Offshore demand spurs buying spree at top end of town

Sydney's prestige property market has made a dramatic improvement this year, in contrast to the woeful sales and activity levels of last year.

Sydney's prestige property market has made a dramatic improvement this year, in contrast to the woeful sales and activity levels of last year.

The strong interest in Sydney's trophy homes was highlighted by the revelation this week that Point Piper mansion Altona had sold for more than $50 million after six years on the market.

It followed the recent $33 million sale of another Point Piper waterfront mansion known as the "Bang and Olufsen house". Both mansions sold to Chinese buyers.

"We haven't seen this level of activity since 2008 and 2009," said Bill Malouf, of LJ Hooker Double Bay. "People realise the market isn't going to crash and we're seeing movement in the prestige market now and we're seeing the return of the double-digit offers."

Agents say much of the activity stems from Chinese buyers hoping to take advantage of the government's introduction of the Significant Investor Visa for migrants who invest $5 million in the country.

"It's like a switch was flicked on the market on New Year's Eve," says Michael Pallier, of Sotheby's International.

"We've done four sales for more than $10 million already this year, and we're about to get another two sales for more than that over the line."

Of those four deals, all in the eastern suburbs, Pallier says two were to Chinese buyers, one to an English buyer and one to a local, reflecting a common ratio of buyer backgrounds across the high-end market. It's a turnaround from the market's poor performance last year in which the highest sale was $22 million for the landmark beachfront estate Kalua by businessman Ian Joye to retired car dealer Laurie Sutton, the latter of whom had $20 million spare given the sale of his waterfront Mosman home to Ying Li, through Brendan Warner, of Raine & Horne Mosman.

Some of the highest sales in the east last year include the $13.5 million on Longworth Avenue, Point Piper, and a $14 million sale on Wentworth Road, Vaucluse.

"Last year you could have a property on the market for six months, nine months or even a year in some cases because nothing was selling, but my exchanges on top-end property are only taking 30 to 90 days now," says Ben Collier, of McGrath.

Another notable high-end sale this week was the $13 million paid by Seven Network commercial director Bruce McWilliam (who sold the Bang and Olufsen house) for the Point Piper mansion of investment financier Greg Woolley through Sotheby's International's James McCowan and Brad Pillinger, of Pillinger Properties.

On the northside prestige agents are lamenting the lack of trophy homes in that $20 million-plus range, although there has been a string of recent sales about $7 million.

"There's no question that there's been an extreme turnaround in the prestige market," adds David Rothschild, of LJ Hooker Seaforth, who was involved in the recent sale of a five-bedroom house on Laura Street, Seaforth, for $8.55 million, which was also listed with Lionel Busquets, of Ray White Lionel Busquets.

And in March there was the sale of a six-bedroom waterfront house on Battle Boulevard for the auspicious figure of $8.31 million.