New Zealand is the second-cheapest country in the world for Chinese property shoppers but also one of the most popular, according to information gathered from a Chinese real estate site.

The Wall Street Journal has reported on information from online real estate portal Juwai.com which found the Chinese are looking for New Zealand places selling for an average US$599,523, only outstripped by the cheapest, Australia, at US$546,705.

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However in terms of popularity, New Zealand ranks fifth out of 10 countries being searched by the Chinese.

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Juwai.com targets Chinese house buyers looking for places overseas and it found the United States is the most popular and Singapore the most expensive.

The journal says Chinese are being driven to buy overseas by strong domestic factors.

"With worries about the health of the real estate market at home, Chinese buyers have been eyeing houses abroad as an investment alternative, as well as for education, lifestyle and immigration purposes," it reported.

"They often are also willing to pay a premium, eyeing homes that are more expensive than the average prices of homes sold in the country."

Juwai said Chinese were increasingly wealthy.

"The booming Chinese economy has generated private wealth on a vast scale, a loosening regulatory environment makes it increasingly easy for Chinese to invest overseas and a slower domestic property market has driven investors to search for new opportunities on other shores," Juwai said.

New Zealand is the second-cheapest country in the world for Chinese property shoppers but ranks fifth out of 10 countries being searched by Chinese. Photo: Doug Sherring.
New Zealand is the second-cheapest country in the world for Chinese property shoppers but ranks fifth out of 10 countries being searched by Chinese. Photo: Doug Sherring.

Auckland landlords have called for Government action against overseas property buyers, saying information was needed on their numbers.

Andrew Bruce, president of the Auckland Property Investors' Association, said there should be closer scrutiny and better understanding of overseas-based property buyers to address the stress they are creating on the Auckland housing market.

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The Government has to date ruled out taking any action, either in measuring numbers or in ushering in taxes or measures to deter foreigners' influence.

But Bruce said that wasn't good enough.

"It has to be a two-step process starting with a better understanding of exactly how many foreign buyers there are and to what extent they impact our housing market as well as the economy as whole.

"Are they investors who provide accommodation services and feed into the local economy? Are they absentee speculators who leave the houses empty and grossly inflate our prices?" says the Association's President, Andrew Bruce.

"To me, there can be no credibility to any level of debate on this matter until we fully understand what we are dealing with."

Policies must then follow to preserve the fundamental value our community shares, that is the accessibility to housing for ordinarily Kiwi families as either homes or investments.

"Once we have that information, we can then really look at ways to level the playing field. Or indeed if the playing field needs to be levelled at all," continues Bruce.

New Zealand is the second-cheapest country in the world for Chinese property shoppers but ranks fifth out of 10 countries being searched by Chinese. Photo: Doug Sherring.
New Zealand is the second-cheapest country in the world for Chinese property shoppers but ranks fifth out of 10 countries being searched by Chinese. Photo: Doug Sherring.

"We are starting from a blank slate as by and large New Zealand is a fairly unregulated open society that attracts foreign interest. This needn't be a hindrance but rather an advantage.

"We have a real opportunity here to make meaningful changes so that foreign investment promotes our economy and increases housing accessibility to all."

Some of the suggested policies being mooted include restriction on foreign buyers to buy only unbuilt building plans rather than existing houses in order to boost housing supply; additional taxes and duties that are directly funnelled into grants and subsidies for first-home buyers or the government to free up more land; and some level of mandatory re-investment each foreign property acquisition has to make back into the New Zealand economy.

"Fundamentally in Auckland, there is a supply issue that underpins the current market stress," Bruce said.

Ranking of average price searched
Singapore: US$3,726,625 (10th most popular)
France: US$3,173,298 (7th most popular)
Portugal: US$1,660,820 (6th most popular)
United Kingdom: US$970,803 (4th most popular)
Canada: US$912,579 (3rd most popular)
Spain: US$827,577 (8th most popular)
United States: US$725,510 (Most popular)
Germany: US$638,750 (9th most popular)
New Zealand: US$599,523 (5th most popular)
Australia: US$546,705 (2nd most popular)
Source: Juwai.com, reported in The Wall Street Journal