China’s Fosun Group has set up an online shopping-style platform to sell overseas properties, including Australian homes, to the Chinese middle class seeking a safe haven outside of the country to protect their wealth.
Estarhome.com, the new online-to-offline service, is providing another channel, apart from traditional agents, for Chinese investors to park their money in Australian properties that are seen as safe, and smart, investments. Chinese buyers already account for the vast bulk of foreign investment in Australia’s property market, overwhelmingly in new apartments. The latest report from the Foreign Investment Review Board shows about two-thirds of the $61 billion in applications during the last financial year came from Chinese nationals.
Shanghai-based Fosun has been relatively quiet since making its foray into the property market last year, buying an office tower in North Sydney for $116.5 million in partnership with Propertylink, and then striking a deal with EG Funds to build 1000 new apartments in Sydney and Brisbane.
The company is expanding its property sales business through the Estarhome platform, which has sold 50 Australian homes for about $30m since March, trumping any other market on its platform that connects Chinese home buyers to properties around the world.
“We started with Portugal as Fosun bought an insurance company there and we could offer some related wealth management services,” Estarhome’s deputy general manager, Zoe Qian, told The Australian. “However, since late 2015 we have come to realise that Chinese investors still prefer countries like Australia and US.
“Australia proves to be a hot pick for our clients with its stable political system and healthy economic growth. People are buying homes in Australia not only for investment, but also for holiday use as the lifestyle is very appealing.”
Estarhome has more than 60 Australian projects for sale, most of them new apartments, including Mirvac’s St Leonards Square project and Golden Age’s Park One in Macquarie Park.
It offers an Amazon-like online shopping platform, or Taobao-like for the Chinese, which allows clients to click on the chosen property and put it in the shopping trolley. “Technically, what they can do is to put it into the trolley and then make the payment, which is only a deposit to reserve the property,” said Ms Qian.
“Most of the time clients will choose the properties they like online, and still come to us and make the purchase face-to-face with us.”
The company has been working with leading developers including Mirvac, Lendlease, Crown and the Galileo Group, but the bigger advantage will be its long-term relationship both with Chinese development giants and with a massive base of potential clients.
“We have worked with leading Chinese developers, who also invest in Australia, such as Wanda, Country Garden and Shimao,” Ms Qian said. “We’ve also got a (client) data base of over one million — we know them well and understand their demand.” Although Australia’s recent tax hike and lending restrictions started to bite some overseas investors, Ms Qian said wealthy Chinese still wanted to diversify their assets overseas.
“Many of our clients are considering how to protect, if not increase, their wealth, while becoming more reluctant to invest in China with property prices in tier-1 cities peaking,” she said.
“Their favourite choice is overseas property, as other investments including bonds, insurance, and other funds are often considered more risky.”