whether lending restrictions imposed by the banks will have an impact on your ability to qualify for a home loan. This will depend on your residency status and the lender with which you apply for a loan.

Using foreign income to invest in Australian property is a complex and confusing topic. So it’s recommended that you seek legal and taxation advice to make sure you satisfy all regulatory requirements.

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27 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    AndyAugust 31, 2021

    Hi, I am Nz citizen living in Australia and my wife is Nz permanent resident living with me Aus on 461(nz partner visa), can I still buy the property with no extra stamp duty?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SarahSeptember 10, 2021Staff

      Hi Andy,

      If you are a New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category Visa (subclass 444), you are exempt from needing approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) if you want to purchase a property in Australia. But permanent New Zealand residents will need to apply for FIRB.

      Unfortunately, the stamp duty surcharge or Foreign Purchase Additional Duty (FPAD) will still be applied if you want to buy property in Australia. Stamp duty varies according to state.

      You may be exempt from having to pay the stamp duty surcharge if you are on a Special Category Visa (subclass 444). Again, this depends where you live. In New South Wales, you need to be in the country for at least 200 days and be in the country at the time of contract settlement and signing in order to be eligible for this exemption.

      I would suggest you contact your state’s revenue office so you can discuss your situation in detail and determine which rules apply to you.

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Sarah

    Default Gravatar
    TreanaFebruary 24, 2020

    Hi,
    If I purchase a property in Aus and pay for it in full can I then rent it out?

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiFebruary 25, 2020

      Hi Treena,

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you are doing well. Yes, you can rent out your property in Australia. Note that any rental income you receive from your investment will need to be declared on an Australian tax return, while you’ll need to pay Capital Gains Tax on any profit you make when selling the property.

      Hope this helps and feel free to reach out to us again for further assistance.

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    TAugust 29, 2019

    Hi, my nephew is an international student who is currently studying at University. Is he eligible for buying a property in Australia and is it possible that property can be under his parents’ name?

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiAugust 30, 2019

      Hi T. Tran,

      Thanks for your message. Yes, it is possible for your nephew to buy a property in Australia and make it under his parent’s name. Also, it’s easier if it’s a home to live in. If it’s an investment property then you have to get approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Please see above the conditions for FIRB.

      Hope this helps!

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    KennethJune 18, 2019

    My partner and I are looking to purchase our first property in NSW. Her father, who is Japanese, has offered to purchase a property on our behalf – jointly with my partner. The property would be around 550k My partner is now an AUS perm resident and I am a citizen. If he does purchase the property jointly with his daughter who is an aus perm resident does he have to get FIRB approval and pay stamp duty including the surchage?

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiJune 19, 2019

      Hi Kenneth,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      It’s great to know that you are looking to purchase a property! As stated on the FIRB website on Residential Real Estate, foreign persons purchasing property as joint tenants with their Australian citizen spouse, New Zealand citizen spouse, or Australian permanent resident spouse doesn’t need FIRB approval. This exemption does not include purchasing property as tenants in common.

      As for parents, looks like in doesn’t count in this situation. We suggest seeking advise from the FIRB directly to obtain information on this.

      Hope this clarifies!

      Best,
      Nikki

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiJune 19, 2019

      Hi Kenneth,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      It’s great to know that you are looking to purchase a property! As stated on the FIRB website on Residential Real Estate, foreign persons purchasing property as joint tenants with their Australian citizen spouse, New Zealand citizen spouse, or Australian permanent resident spouse doesn’t need FIRB approval. This exemption does not include purchasing property as tenants in common.

      As for parents, looks like in doesn’t count in this situation. We suggest seeking advise from the FIRB directly to obtain information on this.

      Hope this clarifies!

      Best,
      Nikki

    Default Gravatar
    PamJune 10, 2019

    If a Chinese resident and investor want to purchase an established Australian tourist accommodation property valued at under 3 million what do they need to do to acquire this property.

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiJune 11, 2019

      Hi Pam,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      For foreign investors/residents wanting to purchase a property in Australia, the good news is that the strict foreign investment laws don’t affect you. You are exempt from needing FIRB approval in a range of circumstances, including if you:

      Are an Australian or New Zealand citizen
      Hold an Australian permanent resident visa
      Have a spouse who fits into either of the above categories and the property is being purchased in both names as joint tenants

      If you are looking to get a loan for your investment, you’ll need to check whether lending restrictions imposed by the banks will have an impact on your ability to qualify for a home loan. This will depend on your residency status and the lender with which you apply for a loan. This may make it difficult for you to invest in property in Australia, so get to know the rules and regulations before buying.

      As a friendly reminder, seek legal and taxation advice to make sure you satisfy all regulatory requirements.

      Hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to message us back if you have more questions.

      Best,
      Nikki

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