Chinese buyers seeking beach houses, a penthouse that could top $140 million, and an off-the-plan boutique boom: what to expect from luxury property this year.
A national price record, downsizer demand for off-the-plan projects, lithium and bitcoin-backed buyers and wealthy Chinese pushing up prices in holiday home markets are just some of the luxury property trends on the cards for 2024.
AFR Weekend spoke to Australia’s leading agents and buyer advocates to crystal-ball the year ahead – which is set to deliver more suburb records underpinned by continued price growth and short supply.
In what’s shaping up to be the most anticipated sale of 2024, Lendlease’s yet-to-be built One Circular Quay penthouse between the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge could reset the national residential record with expectations over $140 million.
An exterior render of One Circular Quay, set to feature Australia’s most expensive penthouse. 
CBRE chairman of residential projects Justin Brown says the project – a 59-storey tower to be built alongside Australia’s first Waldorf Astoria hotel – will transform luxury living in Australia.
“When Lendlease formally releases the penthouse to the market, it will reset the current Australia price record for a residential property and deservedly so,” Brown says, describing the attributes as “irreplaceable”.
On Sydney’s western harbour fringe at Barangaroo, lights are about to be flicked on in Lendlease’s other major residential project: One Sydney Harbour. The Renzo Piano-designed three-tower project is set to welcome its first residents to the tallest tower as settlements start next month.
Dubbed Residences One, this tower is also home to the current national apartment record: $140 million for a customised three-storey penthouse. This is due to settle later in the year, revealing the identity of the (presumed) billionaire buyer.
Eye-watering Sydney penthouses aside, experts agree 2024 will be defined by a shortage of top-tier properties in blue -chip locations.
Pillinger’s Brad Pillinger – who sold Australia’s most expensive property of 2023 with Bellevue Hill’s $76 million Leura estate – says he expects prestige prices to creep higher this year.
“There will be continued growth, but it might be a slower rate than the last three years,” he says. The veteran eastern suburbs agent reckons cash rate fluctuations won’t dictate prestige prices. “Interest rates don’t tend to rock the very top end.”
But tight supply should underpin more record prices.
“They [records] will be eclipsed, that’s my gut feel,” he says. “There are certainly properties worth more than those [that hold the records], and it’s a matter of time before they come on.”
Forbes Global Properties agent Ken Jacobs – who handled the $100 million sale of the Fairfax family’s Fairwater estate to tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes in 2018 – agrees the prestige market is primed for another year of big deals.
The Sydney-based agent says a record could be set by a relocating foreigner.
“China, Europe and America are all having an interest in Australia’s trophy market,” Jacobs says. “Just one or two people from any of those regions could potentially set the record.
“We are seeing more interest coming back from China, equally we are seeing there are high net worth Europeans who want to buy outside of Europe because of the concern of uncontrolled immigration in Europe.”
But the right listing can transform wealthy locals into active buyers overnight, he adds.
“The right property will create the buyer,” Jacobs said. “A lot of the trophy home owners won’t sell as there’s nothing to go to, but if the right thing comes up then it will transform them to instant buyers.”
In Melbourne, Kay & Burton chairman Gerald Delany – who sold late Rich Lister Ron Walker’s Toorak estate for about $61 million to lithium boss Nic Wakim – said 2024 would have more out-of-the-blue buyers.
“You’ve seen tech people, now a lithium fortune,” Delany says, adding the recent mainstreaming of bitcoin could create the next wave of trophy home shoppers. 
“It could well generate a second wave – some buyers will come from nowhere and have enormous wealth as a result. You never know where the next buyer will come from.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne-based buyer’s agent David Morrell says two 2023 carry-over trophy listings to watch in 2024 are both in Toorak, with the Albany Road estate of late billionaire David Hains guiding about $42 million, along with the circa $50 million offering of David Prior’s St Georges Road compound.
Morrell says he isn’t expecting an early rush of listings in Melbourne’s top suburbs, pointing to trepidation around global conflict. It is up to the three Ds – death, divorce, downsizing – to drive trophy listings in the year ahead.
“Unless you have the need to [sell], it’s probably the most cautious time I’ve seen in a long time,” Morrell says.
The estate of the late David Hains is for sale with a $39 million to $42.5 million guide. 
Prestige buyer’s agent Deb West, of Sydney Slice, says a lack of large luxury apartments is preventing downsizers from listing the family home.
“People can’t trade up or trade down – and people aren’t selling [the family home] because there’s a lack of large downsizer apartments, and that’s stopping younger families from trading up because there’s nowhere to go,” she says.
The trophy home queue is long.
“There are a lot of cashed-up buyers, people are taking one to two years to find a family home, and they will pay a premium if the right property comes up,” West says. “There are surprising numbers of buyers with budgets between $10 million up to $60 million.”
West says some relief will come as off-the-plan luxury apartments and townhouse projects come online.
Wealthy downsizers are snapping up boutique developments, with 250-square metre-plus floor plans, however, a two- to three-year construction lag is creating a bottleneck, she says.
Yet-to-be built luxury apartment project Redan Lane is being snapped up by wealthy Mosman downsizers.  
Sydney examples include Redan Lane on the Balmoral slopes in Mosman – which clocked two circa $19 million off-the-plan sales before its official launch – and Double Bay’s Ode project with $24.9 million paid for the off-the-plan penthouse well ahead of its 2025 completion date.
In Melbourne, projects to house potential Toorak downsizers include developer Tim Gurner’s Huntingtower Place and Riverlee’s 1 Hotel-branded Seafarers on the Yarra River.
On the Gold Coast, a Queensland apartment record was set last year with the $24 million off-the-plan penthouse in Spyre Group’s Glasshouse development under construction in Burleigh Heads.
In south-east Queensland, CBRE director of residential Queensland Nicholas Clydsdale says the region’s unrelenting demand will absorb any new luxury stock.
“The coast is absolutely packed with recently arrived migrants and holidaymakers,” he says. “New stock is so difficult to deliver, and we just can’t keep up with the wave of demand.”
Monika Tu predicts Chinese buyers will become more active in holiday home markets. Steven Siewert
The Gold Coast-based agent says this demand will explode all tiers of the market if the speculated end-of-year interest rate cut materialises. “What happens when the first rate cut hits, the market will be an absolute ripper – and watch the back end of the year take off.”
Monika Tu, of Black Diamondz Property Concierge in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, says she had a “light bulb moment” on a Christmas trip to NSW’s South Coast.
“There’s going to be a Chinese sea-change,” Tu says. “Chinese buyers who own trophy homes now want a lifestyle escape. This year we will see more Chinese buyers shopping for beach houses in Palm Beach, the South Coast, or rural escapes like the (NSW) Southern Highlands.”
Tu is also readying for another year of strong buyer demand, kicking off with next month’s Lunar New Year.
“This year we’re almost doubling our sales target,” she says. “There’s a lot of Chinese looking to Australia for a permanent home. In Singapore, the stamp duty is too high, about 60 per cent, and anti-Asian sentiment is deterring Chinese buyers from shopping in America and Canada. Australia is a safe haven.”
Sydney-based buyer’s agent Sam Green says the extent of the trophy offering will be revealed by the end of the month.
“The market is dead until a few days before Australia Day, things will start to come on by the end of the month,” Green said. “We’re returning to pre- COVID times when everyone goes to their beach house in summer, and July is dead as everyone is overseas.”
Follow the topics, people and companies that matter to you.
Fetching latest articles
The Daily Habit of Successful People