Business / Economy

Chinese homebuyers shift focus from Sydney to Queensland

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-12-08 10:07

Chinese homebuyers shift focus from Sydney to Queensland

A salesperson dressed as a kangaroo in the Australian section of the Shanghai Property Show, March 14, 2014. [Photo/IC]

Buyers of Australian property from the Chinese mainland are turning away from Sydney and Melbourne and looking at southeast Queensland where dwelling values are "compelling", according to John McGrath, chief executive officer of McGrath Ltd.

The company debuted on the Australian share market in Sydney on Monday. Sydney and Melbourne prices are at the end of the "growth cycle", McGrath said. Chinese demand had helped propel a surge in Sydney homes.

After running up 47 percent in the three years to October, sending the value of an average Sydney house to about A$1 million ($730,000), home prices in the city dropped 1.4 percent in November. It was the biggest decline in at least five years. Prices are down as much as 15 percent from a year earlier.

Successful auctions also dropped to a three-year low in Australia's most populous city as record prices put off buyers.

Chinese buyers "are still there, but it is probably back 10 or 15 percent from where they were a year ago", McGrath said. "I think there is a whole combination of things there. The Chinese stock market (rout in the June-August period, economic slowdown) and so forth."

The Shanghai Composite Index has dropped almost one-third from its June high. Credit Suisse Group AG Sydney-based analysts Damien Boey and Hasan Tevfik said in a note on Nov 3 that waning confidence among Chinese buyers could dim their appetite for global property by 30 percent in 2015.

McGrath shares opened at A$1.94 compared with the issue price of A$2.10 in the IPO that raised A$129.6 million. The IPO values McGrath at A$272.1 million and will provide the funds to reduce debt and pay for the acquisition of a smaller competitor.

"We are in a good position," McGrath said after the listing. "Our growth prospects are outstanding."

The realtor has 3 percent national market share and aims to take it past 20 percent in the medium term, McGrath said. The company plans four to six acquisitions over the next four to five years, he said.

"Australia has many different markets," he said. "Sydney and Melbourne markets, there is no doubt, are at the end of the growth cycle. We don't depend on one or two markets. Our business is about volumes and interestingly when the markets calm, we see volumes go up."

McGrath, which owns some branches and operates others under franchises, has a presence on the east coast, predominantly in New South Wales state and the Australian Capital Territory, and is expanding in Queensland state, according to its IPO prospectus.

It also plans to establish an operation in Victoria state. McGrath has a 7.2 percent market share in NSW and 5.4 percent in the ACT.

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