Price no ob­ject for lux­ury apart­ments

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Landmarks - Ma­jella Cor­ri­gan

THERE has been some­thing of a sales surge in the apart­ment mar­ket and it’s largely due to af­ford­abil­ity, as hous­ing prices around the county lift.

But in the lux­ury res­i­den­tial sec­tor, where af­ford­abil­ity isn’t an is­sue, well- off emp­tynesters and busy ex­ec­u­tives are will­ing to pay for the con­ve­nience of an apart­ment that will give them a qual­ity lifestyle sans drama, in­clud­ing prop­erty main­te­nance.

Tamea Walls, of agent Max Walls In­ter­na­tional, which op­er­ates on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches, where land value is at a pre­mium, says most in­ter­est in top- range apart­ments comes from the empty- nesters.

‘‘ Th­ese are peo­ple who have been left with a big house with a pool or ten­nis court which they don’t re­ally want to con­tinue to main­tain, but they want to stay in the area,’’ she says.

‘‘ They have money and they are seek­ing qual­ity of lifestyle.’’

Most of the apart­ments the agency deals with are bou­tique apart­ments in blocks of only two or, at the most, four.

Re­cent sales in­clude an apart­ment in Queen­scliff for $ 5.2 mil­lion and a du­plex apart­ment in Fairlight, which was carved into a rock- face. It passed in at auc­tion for $ 3.7 mil­lion, sell­ing five min­utes later for an undis­closed amount. The other du­plex is also now on the mar­ket.

Walls says that hav­ing fewer apart­ments in a build­ing means buy­ers have the same pri­vacy they were used to in a larger prop­erty.

‘‘ There is maybe only one other per­son in the body cor­po­rate, the qual­ity of the build­ings and the fix­tures and fit­tings is ex­cel­lent, and own­ers don’t have to do any­thing to the prop­erty — like mow the lawn.’’ In Melbourne it’s a sim­i­lar story. Wake­lin Prop­erty Ad­vi­sory’s Monique Wake­lin says buy­ers of CBD and St Kilda Road apart­ments she deals with fall into two cat­e­gories.

One is those who are work­ing in high­pow­ered jobs, who don’t have chil­dren and want the city or near- city life.

‘‘ They want to come home from work and put up their feet — they don’t want to be paint­ing win­dows or do­ing re­pairs,’’ she says.

‘‘ They want to do zero man­age­ment, which is why they are pre­pared to pay lofty body corp fees.’’ They also may travel a lot for work, and they want to be able to sim­ply lock up, give the keys to a concierge and not have to do any­thing else.

The sec­ond cat­e­gory are re­tired, scal­ing down, but not nec­es­sar­ily in size or in the num­ber of bed­rooms.

They are get­ting rid of the things they don’t want — such as the lawn and the tool­shed — and mov­ing on to an­other stage of life.

Wake­lin says that for many buy­ers in the $ 1.7 mil­lion- plus price bracket, their home is not their pri­mary wealth- build­ing tool.

Many are self- made, have sub­stan­tial as­sets and are not de­pen­dent on their home for fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity.

In Bris­bane, the up­per end of the apart­ment mar­ket has ac­cel­er­ated with most of the 45 $ 3 mil­lion- plus trans­ac­tions that have oc­curred since 2000 tak­ing place in the past two years.

The top price so far this year is $ 5.7 mil­lion for an apart­ment in the Ciel build­ing in Mo­ray Street, New Farm.

Col­liers In­ter­na­tional na­tional re­search man­ager John Rivera says growth in the lux­ury mar­ket can be at­trib­uted to the emer­gence of con­sumers who want five- star liv­ing.

Dubbed ‘‘ ul­tra’’ con­sumers, they are buy­ers that don’t just con­sider the floor size, views and lo­ca­tion, but want up- to- date tech­nol­ogy — such as au­to­mated sys­tems con­trol­ling light­ing, win­dow shades and room tem­per­a­ture — embed­ded in the de­sign.

They also want first- class ser­vice, and many de­vel­op­ers are now opt­ing for ho­tel- style ser­vices, which res­i­dents can ac­cess when­ever they like.

Among those in the pipe­line tar­get­ing th­ese buy­ers is Water­ford Prop­er­ties’ Scott Street de­vel­op­ment in Kan­ga­roo Point.

The $ 100 mil­lion project is due for com­ple­tion in De­cem­ber 2009 and will have 14 res­i­dences split be­tween a 12- storey build­ing and two her­itage- listed ‘‘ manors’’ built in about 1860.

Water­ford says the project is unashamedly pitched at the very top end and says he is hop­ing to lift the price bar in Bris­bane.

The pen­t­house is ex­pected to be priced at about $ 12 mil­lion. Al­ready, two apart­ments have sold off- the- plan for more than $ 5.5 mil­lion each.

Ev­ery apart­ment will have ei­ther three or four bed­rooms, open- plan liv­ing, en­ter­tain­ment bal­conies and court­yards.

They will all be more than 400sq m, while the 600sq m two- storey pen­t­house and three­storey ‘‘ grand villa’’ of 700sq m will both have 15m lap pools. Then of course, there’s the concierge ser­vice.

It’s a lot of money to pay for con­ve­nience.

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