This article was first published on domian.com.au Emily Power
Image: A double storey penthouse at the plush Queens Place apartment tower. Photo: FloodSlicer
Long ago in Melbourne’s property market, before the apartment towers sprouted, the penthouse was as rare as it was expensive.
Penthouses were then in short supply for prestige buyers with deep pockets and lofty desires, and concentrated in the CBD.
But the apartment boom has meant plenty of penthouses, crowning new apartment developments from Malvern to Richmond and Brunswick.
Even a Swan Hill real estate agency is marketing the third floor of a brick block as “Swan Hill’s only penthouse”. Whether 11/21 Splatt Street, which is on sale for a steal, qualifies as a penthouse is open to interpretation.
At the high-end of the real estate market, scarcity equals exclusivity. So with more on the market than ever before, is the penthouse passé?
Icon Property founder and agent Robert Mitchelson said penthouses have lost none of their lustre or status.
Older versions, about 10 years old, are still in demand.
He said the term “penthouse” has been more loosely applied in the past five years “It used to mean the top floor, but now anything high up in the building becomes a ‘penthouse’ if it over a couple of hundred square metres,” Mr Mitchelson said.
“A lot of the new product, they are building little dog boxes, and there is very solid inquiry for good-sized penthouses, particularly around St Kilda Road, Southbank, and the fringes of the city.
“Anything built five to 10 years ago has more scale to it. The established product is bigger, and generally speaking cheaper, because it has not had all of those price demands of construction driving up the prices.”
He said cashed-up baby boomers, who want a lock-up-and-leave apartment, are the lion’s share of buyers, but there is a shortage of their preferred older penthouses, built during an era of limited numbers.
“There are more and more people inclined to move that way. We just can’t get the product at the moment. There are not enough good properties.”
Young gun developer Tim Gurner earlier this year sold out $10 million worth of penthouses in just one hour.
Buyers blitzed through the contracts for all six apartments on the upper floors of his plush 74 Eastern Road development in South Melbourne, on the edge of Albert Park lake.
Melbourne’s first double-storey off the plan penthouses are on the market, within the city’s Queen’s Place development, and four of the six have already sold.
Tennis star Lleyton Hewitt owns a dual-level penthouse within the Yve building on St Kilda Road, but bought separate units on floors 19 and 20 and spent four years and a fortune merging them.
Gavin Boyd, general manager of Queen’s Place developer 3L Alliance, said the four penthouses have been snapped up international and local buyers.
He said the top levels of the Queen Street project have been designed as “townhouses in the sky”, to attract an older buyer who is accustomed to a standalone property, ranging from $2.6 million to $3.8 million.
“Buyers can see the benefits of it – it doesn’t feel like an apartment,” Mr Boyd said.
“We did feel it was a spread market, and the pricing is fairly reasonable, they are not crazily priced apartments. We didn’t over compensate by having something ridiculous, but we wanted to attract the downsizer.”
A Victorian penthouse holds the national price record and is the most expensive property in metro Melbourne – the top level of skyscraper Australia 108, being built in Southbank. A China-based buyer paid $25 million, through CBRE, for the penthouse.
In Port Melbourne, a $5.6 million penthouse in the slick Alumuna development, sold this year by Hocking Stuart agent David Wood, set a new suburb benchmark for an apartment.
Swan Hill’s only penthouse will set a buyer back just $329,000.