Prestige agents set their sights on the expat buyer market.

Now might seem an odd time to launch a sales campaign for a resort-style estate in Sydney’s north with expectations of setting a record for the Forest district, but prestige agent Darren Curtis says he is aiming to make the most of the current market conditions. The return home of thousands of expats to see out the COVID-19 pandemic coincides with an Aussie dollar that is hovering just above 60 cents to the $US1, making now a good time to buy for the overseas wage-earner.

The Christie’s International agent is also hoping to capitalise on a drastic shortfall in the number of luxury homes on offer, given so many properties have been pulled from the market in recent weeks.

“It’s clear that there are large areas of the market that are in for a very difficult time, but it is also my job to seek out markets for typically high-end clients and to that end we are finding that market among the many returned expats and overseas buyers with residency or business interests here,” said Curtis.

National self-distancing measures that limit the number of attendees to an inspection to one at a time (or two without the agent) mean it’s more important than ever to make sure you are targeting only qualified buyers, says Queensland agent Scott Darwon, of Ray White Bulimba.

Given currency fluctuations this year a $10 million house for a buyer converting from US dollars would have had to pay about $US7 million to buy last December but as little as $US5.7 million last week, said Curtis.

That makes the Terrey Hills estate Angophora Lodge of Whitegold Solutions co-founders Dominic and Sharon Whitehand more attractive despite the asking price of $10.5 million to $11 million – a guide that is expected to top the district high of $10.6 million set last December by the sale of an equestrian estate in nearby Duffys Forest.

“While it’s true we have seen a reduction in inquiry levels, we are seeing good quality inquiry come through and that’s what we’re focused on,” said Curtis, who has listed the 1.7-hectare estate with Shayne Hutton, of Sydney Country Property.

Melbourne prestige agent Gowan Stubbings, a director at Kay & Burton, also cites the influx of returned expat as the best buyer currently around.

But, he adds, given the fast pace of change in society and the economy as a whole and the extraordinary level of change that interest is yet to translate to sales.

“Buyers are watching carefully, but notably it isn’t just expat inquiry that is up but also from mainland China,” said Stubbings.

“Whether those foreign buyers are able to negotiate a purchase with FIRB approval remains to be seen, but it shows the value we offer to those buyers.”

As of Tuesday, $1 converted to 4.38 Chinese yuan, down from 4.9 yuan at the start of this year.

Expats and overseas buyers are also the target market for another prestige Melbourne agent Jock Langley, a director at Abercromby’s Real Estate, in his bid to sell the historic 42-room mansion Shrublands in Canterbury’s Golden Mile for $42 million to $46 million on behalf of Anne Williams, of Thornton’s Angus cattle breeding family.

“There’s been less expat interest at that level, but it has attracted good interest from buyers in China,” Langley said.

On Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Tom Offermann, of his eponymous agency, has sold about 15 properties this year and says the expat market and low Aussie dollar had worked in their favour in most of those sales.

Offerman cites the recent sale of a Noosa townhouse that recently settled at $3.4 million but was relisted by the buyer soon after and resold last week for that same price to an expat from Japan stuck in the midst of a COVID lockdown.

In Brisbane, Mr Darwon said the Ray White Bulimba-New Farm group of offices had sold $80 million worth of property in March across the four offices of which about 10 per cent were to expats.

“There’s certainly more than usual, which gives a sense of optimism to a market facing unprecedented challenges,” Mr Darwon said.

Sydney-based buyer’s agent Deborah West agrees the low dollar has reinvigorated the expat market, but says while it makes sense for those buyers to get their ducks in a row to buy they are more likely to still wait three to six months in the hope of picking up a distressed sale.

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