Dec 14: And now, the end is near…

According to Google Maps, 10 hours and 12 minutes and 881km of the Hume is what separates Melbourne and Sydney.

That’s not all, folks. Consider AFL and NRL, restaurants and theatre, beaches and not. And … and a lot of stuff.

Also, underlined and underlined and underlined this year has been the differences in top-end property markets.

Differences? Sydney is more about display, Melbourne about security. In Sydney, living in a palace is important, even if a king’s ransom is owing on it. In Melbourne, you can get away with six bedrooms and four bathrooms and underground garaging for only half a dozen cars.

In short, SYD is geared, MEL less so.

That translates to confidence or lack of when the going gets rocky; and when the going got rocked by the GFC, confidence drained in Sydney. While things also became a little pale in Melbourne, the shock was not as deep and the recovery was robust.

Beyond robust. At times it defied logic.

Which raises the next question: Where is the demand coming from? Despite the hype of Asian influences, it is largely organically grown. While it’s true that mainland China has underpinned some suburbs, there is only faint Chinese interest in period houses; and feng shui rules out many others.

And, yes, there are still many unsatisfied buyers waiting out there; but at the top end they’re not living in hovels so most can afford the wait. Quality is still the decider.

This year also nicely demonstrated the estate agent’s “sheep” theory:

Herd of sheep at a gate: one goes through, they all go through; one stops, all stop. That applies to buyers and sellers.

Last December there was almost nothing on offer at the top end, even less of quality and hardly a bid to be seen. This month only the lemons had fewer than three or four hands in the air.

Will it continue? Probably.

It’s likely there will be few transactions early in the new year and that may suggest a cooling market, but lack of stock and continued pent-up demand suggests that prices should again begin to rise.

And now it’s Christmas. But not all are tidings of joy. Read between the lines and you’ll find auctions which ended as pass-ins and a number of expressions-of-interest campaigns that raised no more than a yawn.

And, while we’re here:

Vendors, often encouraged by cheer squads of estate agents, are optimists. Those who have bought elsewhere (optimists do that) may find Santa brings them a hard dose of reality.

And so we end a weird year. Faltering start, extraordinary end. Some of the more unsavoury industry practices such as under-quoting brought to (limited) account; but still a long way to go to an open and clear industry.

And it could be. And it would make life so much easier for everyone.

We’ll work on it.

Here’s hoping your break is cheerful; and your next year even more so.

David Morrell

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Bayside: doing it its way.

After the beachfront and the Golden Mile, Middle Brighton’s primest location is between the beach and Church Street. Last weekend, the record for land prices was both set and broken; underlining again the strength of demand among private house builders.

16 Wellington Street, a compact allotment of 623 sq m (6705 sq ft) defied initial expectations of up to $2 million and under relentless competition was finally knocked down for $2.3 million. For a couple of hours, that was the record: $3691/sq m or $343/sq ft. About 15% higher than the previous high in the area.

And then came 23 Albert Street, just around the corner. On 740 sq m with a graciously tired old timber house, it was about to be knocked down at $2.7 million when a last minute knockout bid was made of another $50,000 and it was all over red rover. This just shaded the earlier record and has put the new benchmark at $3716/sq m or $345/sq ft.

Apart from the stunning price paid in both instances was the fact that at least four bidders competed at each auction; meaning there are another six disappointed buyers presumably still looking for new house sites. That’s a complete about-face from earlier in the year when a chook raffle in Church Street attracted vastly more interest than any land auction.

On the topic of land, two adjoining older houses were offered at 81 and 83 Carpenter Street, each on about 630 sq m. Number 83 (on the corner of Collins Street) was offered first with the auctioneer at pains to point out that the successful buyer of Number 83 would be given first dibs on 81 at a generously discounted figure $150,000 less (yes, less). The auction proceeded and 83 was knocked down for $1.55 million. In turn, 81 should have realised $1.4 million, but it seems the purchaser out-negotiated the agents and secured the second property for $1.375 million.

