By Herron Todd White
Traditionally in Sydney, prestige properties have been seen as those with a value of over $3 million. With market movement over the past decade however, we now generally consider prestige properties to be those with a value of at least $5 million.
During the market downturn from mid-2017 to mid-2019, the top quartile of properties in Sydney saw the largest declines in value. However, the small sub-section that properties above $5 million represents actually held up well during that period with minimal to no declines.
Similarly, the prestige market this year has so far, in the main, managed to withstand any impact on prices due to COVID-19. While transactions slowed substantially in the months following the March lockdown, the past three months have seen sales activity increasing with some strong results also being achieved.
The wider property market saw a significant impact from the March and April restrictions on open for inspections and on-site auctions. This impact meant finding different ways of trying to sell properties and many of those adopted were already well established in the prestige market. Off-market transactions, inspections by appointment rather than open homes, enlisting a buyer’s agent, and conducting video inspections with an agent for overseas and expat buyers have all been utilised in the prestige space for some time.
On the Lower North Shore, 28 Ruby Street, Mosman sold at the start of February this year for $22 million. This sale was an exciting start to the year and was expected to set the tone for the surrounding prestige market which had been rather subdued throughout 2019. The property is positioned on a 1792 square metre allotment with distant Harbour Bridge and Opera House views.
The grand four-level residence comprises sixbedroom, six-bathroom accommodation with a six-car basement garage including turntable. Site improvements include expansive established grounds, full sized tennis court and swimming pool.
On the back of this stellar start to 2020 we also saw the proposed listing of 8 Burran Avenue, Mosman with expectations of around $23 million. This property is positioned on a waterfront escarpment allotment with expansive and uninterrupted views over Middle Harbour towards North Head.
As COVID-19 started to become a serious issue and the potential economic impacts were becoming clear, the owner reportedly decided it was best to withdraw the property from the market. The property was subsequently relisted at the end of July and is currently for sale marketed as price upon request. This will be a good litmus test of current confidence in the highend prestige market compared to the start of the 2020 when it was first listed.
For those of our readers interested in the celebrity aspect of prestige property, in 2018 we saw Posh and Becks rent a contemporary property at 26 Plunket Road, Mosman. This high-profile lease was not confidential for long after the couple and their family were spotted at local eateries and shops in the surrounding area.
Interestingly, this property recently sold in August for a reported price of between $20 and $21 million. The sale was listed with Belle Property Mosman and was reportedly on the market for just 72 hours before being sold, a strong indication of the continued confidence in the high-end prestige level.
As an example of the changing environment the market has experienced this year, we saw the Upper North Shore sale of 23 Elva Avenue, Killara for $6.3 million. This sale occurred on 15 April 2020 in the midst of the New South Wales COVID-19 lock-down period. The property was scheduled to be sold through an online auction on 16 May with a price guide of $5.8 million to $6.3 million, however it sold prior to the auction date, in just over a week. It was reported that the ex-pat purchaser viewed the property via a 30-minute FaceTime inspection, a true representation of the environment we were experiencing at the time.
Just over the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the CBD, in the suburb of Lavender Bay, the high-end prestige unit market proved its popularity with the sale of a waterfront apartment in the Maritima complex for $10.75 million.
The whole floor, three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit features a high-end stone kitchen, floor to- ceiling glass doors, grand foyer and a large renovated terrace area overlooking Lavender Bay and incorporating views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and city skyline. In addition to having access to the common swimming pool and gymnasium, the unit has exclusive access to a marina berth.
The Northern Beaches saw a new record set at the start of the year with a $24 million transaction taking place in Palm Beach. This record only lasted six months when Jennifer Hawkins sold her Newport residence for $24.5 million in August this year, again showing the resilience of the high-end prestige market during a supposedly volatile year due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
The property features a newly constructed, fourlevel residence positioned on 3360 square metres of beachfront land. The original adjoining blocks were purchased in 2014 for $4 million before large scale site works were undertaken, followed by the construction of an architecturally designed five-bedroom home with expansive views over Pittwater.
In terms of the prestige rental market, we have seen a significant shift since the onset of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Corporate leases which often dominated the high-end rental market have been severely impacted due to travel restrictions and reduced movements. We have however seen a resurgence in the past few weeks of short-term rental demand. This appears to have been fueled by the international and state border restrictions, forcing people to holiday within New South Wales.
Whale Beach and Palm Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches have always been popular getaway destinations and are expected to be in high demand over the coming summer holiday period. A property in Whale Beach is currently listed for rent through Belle Property Avalon with an advertised peak period price of $25,000 per week.
Prices for prestige properties were increasing until March prior to COVID-19. The lockdowns in late March and early April initially saw a slight lowering of prices. Agents of properties marketed throughout that period advised that offers after the lockdowns began were slightly lower than those they were receiving prior. Since then however, prices have held up quite well compared to pre- COVID prices.
Volumes of prestige sale transactions were subdued throughout autumn however we have seen an increase in activity over the past three months, slightly earlier than the usual early spring increase in activity.
The September quarter this year was significantly more active in prestige property transactions than the same period in 2019. Across the four suburbs and localities we generally see the most transactions of houses above $5 million (Bellevue Hill, Vaucluse, Woollahra and Bronte/Tamarama), sales volumes increased by about 75 per cent compared to last year.
