Other data show Chinese buyers are also looking at more expensive properties: home inquiries through the popular Juwai IQI group were focused on properties with median prices more than 25 per cent higher than in 2019.
The median inquiry price is about $773,000, up more than $165,000 from the 2019 level of $607,000.
Peter Li, general manager of Plus Agency, told AFR Weekend that buyer inquiries were up four-fold compared to the same time a year ago, and transactions had doubled.
“Hong Kong-based buyers are No.1, followed by the mainlanders, and then Taiwanese. Then you have buyers from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.”
It comes as China’s post-COVID reopening gains speed and wealthy citizens move capital out of the country. At the same time, Australia’s annual net overseas migration numbers have reached a record 500,000 people.
Overseas buyers are required to seek approval from the Tax Office when investing in Australia and are mostly limited to new properties.
“International buying will definitely increase during the next year. There is more activity in terms of flights, so it’s increasingly easier to get in and out of Australia,” Mr Li said.
“Also, the Chinese government has removed the requirement for a COVID test when you fly. In China, the real estate market is going into a down cycle, so people are looking at Australia for a premium alternative to buying at home.”
Mr Li said buyers wanted “big” properties and most were aged 35 to 45.
“They want a duplex, a house, a townhouse, or a large apartment. This is their transitional home where they will live for the next five or 10 years. Then, they will probably look for a larger property down the track.”
Ms Owen said the high point for foreign investors in Australian residential property was in the mid-2010s, when interest rates were on the way down after the global financial crisis and domestic and overseas investors were active.
Daniel Ho, Juwai IQI’s co-founder and managing director for Asia, said Chinese buyer inquiries to the global real estate technology group had increased 158 per cent in the third quarter.
It marks the second sequential quarter with double-digit increases.
The company uses an index to track inquiries. It is at 153 in 2023-4, well below the 2017 peak for customer interest of 256.
“The scale of Chinese buying far exceeds that of any other country. China is a populous country, and Chinese culture places great value on property as a store of wealth,” Mr Ho said.
He said buyers were in “catch-up mode” after pandemic disruption.
“Compared to before the pandemic, Chinese buyers today are much less likely to be purchasing a pure investment property and are much more likely to be purchasing a family home for themselves.
“In 2019, Chinese buyers were investing to diversify their assets and making early-stage or tentative commitments to Australia. For example, they might obtain permanent residency, but only part of the family would move here.
“Today, it’s much more common for the whole family to move, and to commit to staying in Australia full-time.”
Chinese buyers are snapping up property overseas as well. More than 10 per cent of luxury apartments sold in Singapore in the first three months of the year went to mainland Chinese buyers, about double the number from the first quarter of last year, data released by real estate firm OrangeTee showed.
In Canada, a new two-year ban on foreigners buying homes came into force in January, amid growing concerns about housing affordability. The national government has capped immigration targets.