Significant differences exist between different titles (e.g. strata titles and off-the-plan titles). DIY conveyancing is risky. Mortgages are offered in many forms. The First Home Owners Grant has strict eligibility terms. Compare real estate agents’ costs when selling. Buyers should be prepared for auction tactics and signing the sale contract. Cooling-off applies but deposits can be forfeited if the contract is broken. Buyers must pay stamp duty and pay for caveats and Land Registry searches.

Contributor

Laura Vickers

Principal Solicitor, Nest Legal

Foreign ownership of property

Last updated

1 July 2020

Foreign buyers

A foreign buyer can be a natural person, a corporation, or a corporation acting as a trustee.

Foreign Investment Review Board

The Australian Government’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) decides whether a foreign buyer is eligible to acquire land in Australia.

In general, a foreign buyer of residential property (including vacant land) in Australia must obtain the FIRB’s approval of the purchase before entering into a contract of sale. There is an exception where a foreign buyer is purchasing a home with their Australian spouse as joint tenants.

The FIRB’s powers to enforce this requirement are extensive (e.g. the FIRB can order a sale to be reversed). The buyer may also have to pay damages to the vendor for breach of contract if a sale is found to be void because the buyer failed to obtain the FIRB’s approval.

For more information about the FIRB, see www.firb.gov.au.

Additional land transfer duty

If a buyer of property in Victoria is not one of the following:

  • an Australian citizen;
  • the holder of a permanent visa; or
  • a New Zealand citizen holding a special category visa (sub-class 444),
  • then the SRO assesses the duty payable on the transfer and adds eight per cent of the land transfer duty on the purchase price of the property. This rate applies to contracts entered into on or after 1 July 2019.

If you are a foreign buyer, you may be entitled to an exemption from paying an additional duty if you purchase a principal place of residence jointly with your spouse or domestic partner who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident or a New Zealand citizen who holds a special category visa.

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