The harbour side of the eastern suburbs is where the $20 million plus sales occur, with Point Piper not disappointing again with the year’s biggest result. After the 2018 sale of Fairwater to Mike Cannon-Brookes set the new benchmark for Australian house prices at $100 million, second place has now gone to a Point Piper property as well, which sold for a reported $95 million in September. The harbourside property, sold through Sotheby’s International Realty, sits on 1800 square metres of land and is configured as two, two-level apartments with shared indoor pool, harbourfront tennis court, deepwater jetty and expansive harbour views back towards the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Around the peninsular on Wunulla Road, another Point Piper waterfront property sold for $51 million in April. Vaucluse has also seen two large results in September of $24.6 million and around $30 million, along the prestigious Vaucluse Road.
On the ocean side of the eastern suburbs, there have been some strong sale results over the past few months. Bronte and Tamarama saw two $15 million plus sales in September, following on from the new record Bronte sale in July of $17.9 million, topping the 2019 previous record sale of $16.8 million. The property at 57 Gardyne Street sold offmarket through Phillips Pantzer Donnelley.
Nearby to the south, Clovelly set a new price record in June with the $9.9 million sale of 24 Ocean Street. The property, a two-year-old home opposite an oceanfront reserve and around the corner from Clovelly Beach, was listed through Phillips Pantzer Donnelley and comprises five bedrooms, three bathrooms, double garage and inground pool on a 455 square metre allotment.
The prestige unit market in the east has also seen some very strong recent sale results in the past few months. One such property was 2/124 Wolseley Road, Point Piper which sold in early October through Sotheby’s International Realty for $13.025 million. The apartment comprises the whole middle floor of a block of three units set one back from the water, providing three bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, a large terrace and car accommodation for two cars. Whilst in fairly dated condition, the main drawcard is the spectacular harbour views encompassing all the major landmarks.
Other popular harbourside suburbs for prestige units, including Darling Point, Elizabeth Bay and Potts Point, have all seen good sales activity in the $7 million to $10 million price range this year. There have also been some strong CBD sales, with three sales since late May of units with a $13 million plus price tag, including Cate Blanchett’s two level, 400 square metre, five-bedroom unit in the Astor building at 123 Macquarie Street.
Asking rents for prestige properties have generally come back during 2020, likely as a result of reduced demand for corporate style rentals for executives from overseas and interstate who have been unable to travel due to COVID-19. An example of a prestige property recently listed for rent also happens to be on Wolseley Road, Point Piper. The modern, two-level penthouse style unit comprising three bedrooms plus study, three bathrooms, double car space, two terraces and internal lift, is currently advertised as being under offer with an asking rental of $6000 per week.
Not necessarily a high-end prestige sale, but a new record sale price was set for the inner west suburb of Newtown last month, transacting for $5.8 million. The property is a two-level factory conversion with a combined internal and external space of 900 square metres. Configured with six-bedroom, fourbathroom accommodation and multiple living areas, there is the possibility of a separate self-contained area already featuring a second kitchen. A central courtyard with swimming pool is the focal point of the design and car parking consists of two separate garage entrances, with the ability to accommodate up to four vehicles, extremely rare for the highdensity suburb of Newtown.
The property has been ustilised for many purposes over the years, predominantly as a clothing factory from 1921 until the late 1980s, when it was converted into a residential home. Although currently in mostly dated condition throughout, there is potential to create a showpiece property in the heart of Newtown.
In Balmain, 1 Campbell Lane, a large harbour front property on 1752 square metres of land, sold at the start of October. The property, comprising a near original, heritage listed, Victorian sandstone home, was listed through Cobden & Hayson in late September with expectations of around $11 million, well above the previous suburb record of $7.5 million set in 2019.
The prestige market in the Sutherland Shire and St George regions was fairly subdued over the first six months of the year before activity increased in late winter.
One early 2020 sale was the record Blakehurst and St George region sale in February of 4 Townson Street for $10.65 million through Black Diamondz Property. The property comprised a large six-bedroom, eight-bathroom home with 15 car garage, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis court and waterfront facilities on a massive 3,598 square metre waterfront lot.
In the Sutherland Shire, Burraneer has been particularly active with five $5 million plus waterfront sales since June, four of those occurring from late August.
The Cronulla prestige unit market has hit new heights again this year with two developments achieving several $7 million plus off the plan results. A sub-penthouse unit, an amalgamation of two units, in the new Ozone building achieved a staggering $10.25 million in May through Highland Property Group. The unit, with expected completion in 2022, has over 300 square metres of combined living and outdoor areas with expansive ocean views. These results show just how strong this market is, with local downsizers in particular fueling demand.
The Dural and Middle Dural prestige market has been reasonably active since COVID-19 lockdowns with three sales over $5 million and another six currently listed for sale with an asking price over this mark. One of the properties listed for sale, 14-18 Hemers Road, Dural, has an asking price of $13.8 million however has been on and off the market since 2015.
As noted in a previous edition, Middle Dural saw a record-breaking sale in April at 52A Cranstons Road. This sale occurred during the early stages of the COVID pandemic when there were high levels of uncertainty in the market. The property is a large, executive style, five-bedroom, fourbathroom dwelling with a high level of inclusions, resort style inground pool, alfresco area and fullsized tennis court improved upon 1.44 hectares of arable landscaped grounds. The property was sold by William Brush of LJ Hooker Dural for $8.4 million which is a significant result for a sub twohectare block.
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