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How foreign investment in Gold Coast commercial property works

By Greg Bell

Foreign investment in the Gold Coast, like the rest of Australia, is regulated by the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). While the board is a non-government body, it is responsible for advising whether or not a foreign application for investment is in line with the government's Foreign Investment Policy.

Foreign investment in the Gold Coast

Only this week, the Urban Developer reported that international investment in Australian commercial property hit a record high of $17.3 billion in 2018. Foreign investment in Australian commercial real estate is ahead of global averages, with investment coming from around the world, including China, the US, other parts of Asia and Canada.

Surfers Paradise rates highly with foreign investors, in part due to it being an active commercial centre so close to beautiful sea views. Investors have everything they need on their doorstep, including burgeoning infrastructure and an abundance of local support. 

The recent Jewel project between Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach that brings a three-tower beachfront resort to the area has only served to highlight the Gold Coast to foreign investors thanks to Wanda's involvement.

What kind of purchases count as foreign investment?

Investors require FIRB approval for any type of commercial land or property investment. This includes vacant land as well as existing business premises. It does not matter what type of industry or sector is involved, with the rules remaining the same for rural farming land, retail properties or office premises.

Australians living abroad, New Zealanders and foreign nationals residing in Australia are typically exempt from needing FIRB approval. 

Rules around foreign investment in commercial property

The Australian Government recognises that foreign investment contributes to economic growth, provides employment and encourages innovation. As a result it approves a large number of the foreign investment requests it receives. FIRB reviews foreign investment requests individually, on a case-by-case basis, and then makes a recommendation to the Treasurer. The review process is designed to take into account community feeling around foreign investment and looks more widely at national interest and Australia's market-based system.

Rules around foreign investment in commercial property vary according to the land involved. Typically proposed foreign investments must be notified to the FIRB. Investors must receive a no objections notification from the FIRB before they can continue with their plans. The exact process for notification varies according to the type of investor. 

Vacant land

Commercial land is deemed vacant where there is no permanent building that could realistically constitute a business dwelling. In this case, foreign investors usually have to make a formal notification of their intent to purchase the Gold Coast land, no matter than monetary value of the deal. 

Assuming there is no objection to their notification, the investor can purchase the land as long they commence construction within five years of approval and do not sell the land until building completion.

Developed land

Where the land is developed, the rules vary according to the type of investor. 

Foreign government investors follow the same rules as for those investing in vacant commercial land – they must notify before acquiring any part of the premises.

Individual investors only have to notify if the value of the land and its developments is $266 million or above. The only exception to this rule, is the acquisition is deemed sensitive, and this lowers the threshold to $58 million.

However, if the individual is from an agreement investor country, the threshold is $1,154 million no matter the circumstances. 

Other than these stipulations, once a notification is approved, foreign investors are largely treated in the same way as their domestic counterparts.

Commercial Property in the Gold Coast

If you're considering selling your Gold Coast commercial land, or are interested in expanding your investment portfolio, get in touch with the expert team at Ray White Surfers Paradise.

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