The Australian and New Zealand property markets and buying processes

When it comes to thinking about emigrating abroad, it is not difficult to see why Australia and New Zealand both rank so highly with Britons. Offering an excellent year-round climate, both countries are renowned for offering a rather laid-back, outdoors-oriented way of life, not to mention some of the world’s best beaches, leading education systems, excellent healthcare facilities and robust economies.

Australia

Wonderful weather, easy-going locals, great food, superb beaches, and of course, amazing wine (and half decent beer!), there really is nowhere quite like Australia. While Britons in the UK are living in increasingly cramped conditions, with almost two-thirds of people now living in a flat, Australia, a vast, spacious nation, has no such problems.

In order to acquire property as a foreigner, you will almost certainly require a visa permitting you to stay in Australia indefinitely, as well as consent from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

Choosing a location

There is no shortage of options of options when it comes to selecting a place to live in Australia, but Brisbane, Perth and Sydney are generally the most popular destinations for Britons moving to this part of the world.

Brisbane

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, offers various tax advantages for companies locating there, creating lots of potential employment opportunities for locals and people moving to Australia. The Gold Coast benefits from glorious weather for much of the year.

Perth

It is estimated that Perth, on the west coast of Australia, is home to around 1.5 million people, around 10% of whom are British expats, thanks in part to Perth’s great beaches and a world-class zoo and aquarium. Many people here work in mining, agricultural or public administration roles.

Sydney

Sydney in New South Wales is the most populous city in Australia with around 4.8 million inhabitants. It is also a popular destination for many Brits moving Down Under.

The purchasing process in Australia

When buying a home in Australia, you generally:

  • Search for a home that meets your criteria
  • Assess how much you are prepared to pay and make an proposal to the agent/vendor
  • Apply for a mortgage, if required
  • Appoint a surveyor to carry out appropriate checks
  • Pay a deposit – usually 10% – and draw up and sign an agreement
  • Completion: this happens once all necessary legal checks and paperwork have been signed and completed

Buying fees and taxes

When buying a property you will need to pay Stamp Duty – a state tax charged either at a fixed rate or on an increasing scale depending on the value of your property. In addition to stamp duty, there is also a Land Transfer Charge under the NSW State Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. The Charge will be levied as an ‘ad valorem’ (based on value) tax to be paid by the buyer, for property above $500,000 in value, and is payable at the time a transfer document is lodged for registration with Land & Property Information (LPI).

Stamp duty rates are applied on a sliding scale of 1% to 6.75% based on the value of property and which state the property is located in.

It is important to keep records for all transaction, fees, expenses related to the property purchase, as this will help you comply with all potential tax obligations. Remember, if you are spending over six months a year in Australia you automatically become liable for income tax.

Australian Tax Identification Number:

The Tax File Number (TFN) is the Australian Tax Number. You are not obliged to apply for TFN as a non-resident, however if you do not quote it on your tax return you will be taxed at a higher tax rate.

Australian Capital Gains Tax:

With the exception of your main home, most properties are subject to Capital Gains Tax in Australia.

Australian estate and gift taxation:

Australia has had no estate (inheritance) tax since 1979. There is also no gift tax.

Council rates and land tax

Properties in Australia are subject to council rates and land tax (the latter relates to the land only and doesn’t include existing dwellings). The tax rate is different in each state – determined by the local council – and is based on ownership and usage of land or the property value. Rates usually start from $100 per quarter, but frequency varies by locality.

Property owners in Australia must also pay water rates. Depending on the municipality, water rates can be either a flat fee, user pay or a combination of both. Prospective buyers can get details about land and water rates from the local council before purchase.

Double taxation treaty

Britain has a double taxation agreement with Australia (and New Zealand) to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries.

Budget

When also taking legal fees of 1% to 2% in to account, you should generally budget for 5% to 8% of the property’s purchase price to cover all costs.

New Zealand

New Zealand is another popular long-haul emigration destination thanks to the fantastic outdoors lifestyle, wonderful scenery, white-sand beaches, low crime rate, inviting English-speaking people, vast space and good value-for-money properties.

Despite being on the other side of the world, it is estimated that there are around 250,000 Brits residing in New Zealand.

Property prices in New Zealand are generally much cheaper than Australia, yet they are considered to be among the most overvalued in the world, according to a study by The Economist, which looked at house prices in various countries around the globe and compared them to rents and incomes in those nations.

Choosing a location

North Island:

Auckland

For foreigners moving to New Zealand, Auckland on the North Island is generally the most popular place to buy property, which partly explains why Auckland Airport is the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand. Auckland property prices are generally among the most expensive in the country.

Taranaki

The Taranaki region on the North Island is one of the few places on the planet where you can ski and surf on the same day.

Wellington

Also located on the North Island, Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is widely considered to be one of the most chic cities in the world.

South Island:

Christchurch

The largest city in the south, Christchurch, also known as the Garden City, has a large British presence, with many UK expats living in the city.

Nelson

We could not take a glance at southern New Zealand, without making reference to Nelson. Aside from being the sunniest region in New Zealand, it is also home to golden beaches and three amazing national parks and the highest proportion of residents from the UK and Ireland.

The buying process in New Zealand

When purchasing property in New Zealand, you generally:

  • Search for a property that you like
  • Make an offer
  • Arrange for a mortgage (if applicable)
  • Carry out all necessary searches and surveys
  • Pay a 10% deposit and sign a contract
  • Completion: this often occurs up to three weeks after signing the legally binding contract

Buying costs

There is no stamp duty, inheritance tax or Capital Gains Tax in New Zealand but you will have to budget £1,000 to £2,000 for a valuation fee, building inspection report, the Land Information Memorandum, transfer fee and legal fee.

 

Legal matters in Australia and New Zealand

 

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