Stephen Nicholls, Property Journalist
First published 29 Aug 2023, 7:00pm
Steve and Sarah McArdle with daughters Sophie Maya, 15, and Belle, at 1 Hay St, Vaucluse, which is up for auction this spring. Picture: Renee Nowytarger
Home sellers and buyers in Sydney’s east have good reason to be optimistic this spring.
The back-to-back interest rate hikes, so prevalent this time last year, have stopped.
And, says PropTrack economist Angus Moore, property prices are growing across Sydney.
“They’re up about 5 per cent since they bottomed out late last year,” says Moore.
“This time last year, prices were falling pretty quickly. And we’re seeing fairly solid conditions broadly – auction clearance rates have held pretty steady over winter, certainly better than we were seeing last year, homes are selling reasonably quickly, not as quickly as they were in spring 2021 but faster than they were pre-pandemic.”
About 65 per cent of homes were selling at auction over winter; the clearance rates were in the 50s or below this time last year.
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Steve and Sarah McArdle with daughters Sophie Maya, 15, and Belle, 11, in the kitchen at their Vaucluse home. Picture by Renee Nowytarger
It’s taking, on average, 45 days to sell a Sydney home, which has been fairly steady in recent months, though it’s up from 2021 to early 2022, when it was in the low 30-day range.
And while Sydney-wide figures indicate 5 per cent growth over the year, some eastern suburbs homes have enjoyed extraordinary growth in recent times.
At the top of the list is the Point Piper waterfront trophy home Akuna, which traded for $45m last April. It sold again for $60m this June through Monika Tu of Black Diamondz.
Then there’s the Art Deco flats on the Double Bay harbourfront that cost art dealer Steve Nasteski $7.9m last June. He did a marble makeover and sold the amalgamated units for $14m three weeks ago.
And there have been many more success stories.
Real estate firms across the east are seeing a surge in listings, with Ray White Double Bay’s top-selling agent, Warren Ginsberg, advising a 20 per cent jump within his team on the same time last year.
“There’s a lot of buyer activity and stability in the market, giving vendors the confidence to upgrade their homes or to downsize, depending on their situation,” Ginsberg says.
1 Hay St, Vaucluse goes to September 5 auction with a $4.2m price guide.
“In the eastern suburbs, a lot of wealth has been created in the past few years, allowing families to take that next step – upgrade from a semi to a house, or move to that big family home in Vaucluse.”
One family entrusting Ginsberg to sell their home is the McArdles. Steve and Sarah, with daughters Maya, 15, and Belle, 11, reside at a now very stylish four-bedroom home at 1 Hay St, Vaucluse.
They bought what was then a rundown deceased estate on the 411sq m block for $2.64m in 2016, but have since gutted the original home, knocked out the back, changed all the doors and windows, reinstated the fireplace and put in airconditioning and all the mod cons.
“It’s a beautiful house. We particularly love the quiet in the back garden and the leafy outlook, with the big fig tree out the back. We’ve really enjoyed being here,” Sarah says.
They took Ginsberg’s advice to list the property for an early spring September 5 auction with a $4.2m price guide.
“We’ve had a good amount of interest, quite a lot of people through and a few contracts out,” Sarah says.
Ginsberg says young families recognise the home as a good entry point to the highly desirable Vaucluse market.
Real estate veterans such as Brad Pillinger of Pillinger, who has sold seven of the top 23 most expensive homes in Australian history, says there’s been a lower level of stock in the east than normal this year but he thinks the usual spring surge will correct that
97 Balfour Rd, Bellevue Hill was popular at the first open, with 20 groups through.
He nominated Bellevue Hill as the best performer of the top suburbs in the east this year. He’s reportedly sold homes for $33m in Victoria Rd (with Bill Malouf of Highland Double Bay Malouf); about $70m for historic Leura; and a whopping $61.5m in Kambala Rd, Bellevue Hill (with Alex Lyons of Raine and Horne Double Bay).
The $61.5m Kambala Rd trophy home was owned by flower wholesaler Leo Lynch and the purchaser was freight boss Arthur Tzaneros. Lyons is now selling Tzaneros’s current residence in Olola Ave, Vaucluse, which has a $50-$55m guide. Lyons says he’s already had offers close to that, with good interest locally and offshore.
“Spring listings, particularly for houses like this one, are going to continue to be tight,” he says.
“I’ve never seen such demand for [newly] finished product.”
