China’s growing middle class is moving up and out of the country, with the upper echelons buying $10 million Sydney houses for their teenage children, or to vacation in for about three months a year.
Since January, Sydney entrepreneur Monika Tu has moved 15 families from China into multimillion-dollar Sydney homes. She says property prices at the top end of the market have been relatively flat – in Aussie dollar terms – in recent years, but demand is growing.
Tu’s four-year-old business Black Diamondz charges clients $25,000 a year for a “luxury concierge” service that handles private school enrolments, connects them with lawyers, interpreters and accountants, and helps them buy and maintain luxury properties in the eastern suburbs or lower north shore.
Some 4 in 5 of Tu’s clients are Chinese property developers willing to spend up to $60 million on a Sydney home. Her largest publicly disclosed property sale to date is a $21.5 million Vaucluse mansion with a pool, gym and 8 bedrooms on 2000sqm land.
Having grown up in China and spent 26 years running businesses in Sydney, Tu describes herself as the perfect “bridge between the two countries”.
“The Australian government is very smart – they’re attracting so much money [from China],” she said. “Australia is a very favoured destination [for wealthy Chinese migrants].
“There’s nature, a good school system, and also, Australian people are very accepting. There are large Chinese communities and people don’t feel like they’re outsiders.
“[Black Diamondz clients are] highly respected in China and come to a new country absolutely lost. They don’t just come here for the fresh air – they really want to be part of it. We guide the new migrants to settle in Australia in different ways.”
Where to buy
Tu is hoping to sell $100 million of property this year.
Her clients tend to buy in suburbs like Vaucluse, Hunters Hill, Cremorne and Mosman, to be close to popular private schools such as Cranbrook, Scots, Kambala and Ascham in the east, and Shore, SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Queenwood and St Josephs in the north.
Inner city apartments in Chinese hubs like Chinatown and Chatswood are also popular among Chinese migrants but Tu says there are few ultra-luxe properties in those areas – and she doesn’t personally deal with properties worth less than $5 million.
“It’s really about luxury,” she says, explaining that the families that she personally helps tend to be those that hire gardeners, chefs and other house help.
“My clients are very loyal, very very good. What’s the art of dealing with Chinese? I think it’s all about relationships, from clients to business associates to vendors.”
Tu recalls several Chinese migrants who were initially tripped up by misinformation, cultural and regulatory differences after moving to Australia before coming to her for advice.
One man bought a sprawling, $12 million on Sydney’s upper north shore before realising that he was too far from the CBD for his lifestyle.
Another spent $5 million and more than five years building a waterfront property with “the best timber, the best marble, everything” on a 2000sqm block near Hurstville. “If you overcapitalise like that, yeah, it’s a great place but no one wants to buy it there,” she explains.
Beware the law
Australia’s strict legal system may also come as a shock to some migrants.
One Hyde Park penthouse apartment made headlines in August when it sold for a record $17 million to a Chinese parent who bought it for his university-aged children. Tu says it’s common for Chinese parents to buy property for their children, in their kids’ names, but warns all her clients to seek legal advice first.
“You really have to know the laws in Australia,” she says. “What if the child lives with somebody else [in a defacto partnership]? I say, maybe you should talk to a lawyer before you make any decisions; there are laws to do with inheritance and everything.
“[Similar] laws do exist in China but it’s different because you can walk around them a little bit. Some people have really big egos and say they know everything. They think they are in control, because, you know, ‘in China, no one can take my things away’.
“But I’m really insistent because any mistakes are big mistakes – I’m not dealing with smaller clients here.”
Tu is similarly insistent when it comes to home maintenance, often reminding her clients that they represent their home country while overseas.
“If you want luxury, you have to look after it,” she says. “You can’t just leave it for three months and before you come back, do it up – it’s a bit of a disgrace. What about your neighbours?
“That’s the message I send them: it’s not about you, you’re representing Chinese. You have to do the right thing.”
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