Aussie expat Joe Leithhead has purchased a Tallai home as he prepares to move his family to the Gold Coast once pandemic restrictions have eased.
After 18 years abroad, it’s the crisp smell of salty sea air that Aussie expat Joe Leithhead misses most.
The teacher has enjoyed an enriching life in Hong Kong, but extended harsh lockdowns since 2020 spurred an urge to bring his family home for good.
Mr Leithhead, 50, is counting the days and months before he and partner Emma, 44, and their two young children can switch their apartment for acreage life on the Gold Coast after purchasing a brand new home, sight unseen, at Tallai.
Mr Leithhead purchased this dream home on the Gold Coast sight-unseen while still in Hong Kong.
The family is among a growing number of returning expats who are tipped to be key in driving the Gold Coast’s property boom through 2021.
The REA Insights Overseas Search Report found the region was the most searched by international house hunters in the second quarter of this year, followed by the metro centres of Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, and then the Sunshine Coast.
“Properties on the Gold Coast have long been favoured by searches from the US, UK and New Zealand, and now the lure of all-year sun and sandy beaches is attracting an increasing number of searches from China, Hong Kong and Singapore,” said REA Group analyst Karen Dellow.
The Coast’s sandy beaches and waterways are drawing property seekers from China, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as the US, UK and NZ.
Mr Leithhead met his Belgian de facto partner in Hong Kong ten years ago, and the family had led an active lifestyle in the Asian hub prior to the pandemic.
“As Aussies growing up, you always want your own backyard and in Hong Kong you seriously do live in small places; so it will be nice to get back to a house and somewhere we’ve got space,” Mr Leithhead said.
“One of the beauties of the expat teaching lifestyle is that you get 12 weeks off a year so you get plenty of chances to explore the world and you do get to visit home — that’s all gone at the moment.
“As the kids get a bit older it gets a bit restrictive. Even as an adult here not being able to travel you feel a bit trapped,” he said.
Acreage properties on the Gold Coast Hinterland are in demand with buyers craving more space.
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The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approved $417.1b in foreign purchases of Australian residential real estate in 2019/2020 — up $2.3b on the previous financial year.
“The challenge from here will be that many countries are now re-opening their borders while Australia’s international borders are, at this state, set to remain closed until 2022.
“The longer borders remain closed, the greater potential there is for these overseas property seekers to choose to purchase in another country,” Ms Dellow said.
Virtual property tours have grown in use and sophistication through the pandemic.
Mr Leithhead said strict quarantine rules had prevented his family from travelling to Australia to find a home in person.
He had previously purchased investment properties sight-unseen, but searched for four months before buying the Tallai home for $1.5m prior to auction via LJ Hooker Property Hub agents, Roberto Scartozzi and Lisa Psaras.
Friends and family members inspected the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home on his behalf, supplementing video and Facetime tours and a long email trail.
“As an expat buyer what you look for in an agent is someone who understands you’re still making a very big investment. Roberto kept me very much informed; we were in contact about a lot of houses, and he was always more aware of the expat situation which really helped,” Mr Leithhead said.
The home has a covered outdoor entertaining area and landscaped gardens.
Mr Scartozzi said the huge spike in demand for Gold Coast property had also played a role in convincing overseas buyers to secure a home or risk missing out.
“Definitely since the emergence of Covid not only have we seen a lot of movement and demand for lifestyle-type destinations in Australia, you you also have expats who have experienced over a year now of the difficulties around life, and especially being in a foreign country they may be feeling a little more vulnerable,” he said.
Plenty of space for the kids to play on this 2,804sq m block.
“They may be thinking of making that move back to Australia and trying to secure property now, and because they know there is such a demand expats are willing to either hold properties empty or rent them out until they get back.”
Ms Psaras said inquiries from expats who had recently returned to Sydney or Melbourne were also strong.
“Many acreage properties are attracting inquiries from expats who have already returned and are down south and realising in this whole re-invention of our work practices they are able to relocate and work from home,” she said.
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