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A hunter of trophy homes usually has a million-dollar view atop their wishlist, but in Sydney a breathtaking backdrop is actually worth considerably more.
Water vistas are a high priority for luxury buyers, but throw in one (or more) of the city’s landmarks and the asking price hits new heights. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are prime examples: In November, a house in the exclusive Eastern Suburbs neighborhood of Vaucluse sold for A$24 million (US$16.3 million) at auction, while the home next door achieved just A$14.9 million two months before. Both residences are on similar sized lots, have five bedrooms each and swimming pools. The main difference between the pair was the more expensive property’s gun-barrel views of the two Sydney icons.
Whether it’s Sydney’s bridge, the opera house, city skyline, the harbor or a celebrity beach, a postcard view brings a price premium.
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The Value of a View
Owners of a Sydney home with an iconic view can practically name its price, according to Mark and Barry Goldman of eastern suburbs buyer’s agency Goldman Bros.
“We’ve got one Chinese buyer at the moment with up to A$50 million to spend. They won’t even look at anything unless it’s got the iconic view of the bridge and opera house. That view opens up the buyer pool to another level and when they’re competing against each other, it’s no longer about the price so much as it is about simply securing the property,” Goldman said.
He added while a perfect panorama is in high demand, an idyllic position adds to the prize.
“It’s all about the prime location and the prime view. When you get that right, pricing could be as much as 50% or 60% more than a property without an iconic view,” he added.
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Thanks to Sydney’s unique topography of small peninsulas jutting out along the harbor front, the city has more than 150 miles of shoreline punctuated by sandy beaches, public gardens and pockets of natural bushland. The most-coveted suburbs housing the more celebrated views are in the Eastern Suburbs on the south side of the harbor and include Vaucluse, Point Piper, Dover Heights, Bellevue Hill as well as Darling Point. To the north, the price of a landmark outlook is fractionally lower in the towns of Mosman, Milsons Point, Kurraba Point, Lavender Bay, Kirribilli and McMahons Point. 
Buyers keen to have a head-turning backdrop and waterfront access are shopping with yet another budget, Goldman said.
“Today, for A$40 million to A$60 million you can get a really good property in Vaucluse or Point Piper with an unbelievable view on a nice big block of land. However, if you want to be waterfront you’re looking at spending probably A$80 million to A$100 million. It is a different buyer altogether,” Goldman said.
Harborfront property in Sydney commanded the highest price premium out of the eight global cities analyzed, in Knight Frank’s 2023 Waterfront Homes report. The harbor city generated a 118% premium, down only marginally from 121% in 2022’s report.
Earlier in 2023, a Spanish mission-style trophy home on the waterfront in Point Piper with a postcard panorama sold for about A$68 million.
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Sydney’s Most Valuable Beach
For the privilege of seeing one of the world’s most famous beaches from the comfort of your home, price tags are between A$2 million to A$3 million more than those without the view, said Ric Serrao of Raine & Horne Double Bay/Bondi Beach. 
“We sold an apartment on Notts Avenue with a full south-facing view of the beach for A$6 million. One at the back of the building, with pretty much the same footprint, but with only water glimpses and no decent views, sold for A$3 million. Both were in the same building, sold within 12 months of each other, were in the same unrenovated state, but the views doubled the price,” he said.
His team also sold a North Bondi house with a beach view for roughly A$16 million. Within months, a fully renovated home without the view on nearby Brighton Boulevard sold for about A$2 million less.
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Bondi Beach measures just 0.62 miles long, but elevated land surrounding it allows for various vantage points that capture the sought-after views. Combine the aspect with a desirable address and the value climbs higher.
“It’s all about walkability in Bondi. People want to see the water, but access it easily, too. Younger families want the north, so that’s the view looking south. There you’ve got the kiddie pool, park and you’re a little closer to eateries. The south Bondi is very popular with those who have older children and surfers because there are more demanding waves and surf conditions there.”
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Building a View Into the Picture
Unearthing waterfront or harbor adjacent land large enough to develop in Sydney is the rarest of real estate gems, said Luke Berry, CEO of residential developer Thirdi. 
“When you think of a city and its postcard, what do people identify with? International buyers in particular will pay a premium for that. So, as a developer, you’re willing to pay a premium or even take on more development risk, if those views are going to be at the end of your project. You look for those icons and you try and get a collection of them. You get one, great. You get two, it’s getting close to perfect. But you get three or four and it’s perfection,” Berry explained.
Thirdi’s recently completed project Kurraba Residences, which has sold all but two penthouse apartments, sits on the north side of Sydney Harbour.
“We’ve got the trifecta. You can see the bridge, the opera house and the city skyline with Sydney Tower, plus the latest addition of Barangaroo—the newest iconic building for Sydney. It’s the holy grail of views,” he said. 
“Our city is so beautiful, so protected and celebrated that it’s become very difficult to create developments on the water’s edge,” Berry said.
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Naming Your Price
Putting a price tag on these yet-to-be-built apartments is an intricate task that is today helped by technology.
“An apartment on the side with the views, versus the side that doesn’t, could have anywhere between a 25% to 50% price premium on it,” Berry said. Views have become such an important part of marketing off-the-plan products we’re now using drones to capture the exact 180-degree view from each future residence. The view document we provide buyers has now become one of the most important aspects of the marketing collateral because it really does justify the premium placed on those iconic views.” 
According to Goldman, Sydney’s newest wave of luxury apartments are ticking boxes for buyers with deep pockets.
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“New units are achieving very high prices, particularly with international buyers and local downsizers coming from big waterfront homes with views. It’s not unusual for us to have a downsizer with up to A$15 million to spend on an apartment as long as they can continue to have that Sydney panorama,” Goldman said.
Berry added agreed high-net-worth purchasers consider a view to be a savvy investment.
“These ‘trophy hunters’ collect the best properties around the world. They want to invite guests, friends and family over and entertain them in front of the best views in each city. And the thing is, there are more billionaires than these types of properties in Sydney,” he said.
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DISCLAIMER: The currency conversion is provided for illustration purposes only. It is meant only as an approximation based on the latest information available and should not be relied upon for any other purposes. We are not responsible for any loss that you may incur as a result of relying on these currency conversions. All property prices are as stated by the listing agent.