By Dana McCauley
It way supposed to be a long-awaited return to his home city after a lengthy stint overseas.
But instead Tony Marsh, a Melbourne-born man living in Hong Kong, has had his Australian property dreams smashed.
Along with his British partner, Mr Marsh has fallen victim to the banks' crackdown on foreign investors - leaving them close to A$67,000 (NZ$71,979) out of pocket.
"It's been a nightmare," the 50-year-old expat told news.com.au.
The early childhood teacher, who wed his husband Andy Clarke in the United Kingdom, had planned to move home to Australia and the pair were in the process of arranging to buy a property together in Melbourne when they hit an unexpected hurdle.
"Two years ago we found a place we liked, an off-the-plan apartment on Lygon St," Mr Marsh said.
With Mr Clarke being the primary breadwinner, they sought advice and were told their purchase of the A$663,000 (NZ$712,275) unit would have no problems being approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board.
So they signed the sale contract and paid the developer a 10 per cent deposit, with the balance to be paid at settlement in May this year.
But what they were not prepared for was the dramatic tightening of lending to foreign residents by the major banks.
Despite having received pre-approval from ANZ in October 2015 to borrow 80 per cent of the property's value, Mr Marsh said his homecoming plan was thrown into disarray when the bank suddenly changed its lending criteria.
"They pulled the plug, and we had to search for anyone who could offer us a decent mortgage, because the banks pulled out all lending to foreign investors," he told news.com.au. "We tried internationally, but they'd all stopped lending."
Despite being an Australian citizen, Mr Marsh was caught up in the crackdown on foreign lending as his British partner's income was relied on for the loan, which is in his name.
The deposit came from an inheritance Mr Marsh received after a death in the family. At the time the pair applied for the loan, he said, his business was only new, and the bank wanted two years' worth of financials.
ANZ stopped accepting loan applications based solely on foreign income in March last year, while introducing tougher rules to prevent fraud and money laundering amid concerns over billions of dollars of suspicious property transactions by Chinese nationals.
"Applications based on 100 per cent foreign income will not be accepted," the bank told mortgage brokers at the time.
For borrowers seeking loans based on more than 50 per cent of foreign income, the bank applied new rules to the size and source of funding, requiring deposits of at least 30 per cent and restricted construction lending.
With the other big four banks also cracking down on foreign loans, Mr Marsh and Mr Clarke were forced to look elsewhere - and battled to find a loan at a "decent" interest rate without having to quadruple their deposit.
"Again these institutions wanted 40 per cent deposits, substantial money in accounts and the list goes on," Mr Marsh said.
The best deal they could find was with La Trobe Financial, a lender specialising in "assisting those under-served by traditional institutions for property finance", which offered a 7.99 per cent interest rate on a loan with a 40 per cent deposit.
"Our mortgage broker got it down to 30 per cent and we got an indicative offer at the last minute, sent the details [to the vendor] but they served us with a rescission notice."
Because they'd missed the deadline for settlement by several days, the deal was off - and with it had gone the 10 per cent deposit they'd paid the developer, plus associated fees, totalling A$67,000 (NZ$71,979).
Their lawyer advised that nothing could be done, Mr Marsh said, admitting the experience had soured his plans to return home.
"I don't want to come back to a country that's shattered me," he said.
"I'm not bitter about it, it just can't be happening. They just can't make decisions like that when people are putting their hard earned money to try and build a future for themselves in Australia.
"Then they just pull the plug, and everybody else goes down the gurgler. And there's people out there, other banks, cashing in."
An ANZ spokesman said in a statement that the bank was not aware of any non-Australian customers having their loan conditions changed after purchasing property.
"While we can't go into the details of any customers' circumstances, ANZ only provides full loan approval for off-the-plan dwellings once the building is completed. Prior to that, we can offer approval in principle, which is subject to change," the statement said.