Lyons recently sold the Michael Suttor-designed Wallaroy Rd, Woollahra home of Marissa Freund, managing director and head of mergers and acquisitions for Australia and New Zealand at Goldman Sachs, and her husband, James Murphy, partner at private equity fund Next Capital, for more than $15m after only 18 days. There had been 100 people through the home, with 20 contracts out.
Highland Double Bay Malouf director David Malouf agrees that “turn-key” houses – those that require no work – are the most popular, with his sale of entrepreneur Roxy Jacenko’s Vaucluse mansion in May for $16m – $2m more than the guide – being a prime example.
He says his spring listings are about 10 per cent up on last year and “we’re definitely seeing a lot of buyer activity at our opens”.
2702/183 Kent St, Sydney is proving popular with downsizers from Bellevue Hill and Rose Bay, Highland Double Bay Malouf director David Malouf says.
More than 20 groups came through the first open of this week’s Wentworth Courier House of the Week, a five-bedroom Hamptons-inspired residence at 97 Balfour Rd, Bellevue Hill, owned by returning Macquarie Group expats Sam McNair and Anthea Christie, and up for September 14 auction with a $10.5m guide.
Says Malouf: “The attraction is traditional family home living and dining opening to a substantial backyard and pool, which a lot of young families want.”
Then there’s a duplex at 11 Cooper Park Rd, Bellevue Hill, which has been in the same family for 50 years, with a $9m guide for a September 14 auction.
“It’s appealing to investors, developers or homebuyers – they could do it up and live upstairs and rent out downstairs,” Malouf says.
He says downsizers are on the hunt for quality apartments with more than 200sq m of floor space, with strong demand coming from Bellevue Hill and Rose Bay for a 260sq m penthouse in Kent St in the city, which has a $13.5m guide for a September 14 auction.
His advice to sellers is to promote properties widely this spring.
“You can’t sell a secret,” he says.
6 The Crescent, Vaucluse, has a guide of $13.5m for a September 13 auction.
Brad Pillinger says many vendors are still testing the market by listing “quietly”, with up to 50 per cent of properties for sale but not appearing in official listing numbers, a strategy agents like Malouf and TRG founder Gavin Rubinstein discourage.
“Given the all-time-low quality stock levels, as an owner, it wouldn’t be in your best interests to sell quietly unless there was a standout above-market price offered,” Rubinstein says.
“Without this, you want to put it out there, take advantage of a lack of quality choice, with the intention to create a competitive environment.”
Rubinstein says his team is energised coming into spring, with their new designer Rose Bay HQ open for business.
“I’ve never been busier,” he adds. “The last 12 months have been the most active and I’ve never achieved better results for my clients in my 15-year career.
“We’ve got so many exciting projects we’re working on and so many homes we’re lucky enough to be representing and we’re on such an exciting growth curve, which ultimately benefits everyone.”
24A Drumalbyn Rd, Bellevue Hill, bought for $240,000 in 1978 by then Mayor of Woollahra, Michael Bray, now has a price guide of $28m.
Sotheby’s principal Michael Pallier says he has a “healthy number of good-quality properties coming on to the market” this spring, including 24A Drumalbyn Rd, Bellevue Hill, owned by Diana Bray and her late husband Michael Bray.
Designed by architect John Suttor, it was bought for $240,000 in 1978 when Michael was the mayor of Woollahra. The guide is $28m.
And Ray White Double Bay principal Elliott Placks says there has been a “resurgence in properties in both the luxury and general market”.
“There’s a bit more choice for buyers and I think there has been a stabilisation around pricing for people to be able to trade confidently in the current market,” Placks says.
“The houses market has definitely been very robust and I put that down to post-Covid, people want a piece of land and more space.”
A popular spring listing is 6 The Crescent, Vaucluse, which he shares with TRG’s Oliver Lavers. Records show it’s owned by the retired president of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, David Dinte. It has a guide of $13.5m for a September 13 auction.
“At the first open home we had 20 groups through and there’s some good interest,” he says.
Placks notes there’s been a surge in apartment listings, as investors sell up.
“Interest rate rises have encouraged them take advantage of some of the capital gain they’ve made and look to take some of the mortgage stress away,” he adds.
PropTrack’s Moore notes that house prices during the pandemic grew 35 per cent, compared with 9 per cent for units.
Over the past year, Sydney house prices grew 3.4 per cent compared with 2.2 per cent for units,” he says.
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