International news - House Hunting in ... Australia
A FOUR-BEDROOM TWO-BATH 1937 HOUSE IN SUBURBAN PERTH 1.495 AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS ($1.3 MILLION US)
This single-story home with 280 square meters (3,014 square feet) of living space has air conditioning, high ceilings and flooring made of jarrah, a local hardwood. Original details include jarrah molding in the doorways and patterned ceilings. The countertops in the kitchen, the bathrooms and the laundry room are made of Corian; the larger of the bathrooms has a claw-foot tub. The master bedroom has a walk-in closet; there is another large bedroom (currently used as a den) and two smaller bedrooms (one is currently an office). The kitchen opens to two living/dining areas. The propertys footprint is 592 square meters (6,372 square feet), including a large front yard with a white picket fence. In the back, off the main living area, is the deck. There is also a barbecue area and covered parking for two cars.
Cottesloe, 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from the center of Perth, is an upscale waterfront community with popular beaches; the airport is 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away. Shopping and beaches are about a 10-minute walk from the house.
Perth used to be one of the lowest-priced cities in Australia, said Travis Coleman, Valuation Manager at Propell National Valuers, an appraisal company. Over the past decade, however, housing prices boomed particularly in 2006 and 2007. At one point, Perth became the highest-priced city in Australia, Mr. Coleman said. Our median house price was higher than Sydney thats unheard of.
Rob Druitt, president of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia, an organization that trains real estate agents and compiles data on the market, put it another way: The market ratcheted up to a crescendo boom and we saw the market overshoot, particularly at the top end.
In June 2002, the median price of a single-family house in Perth was 190,000 Australian dollars ($166,000); by December 2007, the markets peak, prices reached 469,000 Australian dollars ($410,000), according to Mr. Coleman.
In 2008, Mr. Druitt said, median house prices dropped, on average, 12 percent and as much as 30 percent for premium properties.
After months of inactivity, the market is seeing movement. This is partially due to Perths economy, which was recently bolstered by multibillion-dollar mining initiatives and gas projects, as well as government assistance for first-time buyers, according to Mr. Coleman. The buyers have returned, said Gill Vivian, sales manager at Acton Real Estate. Homes priced under 1 million Australian dollars ($874,000) are moving well, she added.
Homes under 500,000 Australian dollars ($437,000) have mostly held their value, according to Mr. Druitt, while those over 1 million ($874,000) are selling 20 to 30 percent below their peak prices.
Cottesloe, the site of this home, is one of Perths most expensive suburbs; as of June, the median house price was 1.795 million Australian dollars ($1.567 million), according to the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia. For the Perth metropolitan area, the average median house price as of June was 430,000 Australian dollars ($375,000).
WHO BUYS IN PERTH
The majority of non-Australians who buy homes in Perth come from England, South Africa and New Zealand, Mr. Druitt said. There is also a significant migration of Australians from eastern states seeking jobs in the resources sector, he said.
In general, foreigners are not allowed to buy anything but vacant land (provided it is developed within two years) or new construction, Mr. Druitt said. The idea is to encourage investment but prevent foreign speculation on the property that will push prices up, he added.
Permanent residents do not need approval to acquire residential real estate, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board Web site, the government body that regulates foreigners real estate purchases. Temporary residents do not need approval to buy single blocks of land, new construction or homes that will be used as a primary place of residence.
Stamp duty is 4 to 5 percent of the purchase price, and settlement fees typically 1,000 to 2,000 Australian dollars ($874 to $1,747) are paid to a settlement agent, Ms. Vivian said.
Financing up to 80 percent is usually available; mortgage rates are about 5.5 percent, Mr. Druitt said.
USEFUL WEB SITES
Tourism Western Australia: www.westernaustralia.com
Town of Cottesloe: www.cottesloe.wa.gov.au
Foreign Investment Review Board: www.firb.gov.au
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY
English; Australian dollar (1 Australian dollar = $0.87 US)
TAXES AND FEES
Council taxes, paid to the local government, are 1,550 Australian dollars
a year ($1,354). Water rates are 949 Australian dollars a year ($829).
Article by: Lisa Keyes - www.nytimes.com