RAY White Surfers Paradise has reported a 50 per cent increase in sales to Asian buyers over the past 12 months, but the agency has moved to allay concerns of that this is could fuel a market bubble on the Gold Coast.

Andrew Bell (pictured), the Ray White Surfers Paradise CEO, says his agency chalked up 202 sales to Asian buyers in the past year with most of those attributed to the Chinese.

But the Gold Coast real estate veteran is quick to point out that, contrary to popular opinion, the Chinese don’t necessarily pay top dollar for their acquisitions.

“There are quite a number that will buy a dream and often, in those cases where they see a spectacular home or development site, they will pay market value or a little higher to secure the property,” says Bell, who has just returned from China after participating in a REA Group strategy meeting with the top 20 real estate offices in Australia.

“But, in general, they are well researched and those who choose to invest internationally are market savvy.

“They’ve done their due diligence to the point that they can identify up and coming areas and investor hotspots.”

Bell, in a bid to dispel fears of a foreign invasion, says the market needs to better understand the significance of Chinese investors to the local market in the wake of the severe downturn that hit the sector locally six years ago.

“Our market was stigmatised nationally during and after the GFC, but Asian investors were not fearful and saw the Gold Coast for all its wonderful attributes,” Bell says.

“Asian buyer activity on the Gold Coast helped to change that perception of the local market.

“The city had a glut of new apartments for sale in 2011 and 2012 and they bought a lot of this stock, which just wasn’t being absorbed by Australian buyers at that stage.”

LJ Hooker Surfers Paradise says that out of seven recent sales of developer stock secured by the agency, four went to Chinese buyers.

Rick Graham, director of LJ Hooker Surfers Paradise, says ocean views were high on the buyers’ list of priorities.

“Serious buyers have done their homework usually via the internet prior to arriving on the Gold Coast,” Graham says.  “Once they approach us they want to be able to go in and look at a property immediately.”

Records show that foreign buyers accounted for more than $600 million in property sales in Queensland during the 2012-13 financial year, almost double the $335 million recorded in 2011-12.

“Buyers from China were the largest purchasers of property on the Gold Coast with $184 million, followed by buyers from the UAE at $121 million,” says Graham.

Bell says among other Asian buyers making their mark on the Gold Coast are the Indonesians, Singaporeans and Malaysians.

Bell also says the influx of Asian buyers has delivered significant benefits for local tourism with recent numbers showing the market has finally recovered to pre-GFC levels.

“Their investment had the effect of opening up more holiday properties and attracting more people to stay here on the Coast,” Bell says.

“And when the investors themselves come to holiday here they inject foreign money into the local economy.”

Bell says the influx of Chinese investors is unlikely to slow with the Chinese Government making it easier for its citizens to invest overseas.

“They want to limit the huge growth in property prices in mainland China due to their overpopulation crisis.”

Bell says most Asian buyers are investors with varying motivations.

“While Asians are increasingly migrating to Australia, they are still primarily investing here rather than owner-occupying their properties,” he says.

“Many use their properties in a lock-and-leave capacity and may not even rent them out while they are not here. This has been the case on a number of occasions in the Soul tower.

“Some purchase them sight unseen - they leave the property empty and never visit, but have a view to cashing in on the capital growth in 10 years’ time.

“Others buy apartments as holiday rentals for pure income generation, which was what our Ray White New Projects team observed with many of the sales in the Outrigger Surfers Paradise, where prices were around $100,000.”

Bell says there is also a growing appetite for prestige properties.

“Ray White Surfers Paradise, through its prestige division, has sold numerous prestige homes to Asian buyers who are particularly attracted to secure, gated communities in areas like Hope Island and Sanctuary Cove.”

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