Can You Buy a House Without Citizenship in Australia?

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Purchasing property isn’t reserved entirely for Australian citizens. With such a flourishing economy and high-growth property, investing in Australian real estate is an attractive prospect for many foreigners. And while it might seem more challenging to invest from overseas, it’s still possible. This guide will answer all your questions about buying a house without Australian citizenship.

Can Foreigners Purchase Property in Australia?

Yes, foreigners can purchase property in Australia. However, the process is entirely different for foreign investors. Firstly, you will have to seek FIRB approval before buying a property. Some contracts of sale can include a subject to FIRB approval condition to allow you to go ahead with the purchase while awaiting a response. 

Secondly, you will also need to get non-resident home loan approval. Lenders assess foreign income slightly differently. They might only consider between 50 – 100% of your net earnings to account for fluctuating stability. You’ll need to provide all evidence of your foreign income in English. A licensed interpreter must complete translations.

Can You Buy a House Without Citizenship in Australia

What Is the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB)?

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) is a government body that manages foreign investments and property purchases. The FIRB has a set of rules that only allow foreigners to purchase certain types of property, specifically new dwellings. The foreign investors must apply to the FIRB for permission to buy land or property in Australia. 

The idea is to fuel the Australian economy with foreign investment without depriving Australian citizens of established dwellings. 

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Who Doesn’t Have to Apply to the FIRB?

Only foreigners and temporary residents must apply to the FIRB before approval. Therefore, Australian citizens (whether or not they’re an expat), New Zealand citizens, permanent visa holders, and foreigners buying jointly with one of the above do not need to apply for FIRB approval before purchasing a property.

What Property Can Foreign Investors Purchase?

Generally speaking, foreign investors can only purchase new dwellings. This typically refers to newly built properties or vacant land with the intention to build. If a foreigner buys vacant land, they must construct a home within four years of the FIRB approval date. Once made, the foreign investor must send proof to FIRB within 30 days. 

Temporary residents may buy established dwellings with FIRB approval. However, they must sell the property if they move out. There are further exceptions. FIRB may grant permission to foreign investors to purchase established dwellings if they plan to redevelop them with room for more residents. For example, you might knock down one house to build two.

How Much Does It Cost for Foreigners to Apply to FIRB?

FIRB application fees depend on the cost of the property. As a rule, the more expensive the property or land, the higher the application fee. Properties valued less than $75,000 cost $2,000. However, properties over $9 million cost $114,300. Fees go up to a maximum of $503,000 for a residential property worth $40 million.

What Happens if Foreigners Breach FIRB Rules?

If foreign investors breach FIRB rules—such as buying a house without FIRB approval—they could face severe penalties. The punishment can vary from fines of up to a few million dollars or up to 10 years’ imprisonment. For the sake of waiting 30 days and adding a few thousand dollars to the home buying process, applying to FIRB could save you millions. 

Can You Buy a House Without Citizenship in Australia

How Do I Become an Australian Citizen?

In order to become an Australian citizen, you must live in Oz for a minimum of four years. At least 12 months of your time in Australia must be spent as a permanent resident. You can apply to work in Australia (typically, you’ll need specific skills) or already have an Australian-based family to get a permanent resident visa.

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What Home Loans Can Foreign Investors Apply For?

Foreign investors are eligible for the same home loan options as Australian citizens. You can choose a fixed or variable-rate loan or an interest-only home loan. However, you may struggle to improve your borrowing power as, typically, lenders don’t consider your entire foreign income. Speak to a mortgage broker about which home loan products you’re eligible for and how you might maximise your borrowing power.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Have to Live in Australia to Buy a House?

Foreign residents can buy property in Australia even if they have never lived in the country. However, they will have to navigate FIRB approval and lending restrictions. While there are plenty of lenders willing to offer home loans to foreign investors, there are differences in how they assess foreign currency income.

Can a Non-Australian Citizen Buy Property in Australia?

Non-residents and foreign investors can buy property in Australia. However, they are restricted to purchasing new dwellings and vacant land with the intention to build only. In order to purchase property, foreign investors need FIRB approval, which requires an application fee and might take up to 30 days. There are severe penalties for non-residents who skip the FIRB approval process.

How Much Deposit Do You Need for a House in Australia?

While most home buyers only need a 20% deposit for a home loan, many lenders require a 30% deposit from foreign investors. This, plus the limited borrowing power, can make it difficult for non-residents to purchase Australian property. However, with an expert mortgage broker by your side, you can get home loan approval from a specialist lender in no time at all.

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