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Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) Australia – Residential Property Changes

The Australian Government has announced changes for foreign persons purchasing property in Australia. The primary goal of these new Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) laws is to make sure that foreign investment in residential real estate increases the supply of dwellings and that it is not speculative in nature. The policy aims to direct foreign investor funds to the housing sector to directly increase the supply of new housing (ie. new developments such as house and land, home units and townhouses) and in turn benefit the local building industry and its suppliers in Australia.

New policy changes will come into effect immediately, while those requiring alterations to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations 1989 will come into effect shortly when amended Regulations are promulgated.

Off the plan sales to foreigners

Previously, developers could get approval to sell up to 50% of apartments in a new residential development to foreign persons. This has now been increased to 100%. Restriction that the apartment must be brand new when sold have also been varied to allow a developer to rent the apartment for no more than 12 months before it is sold by the developer to a foreign person. While developers could previously make an application to FIRB for approval of sales to foreign purchasers in particular development (and foreign purchasers did not have to make a separate application), this no longer applies. Foreign purchasers must now make their own application.

The form to be used has yet to be released and a review of these new laws will take place after two years. These changes are intended to help residential developers to sell more stock in the current financial climate.

Vacant residential land

Changed laws now allow foreign purchasers to build a new dwelling within 24 months of the acquisition of a vacant residential lot, as opposed to the previous time frame of 12 months.

Foreign companies purchasing second hand dwellings

There is to be no limit to the number of established dwellings which can be purchased for employee accommodation by foreign owned companies with employees in Australia. If the property is expected to be vacant for more than 6 months, then the foreign owned company must sell or rent the dwelling.

Redevelopment of second hand dwellings

Any development must increase the number of dwellings. The requirement that no rental income can be received prior to demolition has not been changed. A foreign purchaser will now have 24 months to commence construction of new dwellings where dwellings have been purchased prior to demolition for a particular residential project. Development expenditure must be at least 50% of the purchase price of the property.

Temporary residents purchasing second hand dwellings

A temporary resident now includes all foreign persons living in Australia on a valid visa, but does not include short term visitors such as tourists. Foreign students who are resident in Australia are no longer subject to a $300,000.00 limit on the value of an established dwelling purchased as their principal place of residence.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

For more information visit: www.firb.gov.au

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