One family, two generations of investment in Australia

Some Chinese parents buy a house locally for when their children go to a local university or school.

By MINYUE DING

As 13-year-old Luxin Yang was having her ice-skating class at one of the largest shopping malls in China, her mother was doing something unexpected.

Zhao Zhang, 39, was browsing in the China World Mall in Beijing when a Chinese real estate booth attracted her attention.

The booth showed that they sold overseas properties, including in Australia – where Ms Zhang was planning to send her daughter for her higher education.

The sales staff told her a freehold big house in Australia cost only two million yuan (about $290,000). Ms Zhang paid the deposit immediately. She thought this house based in Point Cook would help her daughter settle down in a distant and unfamiliar country.

“My mom always did this kind of thing,” says Ms Yang, now 23. 

Ms Zhang is a businesswoman who believes in the necessity of investing. Every time  Ms Yang’s father saw Ms Zhang come home with the real estate leaflets, he would ask his daughter: “Your mom bought a house again?”

According to Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications centre for data science, the average housing price in Beijing in 2008 was about ¥9800per square metre ($1400 in 2008 currency). 

Today, the average housing price in Beijing has dramatically risen to ¥60,000 per square metre (about $12,000 in 2018 currency).

Ms Yang says it doesn’t mean the Point Cook house was a failed investment. At least, the house’s price hasn’t dropped since then.

In some cases, the children of Chinese investor parents become local property managers.

“I can only say that if the money was invested on the Beijing’s properties, we can earn much more than this one,” she says.

She thinks many Chinese investors buy houses in Melbourne for reasons other than profit. “They already have enough money, they don’t care about will these properties bring them more profits or not,” she says. 

Chinese investors who buy high-priced properties are buying for “face” or prestige, Ms Yang says.  “Or they have offspring living here,” she says. Many Chinese international students and young immigrants need somewhere to live.

“Anyway, the housing prices here are much cheaper than Beijing.” 

On this Tuesday afternoon, Ms Yang walks into the Monash University’s library on Caulfield campus, with her Celine bag and Gucci shoes. She is now a Master’s student studying in media, living in Point Cook with her cats.

After she arrived in Australia in 2010, her mother bought another two properties in Melbourne, which Ms Yang now manages. 

She said a couple who rented one of the properties called her one time to say the glass on kitchen wall had broken “by itself”. 

“How could the glass on the wall be broken by itself? It might be just broken by their fight,” she said. “This is just one of the various troubles I’ve faced,” she says.

She says the rate of return of the housing investment here is far too low compared to China.  “The time, the money, the energy, it’s not worth it.”

Now that she’s an adult with experience living in Australia, her mother has started coming to her for investment suggestions. “I won’t support her to invest houses here now.”

Chinese investors of Ms Yang’s parents’ generation usually speak little to no English. The only way for them to get information about Australia comes from the Chinese media.

“I’m studying in media, I know lots of information on the media platforms are fake, especially on WeChat, but they just believe in that.”

Ms Yang has now sold the two properties in Melbourne. “But I won’t sell the one I’m living in.” She believes its price will increase after the Point Cook tunnel is built in 2022.