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Can foreigners buy property in Australia? Everything you need to know

Alex Ritchie avatar
Alex Ritchie
- 5 min read
Can foreigners buy property in Australia? Everything you need to know

The Great Australian Dream has long been to own a piece of land to call your own. Nowadays, this dream extends across the world, with overseas buyers now looking to Australian shores for property opportunities.

The good news is that yes, foreigners can buy property in Australia. However, there are generally more hoops to jump through than if you were a citizen or permanent resident looking to buy.

How do you buy property as a foreigner in Australia?

If you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you will need to submit an investment proposal to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

The Australian government has established a framework to regulate foreign investment in residential real estate to ensure that it aligns with the country's national interest. FIRB was established to ensure Australia was still benefiting from foreign investment, while not reducing home ownership opportunities for Australians.

As a foreigner, you’ll need to submit an application to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), which assesses non-Australian citizens who want to buy or invest in Australian property. Only once your application has been approved may you proceed to the sale of a property.

Are you limited to property types as a foreign investor?

Yes, as a foreign investor you may be limited to the type of investment property you are considering purchasing. You may apply through FIRB to invest in:

  • New property. You cannot purchase a property that has previously been sold as a dwelling that was previously occupied (for more than 12 months).
  • Vacant land.You must construct a new property on the vacant lot within four years of your FIRB approval date.  

However, there is an exception to the ‘no existing dwellings’ rule. FIRB may grant permission to foreign investors to purchase an existing dwelling on the condition that there are plans to redevelop for two dwellings to be built. The foreign investor can renovate the original home, but must also add a second dwelling. 

Put simply, you may get around the ‘no existing dwellings’ rule by knocking down one existing home and building two in its place. 

Fees for foreign residential investors

If you plan on making a foreign residential investment, there are additional fees you will need to pay. These include:

Property application fees

According to the Australian Taxation Office, these are the fees overseas buyers searching in Australia will need to pay for FY2024. 

1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024

Amount

Fee per action

Less than $75,000

$4,200

$1 million or less

$14,100

$2 million or less

$28,200

$3 million or less

$56,400

$4 million or less

$84,600

$5 million or less

$112,800

More than $5 million

Refer to the Foreign Investment website

Source: Australian Taxation Office

Foreign citizen stamp duty

Foreign investors typically have to pay an additional surcharge on stamp duty, however the amount and extent to this may vary depending on the state or territory in which the property is based.

In New South Wales, for example, foreign investors must pay an 8% stamp duty surcharge and 2% land tax. The Northern Territory does not currently have additional surcharges.

State

Additional foreign investor surcharge

New South Wales

8% stamp duty surcharge + 2% land tax

Victoria

8% foreign purchase additional duty

Queensland

7% stamp duty surcharge

Western Australia

7% foreign citizen stamp duty surcharge

South Australia

7% stamp duty surcharge

Tasmania

8% Foreign Investor Duty Surcharge

Australian Capital Territory

0.75% land tax surcharge

Vacancy fees

If your property is not occupied or rented out for 183 days (6 months) or more in a vacancy year, or you fail to lodge your annual vacancy fee return on time you may need to pay a vacancy fee.

The cost of the fee is generally the same as the application fee you paid when you submitted your residential property or exemption certificate application. 

Variation application fees

You must pay a fee to apply to vary an existing foreign investment approval (that is, a no-objection notice or an exemption certificate). For 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024, the fee is:

  • $4,200 for a simple variation (considered immaterial or minor)
  • $28,200 for a complex variation (not of an immaterial or minor nature).

Can foreigners take out a home loan in Australia?

Home loan applications from Australian lenders typically have strict eligibility requirements, which include residential status. Typically, you must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to qualify for a traditional home loan.

That being said, you may be able to apply for a non-resident home loan. This home loan type is created to assess overseas buyers, including foreign income sources. Keep in mind that some lenders may charge a higher interest rate for non-resident home loans. 

You will still need to meet all the criteria set by the lender, which may include having a 10-20% deposit, having a high enough income to afford your mortgage repayments, and a good credit score. 

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Product database updated 22 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.