Australia exemplifies one of the most resolute, effective responses to the pandemic. Until the spread of Covid-19’s Delta strain this year, the waterlocked country had been able to keep its death toll to under a thousand. Almost 28 percent of the populace are already inoculated against the virus.
But optimism in the country runs deeper than its Covid-19 response. For decades, Australia has been a “safe haven” to foreign property investors: a phrase that has taken on all-new meaning with its deft handling of the health crisis. For nearly 30 years the country avoided a recession: This economic power, coupled with the nation’s evergreen geopolitical stability, has been a perennial boost to investor confidence.
Despite the pandemic, offshore buyers were approved to spend $17.1bn on residential real estate between 2019 and 2020, up from the $14.8bn the previous year, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Of those approved real estate investments, Singapore and China ranked the second and third largest source countries with $9.5bn and $7.1bn, respectively, next only to the US.
“Foreign investment is crucial to our residential real estate market and to helping developments happen,” said Lui Violanti, regional manager for Western Australia in Inhabit Group, at a media roundtable last month for the 2021 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Australia) programme.
Celebrating its fourth edition this year, the programme will accolade Australia’s best-in-class residential, commercial and industrial properties—and their developers—in a virtually broadcast, global event on 9 December. Organised by proptech giant PropertyGuru, the programme is designed to, among others, inform Asia’s populous, high-net-worth pool of investors, end users, and real estate agents of award-winning, commendable properties in Australia.
Australian developers today have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to appeal to such property seekers, a sizable portion of whom traditionally send their children or are coming to Australia to study. Although international education has supported the Australian housing market for decades, the pandemic has shifted the tenancy and investment priorities of students and young property seekers in general. When Australian borders open once more, affordability and the environment will factor into purchase decisions in unprecedented ways, experts predict.
“The opportunity lies with the millennials and baby boomers,” said roundtable presenter Ivan Lam, head of international business at the Melbourne-based property advisory firm Charter Keck Cramer. “Having the right type of apartment products will certainly appeal to those age groups … They are actually more savvy and more and more focused on sustainability.”
The ongoing hybridization of work and home, on the other hand, incentivises developers and homeowners to upgrade and redesign Australia’s residential inventory even as commercial landlords face rental pressures. “Some businesses will choose to be a 100 percent [based] in the office, but I think the majority will be hybrids,” predicts Josh Chye, partner and head of tax at HLB Mann Judd – HLB Australasia, the new official supervisor of the awards.
The ascendence of location-independent work may yet prove to be a double-edged sword. Property seekers from large markets like Sydney run the risk of inadvertently pricing out counterparts in areas with lower pay structures, according to Leonie Klaric, co-founder of The Property Expert International, which specialises in prestige properties in New South Wales.
At the same time, the work-from-home phenomenon could diversify markets and provide a boon to investors. “What you can buy in a market like Perth, Adelaide or, to a lesser extent, Brisbane for an equivalent amount of money in the larger cities, you get much more bang for your buck,” said Violanti.
The 2021 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards (Australia) is fielding entries and public nominations from diverse markets such as New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia until 17 September. Competitors can vie for new categories like Best Heritage Development, Best Heritage Architectural Design, Best Heritage Interior Design, Best Industrial Development, Best Build to Rent Development, Best Mixed Use Architectural Design, and Best Masterplan Design.
Last year Balfour Group won Best Boutique Developer, the first company to receive the title in Australia. THIRDi Group meanwhile won Best Townhouse Development (New South Wales) for Paragon of Pyrmont. The inner-city Sydney project later bested nine developments across Asia Pacific for the title of Best Housing Development (Asia), presented at the 2020 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards Grand Final.
The decision to hold the Grand Final and the Australia awards as virtual events last year, while safely conducting in-person, black-tie functions in several markets, ultimately attracted 516,000 views to the 2020 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards series. Viewers from 75 countries tuned in to the strategic mix of virtual and in-person celebrations.
The awards have partnered this year with the History Channel, highlighting and telecasting the achievements of Australia’s finest to a wider audience. For development companies, builders, landlords and design practices, the awards’ multi-platform reach this year links them to a wider swath of the Asia-Pacific market, from the versatile economies of Southeast and South Asia to highly capitalised nations like China and Japan.
“It just helps our population become more multicultural, more diverse and more international,” said Violanti. “The integration between all the countries within the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards is vital, just to share and understand each other's markets and environments.”