RUSH TO LUX­URY

The big end of town is queu­ing to buy $ 4 mil­lion ‘ ul­tra- pre­mium’ homes, writes Mau­rice Dun­leavy

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Primespace -

MAN­SION sales are mak­ing the rich even richer as wa­ter­front prop­er­ties soar through the $ 30 mil­lion- plus price bar­rier. A 13 per cent in­crease in prop­er­ties sell­ing for more than $ 4 mil­lion in the year to July mir­rors a re­mark­able 12 months for ul­tra- pre­mium sales.

In NSW alone there were more than 340 $ 4 mil­lion- plus sales worth al­most $ 2 bil­lion, while Queens­land, Vic­to­ria and West­ern Aus­tralia shared a fur­ther $ 1.2 bil­lion in sales.

But as im­pres­sive as those fig­ures are, there’s much bet­ter to come, with Perth bil­lion­aire An­gela Ben­nett about to blow Aus­tralia’s cur­rent $ 29 mil­lion home price record out of the wa­ter with an ex­pected $ 70 mil­lion sale of her Swan River man­sion.

The ex­tra­or­di­nary of­fer price her­alds a new era for Aus­tralia’s lux­ury home mar­ket, on the back of the China- driven min­ing and re­sources boom, and a new gen­er­a­tion of 30- some­thing buy­ers, mostly highly paid fi­nance ex­ec­u­tives, will­ing to pay be­tween $ 10 mil­lion and $ 20 mil­lion to own a wa­ter­front man­sion.

Th­ese buy­ers have not been de­terred by high prices or ris­ing in­ter­est rates.

The Aus­tralian asked re­searcher RP Data to as­sess the $ 4 mil­lion- plus house sales mar­ket of the past two years. The study found that at a time when res­i­den­tial mar­kets around Aus­tralia had slowed, the pre­mium end was un­stop­pable.

‘‘ There’s been a wave of de­mand driven by lifestyle, and a heck of a lot of money,’’ RP Data re­search di­rec­tor Tim Lawless says.

‘‘ We now re­gard the ul­tra- pre­mium hous­ing sec­tor as bul­let­proof, with the rich likely to get a lot richer be­cause of steady cap­i­tal growth.’’

The RP Data study found that Aus­tralia’s top home sales were typ­i­cally in sub­urbs with a wa­ter frontage, or views, and were close to CBDs.

But it iden­ti­fied emerg­ing ar­eas out­side the big cities, and in NSW they in­clude the Cen­tral Coast’s Gos­ford, Ter­ri­gal, Pearl Beach and Avoca.

South of Syd­ney, the Shoal­haven and Ber­rara had houses sell­ing for more than $ 4 mil­lion, some­thing un­heard of five years ago.

In Queens­land, most sales were along the coastal strip from the Gold Coast to Noosa Heads on the Sun­shine Coast, as well as in­ner Bris­bane river­side sub­urbs.

The north­ern beaches of Cairns and Port Douglas also made the elite sales list, as did prop­er­ties on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula. In West­ern Aus­tralia, $ 4 mil­lion- plus sales spread as far south as Bus­sel­ton.

Aus­tralia- wide, in the 12 months to July, 570 homes sold for at least $ 4 mil­lion, com­pared to 506 in the pre­vi­ous 12 months.

Not sur­pris­ingly, 60 per cent were in NSW, with the 59 sales recorded in the pres­ti­gious Syd­ney lower north shore sub­urb of Mos­man ac­count­ing for 10 per cent of na­tion­wide sales.

Queens­land was a dis­tant sec­ond with 15 per cent of sales, fol­lowed by Vic­to­ria and West­ern Aus­tralia.

Real es­tate agent Bart Doff, who has sold some of Syd­ney’s most ex­pen­sive homes over the past three decades, can’t see an end to the good times, which re­cently top­pled a five- year price record held by Point Piper man­sion ‘‘ Al­tona’’. It be­came Aus­tralia’s most ex­pen­sive home in 2002 when it was bought for $ 28 mil­lion.

That record stood un­til Au­gust this year when Syd­ney prop­erty fund man­ager Gor­don Fell paid $ 28.75 mil­lion for an­other Point Piper man­sion, ‘‘ Routala’’.

It was quickly fol­lowed by the South African Krok fam­ily’s $ 29 mil­lion- plus buy of the Hawai­ian- style ‘‘ Tahiti’’ in nearby Vau­cluse.

Ac­cord­ing to Doff, there’s plenty of money and plenty of buy­ers, al­though a short­age of prop­er­ties for sale has put a damp­ener on the mar­ket.

He can’t re­mem­ber a time when there were fewer man­sions on the mar­ket, with many own­ers play­ing a wait­ing game in the ris­ing con­di­tions.

He also can’t re­mem­ber so many young buy­ers in a mar­ket that tra­di­tion­ally has been the do­main of the mid­dle aged and el­derly.

‘‘ Peo­ple in their 30s are pay­ing be­tween $ 10 and $ 20 mil­lion, which has never hap­pened be­fore,’’ he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Melbourne’s Xeon group, which reg­u­larly sur­veys home buy­ers, much of the money that has gone into top- end hous­ing has come from the sale of shares.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Barry Penn says in­vestors who had made big share prof­its had moved their money into the tax- free haven of the fam­ily home. ‘‘ Our sur­veys in­di­cate the rich still pre­fer to in­vest in houses,’’ he says.

Penn says Xeon’s most re­cent sur­vey re­vealed that th­ese buy­ers weren’t wor­ried about ris­ing in­ter­est rates. It also found that 20 per cent of re­spon­dents in­tended to pur­chase an­other up- mar­ket home in the near fu­ture.

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