Residential real estate

Residential real estate is defined as:

  • vacant residential land (refer to Guidance Note 6: Residential Land for more information)
  • new (and near-new) dwellings*
  • established dwelling* as residence
  • established dwelling* for redevelopment.

* A dwelling is a home — where someone lives. Houses, apartments, and flats are all dwellings.

Approval requirements

Foreign persons generally require foreign investment approval before acquiring an interest in residential real estate and must apply through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.

Category Is approval required?
A foreign person (including a temporary resident or foreign non-resident) who wants to purchase or acquire an interest in residential real estate Yes
Australian citizens living abroad No
New Zealand citizens who hold, or are eligible for, a special category visa No
Holders of Australian permanent residency visas No
Joint tenants who are purchasing with their Australian citizen spouse, Australian permanent resident spouse or New Zealand citizen spouse No
Individuals who are purchasing a new dwelling from a developer and the developer has pre-approval to sell to foreign persons. No

Foreign person’s residing outside of Australia do not require a visa to acquire an interest in residential land.

An 'interest' in residential real estate

The definition of an interest in residential real estate can include and is not limited to:

  • signing an unconditional contract agreeing to purchase a dwelling
  • signing an unconditional contract agreeing to purchase a share of a dwelling (such as joint tenants or tenants in common with any number of other people)
  • a security interest under a real property mortgage
  • leasehold interests in residential land are notifiable where at the time of acquisition, the lease is reasonably likely to exceed 5 years (including terms of renewal)
  • nominated beneficiary of a will
  • an option that provides the right to purchase a property at an agreed price at some time in the future (such as a put and call option).

How to apply

Submit your application electronically through the ATO website.

Fees are payable at time an application is lodged. More information on fees can be found in Guidance Note 10: Fees.

The statutory timeframe of 30 days for making a decision on an application or notification will not start until the correct fee has been paid. 

It can take up to 5 days for funds to be cleared from your financial institution before being sent to the ATO.

Please note applications will not be fast-tracked or escalated for priority processing.

Vacancy fee

Foreign owners of residential dwellings in Australia are required to pay an annual vacancy fee if their dwelling is not residentially occupied or rented out for 183 or more days (6 months) in a year.

For more information on vacancy fees please refer to the ATO website.

Translator service

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) provides immediate phone interpreting.

How to call the ATO using an interpreter:

  1. Call TIS National on 131 450
  2. Ask TIS National to call the ATO on 1800 050 377

TIS National is open Monday to Friday, between 8 am to 6 pm (AEST) except national public holidays.

Further questions

If you need more information you can:

If your question relates to Foreign Investor Stamp Duty, please refer to your relevant State Revenue office.