Highest price paid on the day was at 98 Were Street, an extensively renovated and extended period house on 910 sq m with a swimming pool. It realised $3.75 million.

219 Church Street was reported as sold prior to auction at $2.54 million and 1 Anne Crescent went the same way for $1.61 million. The same agent claimed these two each sold prior to a scheduled auction, but we cannot find any evidence that they were in fact listed for auction. We have spent eons trying to rid the scene of dummy bidders and now we have phantom auctions?

Among the positive results under the (real) hammer were 34 Montclair Avenue at $1.84 million, 500 New Street at $1.57 million and 138 North Road at $1.265 million.

But it wasn’t all smiles in Brighton. Several pricier properties are still on the shelf.

10 Esplanade Avenue, a “cutting edge cool” property has been somewhat blunted: passed in at $2.8 million, $300,000 under reserve.

11 Anne Crescent, a new house on 670 sq m failed to excite. Passed in on a vendor bid of $2.4 million with a later offer of $2.5 million and no news yet as to the reserve.

A near new townhouse at 2/30 Grosvenor Street is still a work in progress: passed in at $1.925 million with a reported later offer of $2 million and still ground to cover with a vendor who is asking $2.2 million.

And no joy at another “cutting edge ” town house at 31 Whyte Street where the most excitement was a vendor bid of $1.35 million. The reserve is $1.45 million.

Brighton East had mixed results: some hits, several misses.

13 Curley Street was the priciest result on the day: $1.81 million

80 Canberra Grove sold for $1.335 million

81 Union Street went unreported, for good reason. A charming red brick period house, comfortable and with extension potential on a 840 sq m northerly rear facing garden was quoted at $980,000-$1,050,000 throughout the campaign. Despite this writer on several occasions protesting at the obvious underquote, the estimate remained as it was and surprise, surprise, it sold for $1.2 million. This was one of very many underquotes we and our clients have had to put up with in recent weeks despite the bluster from CA and the REIV to impose serious financial penalties to deter the practice. The recently publicised prosecution and conviction of an agent found guilty of deliberately misleading buyers on price where a fine of $1,000 was imposed does nothing to persuade others to clean up their act. $1,000 would hardly cover the beemer’s parking meter money.

17 Florence Street, Brighton East got to $1.45 million with another later offer (they’re popular this weekend) of the same amount and again we are left to guess the reserve.

6 Parkview Road didn’t excite: vendor bid $1.25 million, reserve $1.34 million.

13 Curzon Street, passed in some weeks ago, has found favour with a buyer paying a respectable $2.6 million.

81 Comer Street sold privately, land value only: $1.285 million.

Beaumaris had equal numbers of pass-ins and sales:

84 Tramway Parade, a 10 room house on a generous 1022 sq m sold for $1.65 million.

31 Clonmore Street Not a bid to be had and, now, an asking price of $1.565 million.

Neighbouring Black Rock recorded a result at 7 Third Street. A six room house on over 1100 sq m, it sold for $1.55 million.

Hampton and Sandringham were relatively quiet.

Highest result was 10 The Avenue, Hampton. A timber house of eight main rooms and on 700 sq m, it sold at auction for $1.601 million

9 Carolyn Street, Hampton was sold prior to auction for $1.23 million.

49 Fernhill Road, Sandringham has finally sold for $1.875 million, three weeks after it was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.9 million with a reserve of $2.1 million.

Bentleigh had 18 auctions listed for the weekend and managed to clear all but four thus maintaining its position as the most efficient auction suburb in the Bayside. The standout was in East Bentleigh: a renovated seven room weatherboard house on 620 sq m at 17 May Street. As an early Christmas present for the owners, a generously spirited buyer stumped up an impressive $1.285 million.

A good deal less cheery was 15 Daley Street, Bentleigh. The auctioneer’s pass-in price of $1.2 million was upped to $1.315 million by a later offer, but it’s still shy of the reserve of $1.4 million.

We will be back next Monday to report on the final auction weekend of the year and to let you know the fate of the handful of serious top end expressions of (dis)interest campaigns closed or due to close this week.

Damain Taylor

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