By Lachlan Colquhoun
Record prices in Victoria and the Gold Coast, plus major prestige sales in Sydney, have confirmed the resilience of Australian luxury property in the face of economic headwinds.
Australia’s east coast property market continues to march to its own strong drumbeat as foreign buyers and expats return, while local buyers defy the higher interest rate environment.
Mark Browning, head of Property Services Group at NAB, says that despite the prolonged increase in official rates over 2022, the prestige buying market has been “largely unaffected” compared to the broader market, and notes new sale price records in Victoria and Queensland. “When it comes to Australia’s most expensive properties, Sydney’s eastern suburbs and northern beaches, and Victoria’s Toorak, still lead the way,” Browning says. “The strong prices being achieved in the prestige market are underpinned by a lack of supply, wider economic health, the return of homesick expats from places like Shanghai and Singapore, and the lifestyle appeal of Australia in general.”
One of the most closely watched listings of the year so far was Toorak trophy home Huntingfield, which achieved Melbourne’s third highest ever sales price and the eighth highest nationally for FY2022-23 when it transacted in June. According to Kay & Burton executive director Gowan Stubbings, the guiding range of $55-$60m was exceeded after multiple offers. “Homes like this just don’t transact often,” Stubbings explains. “It was also the only true turnkey solution at this level in a long time because all the other big homes sold recently needed money spent on them. Since Covid, renovations have become increasingly difficult and very expensive, but Huntingfield was beautifully built and looked after.”
“Even purely from an investment perspective, buying a trophy home like [Huntingfield], with the land it offers, is not an opportunity that comes up often.”
Kay & Burton
Designed by one of Australia’s oldest architecture firms, Bates Smart, the six-bed Albany Road residence boasts four-metre-high ceilings, two pools, an eight-car garage, and manicured gardens (complete with a waterfall) on a 3300sqm block. Stubbings says he was not surprised the property attracted strong interest from overseas buyers. “An Albany Road address is always going to pique the interest of anyone in that price range, both locally and certainly offshore,” he explains. “We had a lot of expats enquire, and a huge number wanted to come and look at the property, including a number from mainland China intending to visit Australia specifically for that reason.”
Kay & Burton director Andrew Sahhar says offshore interest also characterised the sales campaign for Carinya on nearby Clendon Road. Spread over more than an acre, the restored three-level Spanish mission-style property sold for between $42-46m. “There are a lot of people relocating to Melbourne at the moment, so it’s no surprise that two of the five expressions of interest came out of Asia,” Sahhar explains. “But there are also families with multiple homes in Australia and overseas waiting in the wings to snap up generational homes like this.”
He adds that the top end of the Melbourne market is trading well heading into the warmer months, with multiple lifestyle properties equipped with tennis courts being readied for sale in the $20-30m bracket.
In September, expressions of interest opened for Karum on St Georges Road, a palazzo-style property complete with pool, tennis court and a Paul Bangay-designed garden. If the guide price of $46-50m is achieved, the heritage-listed residence will join the state’s top five most expensive properties—a list topped by 29 St Georges Road based on last year’s $80m pricetag.
Hawthorn has been drawing cross-border attention too. In March, Avon Court on Shakespeare Grove pushed the suburb record above $40m. Having been on and off the market several times in recent years, the nine-bed mansion sold within the space of a week through Kay & Burton director Grant Samuel, who says headline-grabbing sales such as this have helped contribute to confidence in Australia’s prestige market.
“There’s huge demand in Hawthorn, particularly from overseas buyers at the moment,” Samuel says, adding that this vein of interest extends across the wider Boroondara area and Stonnington. “Foreign buyers are flocking here. Of the 130 groups we saw at a recent auction, 80 per cent would have been international; it’s extraordinary.” Samuel suspects this trend will only continue:
“Australia offers a safe culture, and our schooling is fantastic. We had a bit of a break like the rest of the world did but now we’re seeing some really big sales.”
In this environment, Samuel adds, “$20m is the new $10m, it’s not the ridiculous number that it used to be.”
SCALING NEW HEIGHTS
In Sydney, meanwhile, NAB’s Mark Browning notes the ceiling price for the year to date is around $70m, with a Queen Anne-style home in Bellevue Hill transacting at double the price paid just eight years ago. “Coupled with the record set at the end of 2022 of $130m for Uig Lodge in Point Piper, which superseded the $100m benchmark set four years earlier, this suggests buyers in the ultra-prime bracket have moved clear of Covid-era uncertainty.”
Other landmark sales included the $61.5m sale of a four-bed mansion on Kambala Road, Bellevue Hill, and the $69m sale of Mainhead at 49 Wunulla Road, Point Piper, which ranked among Sydney’s top 10 most expensive houses of all time. The highest apartment sale for the year thus far was in February, for a $26m residence in Crown’s One Barangaroo complex.
New highs have also been reached in Brisbane, where the $20.5m sale of a 130-year-old riverfront property in New Farm broke the city’s prior record of $18.5m.
Queensland’s highest sale price for the year to date was achieved in September, with auction bids reaching $24.8m for the six-bed mansion Alston, set on a sprawling 3342sqm riverfront block at the Gold Coast.
Browning says: “Given the reported increasing level of enquiry supported by rebounding migration, the luxury segment is anticipated to continue outperforming the broader housing market.” He adds: “There is a strong prospect of new record prices being set this year, largely due to the lack of quality stock.”