Wed, Jun 10, 2015 - Page 14 News List

Australia expands property probe

AFP, SYDNEY

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday widened a probe into the illegal buying of residential property by foreigners, with almost 200 sales being investigated for breaching investment rules.

Prices of residential real estate in some of Australia’s biggest cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, have soared in recent years, with concerns growing that cash-rich foreigners, particularly from China, have helped inflate the market.

“The Australian Taxation Office is using all the resources of government to fully investigate any suggestions that come forward that a foreign person has unlawfully purchased real estate in Australia,” Hockey said. “This is the tip of the iceberg. The data-matching powers of the Australian Taxation Office are formidable and they will give us the power to look right across the system.”

The government announced a crackdown on illegal purchases earlier this year and said it would rigorously enforce rules under which foreigners are only allowed to buy new dwellings and not existing residential property.

The widening inquiry spans the breadth of the market, from properties valued at A$300,000 (US$230,838) to more than A$40 million. In one case, an overseas buyer is being investigated for owning 10 homes in two states. Foreign investors who have bought illegally have a moratorium until Dec. 1 to come forward.

Sydney residential real-estate prices jumped by 15 percent in the year to May 31, with a median value of A$752,000, while Melbourne home prices soared by 9 percent to a median of A$569,500, according to widely cited figures by CoreLogic-RP Data.

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