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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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Australian property 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 by FIRB (meaning foreign buyers must apply for approval through the FIRB before buying residential real estate) and there are limitations in place.

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."

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 vs established dwellings

It's much easier for foreign investors to buy new buildings or vacant land (provided you construct a property on the land) than it is to buy an established property.

You will need to apply through FIRB, but there's much less scrutiny if you buy:

  • 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 4 years. You can't just buy vacant land and hold it indefinitely.

It's a different story with established dwellings (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 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 new 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 must build and supply additional new housing, ie. replace 1 house with 3 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:

Purchase priceFee payable for single actionFee for single Reviewable national security action
Less than $75,000$2000$500
$75,001-$1 million$6,350$1,587.50
$1 million - $1,999,999$12,700$3,175
$2 million - $2,999,999$24,500$6,350
$3 million - $3,999,999$38,100$9,525
$4 million - $4,999,999$50,800$12,700

Source: Foreign Investment Review Board. Details are correct at time of publication.

You must obtain approval from the FIRB before you can apply for a home loan with an Australian lender. Fees are payable at the time of lodging your application.

The maximum fee you'll pay on a residential project worth $40m or more is $503,000.

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 3 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 that operate in Australia, such as HSBC or Citi.

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

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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41 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    JLMay 5, 2022

    What are the exemptions for tenants in common? One purchaser is an Australian citizen and the other a permanent resident (not spouses)

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RichardMay 8, 2022Staff

      Hello JL,

      This depends on your state and territory and also what kind of exemption you’re talking about. If your property is your main residence, then transferring between spouses usually means you are exempt from stamp duty.

      But you should probably consult a tax professional or conveyancer to get a more definite answer.

      Kind regards,

  2. Default Gravatar
    IreneApril 20, 2022

    My husband and I are parents of a married daughter who is now an Australian permanent resident as is her husband. We want to visit annually for 3-6 months a year and are interested in buying a property to stay in while we are there. We envisage that we would again visit on a visitor visa; it seems unlikely that the parent sponsor route would be realistic for us at our age.
    1 Can we buy an established property to use for our visits
    2 If yes – Can this be rented out when we are not using it
    3 If no – can we buy a new property and rent it out ?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RichardApril 22, 2022Staff

      Hi Irene,

      Foreign property purchasers are able to buy new investment properties in Australia, subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

      But foreign purchasers are not able to buy established homes.

      You would be able to buy a property and rent it out, but there are limitations on how often you would be able to live there yourself. For example, FIRB guidelines state that: “Foreign persons who own residential property will be required to pay an annual vacancy fee if their property is not residentially occupied or genuinely available for rent for more than 183 days (approximately six months) during a year.”

      There are other rules and regulations in purchasing a property as a foreign investor and renting it out so make sure to check with the FIRB first for the latest information.

      I hope this helps.


  3. Default Gravatar
    NillyApril 15, 2022

    Can purchasing a residential property result in residential visa for a foreigner?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SarahApril 21, 2022Staff

      Hi Nilly,

      Purchasing or owning a property cannot get you a Permanent Residency (PR) in Australia. It is not an essential criteria to be met when applying for permanent residency or citizenship. Other factors such as family connections, work history, and time in Australia are still considered when applying for permanent residency.

      You can visit this page for the list of requirements when applying for a permanent visa.

      I hope this helps!


  4. Default Gravatar
    MikeApril 15, 2022

    If I apply to the FIRB and submitt a circa $12K fee to buy an established property. Does the fee get reimbursed? Secondly, other sites I have looked at seem to indicate strongly that foreign investors cannot buy established properties? Thirdly, does a tourist visa 651 suffice?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      SarahApril 18, 2022Staff

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, you’re correct, this scheme is designed to stimulate the product of new articles. There are some exceptions where you may be able to buy established properties, as outlined in the article (eg.
      Buying a home to live in as a temporary resident. You have to sell it once you leave, unless you become a permanent resident or citizen; or Buying an established dwelling to demolish it and develop more dwellings.)

      According to the ATO, fees are only waived or reimbursed in limited circumstances. Generally, the fee is designed to cover the cost of relevant staff and resources required to process the application, although $12,000 is quite substantial.

      Regarding visas, it’s worth contacting FIRB directly for information, it is best to contact FIRB directly to confirm the latest information. Visit https://firb.gov.au/about-firb/contact-us or get more info at https://firb.gov.au.

      Hope this helps!

      Many thanks,

  5. Default Gravatar
    MikeApril 12, 2022

    I am a UK citizen looking to split my time between the UK and Australia for the purposes of visiting family. I would like to purchase a property in Australia to live while visiting. Do you see any problems with this?
    Additionally to my previous question. I would not be requiring an Australian mortgage nor would I rent the property out. I would also prefer to purchase and established property rather than a new build.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      RichardApril 14, 2022Staff

      Hi Mike,

      You can definitely buy an established property in Australia. As long as you follow the rules and regulations, there will be no problem. If you are a foreign buyer you may need approval from the FIRB.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,

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