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Chinese buyers seek Newcastle property
Brief:A new data shows that Newcastle is the second most searched regional destination by Chinese homebuyers.

ASIAN interest in Hunter property is on the rise, with new data showing Newcastle is the second most searched regional destination by Chinese homebuyers.

A report in China recently shows Newcastle is beaten only by the Gold Coast as the hottest investment city.

Eighty two per cent of China's largest property portal's users were from mainland China and the company said the report, based on 2013 data, was the first to track real estate search behaviour of Chinese homebuyers in regional Australia.

Spokesman Dave Platter said while China's largest property portal could not release the number of searches on each city for competitive reasons, anecdotal evidence suggested the Chinese interest was leading to real investment.

Last month, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens told a parliamentary committee that although the issue may have been overstated, foreign investment had had an impact on property prices and rising prices posed a problem for first-time local buyers. 

He noted that the Foreign Investment Review Board excluded most overseas buyers from purchasing existing housing, confining them to new housing to stimulate construction and preserve existing stock for the domestic market.

Mr Platter described Chinese investors as the "best friends" of first-time homebuyers because many new projects would not get off the ground without them.

"For years, developers have complained that they can't build new developments because they need a certain number of off-the-plan pre-sales before they can get financing to commence construction - Chinese buyers are like money in the bank for developers," he said.

Mr Platter said Housing Industry Association reports showed that housing affordability was better now than it had been in 12 years and if housing cost too much, a lack of supply was to blame.

Newcastle appealed to the Chinese because it was relatively affordable compared with Australian capital cities, and provided good capital growth and yields.

"Compared to major Chinese cities like Beijing or Shanghai, it's shockingly inexpensive to buy a home in Newcastle, which has a good educational system, as well as a good university," he said.

PRD Nationwide Newcastle and Lake Macquarie licensee Mark Kentwell said key infrastructure projects under way or planned, including the mall redevelopment and new university campus, could boost further Chinese investment in the city.

"At present, we aren't seeing a lot of sales directly to buyers in China but this data suggests they are keeping an eye on the Newcastle market," he said.

Robinson Property director Guy Robinson said Newcastle had a shortage of off-the-plan stock in the past few years but Robinson would soon release several apartment, townhouse and land projects that would be marketed to buyers including the Chinese.
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