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Australia real estate and foreign investment information. Foreign purchasers intending to acquire real estate in Australia must seek prior approval from the Government through the Foreign Investment Review Board unless specifically exempted by the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations. All contracts by foreign persons to acquire interests in Australian real estate must be made conditional upon foreign investment approval, unless approval was obtained prior to entering into the contract. It is advised that you should not sign contracts before you receive foreign investment approval, unless the contract is conditional on such approval. You must apply in writing for prior approval to buy real estate.

The Government seeks to ensure that foreign investment in residential real estate increases the housing stock. The Government, therefore, seeks to channel foreign investment into activity that directly increases the supply of new housing (that is, new developments - house and land packages, home units, townhouses, etc) and brings benefits to the local building industry and their suppliers. Further information on Australia's foreign investment policy may be found at the Foreign Investment Review Board and summarized below.

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Properties that are used for short term tourism purposes are generally examined under the less restrictive tourism policy. Accommodation facilities do not include holiday houses, mixed residential/commercial properties or serviced apartments.

Accommodation facilities include the following categories:

• designated strata titled hotels;
• hotels and motels;
• time-share schemes;
• integrated Tourism resorts

Proposed acquisitions of residential real estate are exempt from examination in the case of:

• Australian citizens living abroad purchasing either in their own name or through an Australian corporation or a trust;
• foreign nationals purchasing, as joint tenants, with their Australian citizen spouse; and
• foreign nationals who are the holders of permanent resident visas or are holders, or are entitled to hold, a ‘special category visa’ purchasing either in their own name or through an Australian corporation or a trust.

Proposed acquisitions of real estate for development are normally approved subject to specific conditions requiring continuous substantial construction to commence within 12 months. Once construction is complete, the parties are required to provide the completion date and actual development expenditure.

Foreign interests are normally given approval to buy:

• vacant residential land, including house and land packages where construction has not commenced (on condition that continuous construction of a dwelling is commenced within 12 months); and
• house and land packages where construction has commenced, home units, townhouses, etc ‘offtheplan’, under construction or newly constructed but never occupied or previously sold. ‘Offtheplan’ sales to foreigners are only permitted for new development projects or extensively refurbished commercial structures, which have been converted to residential, on condition that no more than half the dwellings in a development are sold to foreign interests.

Proposed acquisitions of residential property (both vacant land and existing dwellings) which are within the bounds of a resort that the Treasurer had designated as an ‘Integrated Tourism Resort’ (ITR) prior to September 1999 are exempt from examination. For resorts designated as ITRs from September 1999, the exemption only applies to developed residential property, which is subject to a long term (10 years or more) lease to the resort/hotel operator, making it available for tourist accommodation when not occupied by the owner. All other property, including vacant land for development, within the ITR would be subject to the normal foreign investment restrictions. Strict conditions must be fully met to qualify for Integrated Tourism Resort status.

Certain categories of foreign nationals, who will be temporarily resident in Australia continuously for 12 months, may be given approval to purchase developed residential real estate for use as their principal place of residence (that is, not for rental purposes) while in Australia. This category includes long-stay retirees. A condition of such purchases is that the residence must be sold when the foreign nationals’ temporary resident visas expire, they leave Australia, or the property is no longer used as their principal place of residence.

All other proposals by foreign interests to acquire developed residential real estate are examinable and are not normally approved, except in the case of foreign companies, with an established substantial business in Australia, buying for named senior executives resident in Australia for periods longer than 12 months, provided the accommodation is sold when no longer required for this purpose. Whether a company is eligible, and the number of properties that may be acquired under this category, will depend upon the extent of the foreign company’s operations and assets in Australia. Unless there are special circumstances, foreign companies normally will not be permitted to buy more than two houses under this category. Foreign companies would not be eligible under this category where the property would represent a significant proportion of its assets in Australia.

Proposed acquisitions of developed nonresidential commercial real estate are normally approved unless they are contrary to the national interest.

Proposed acquisitions of hotels and motels operating under one title are normally approved (unless considered contrary to the national interest) under the tourism sector policy. Proposed acquisitions of strata titled hotel accommodation may be approved in certain designated hotels. Full details of the requirements for designated hotels are contained in the Australian urban land policy summary. Other accommodation facilities such as guesthouses, hostels, holiday flats and undesignated strata titled hotels or motels are examined under policy applying to the residential real estate sector.

Further information on Australia's foreign investment policy may be found at the Foreign Investment Review Board. See Frequently Asked Questions about foreign investment in Australia.

The Commission will normally request any further information it requires within 5 working days of receipt of an application.

Applications considered by the Commission are normally determined within 10 working days once we have received all the information we require.

Applications considered by the Ministers are normally determined within 25 working days once the Commission has received all the information it requires. This timeframe may vary depending upon Ministerial availability.

There is no statutory timeframe for when a decision must be conveyed.