Demand for penthouse apartments is sky-high

Sky-high living is on the rise in Australia as the country becomes a global leader in luxury penthouse lifestyle.

The old dream of the quarter-acre block is fading fast, as developers are recognising and reacting to professionals' desire for city-centre living with views to die for. 

While Australia's penthouses can't quite command the $100 million price tags often seen in New York or London, a new bar has been set for Australia's most expensive apartment, with a Chinese businessman paying a whopping $25 million for the 800-square-metre penthouse at the 319 metre peak of Melbourne's newest tallest building, Australia 108 Tower, due for completion in 2019. 

A similar price was paid for two penthouses in Sydney's Pacific Bondi Beach development, which will be converted into one, while Perth-based property developer Ian Johnson has reportedly received similar offers for his two-storey, 1900 sq m riverside penthouse with an eight-car garage in East Perth. 

Putting up the Capitol

The market is becoming so competitive that the Melbourne-based LK Property Group announced Hollywood star Charlize Theron, soon to be seen in Mad Max: Fury Road, as the face of its campaign for the Capitol Grand South Yarra development, appearing in the lavish promotional video and brochure. 

People aren't as interested in having a garden or maintaining houses.

Michael Yates

And in Sydney, all four penthouses of Crown Property's latest project, Sydney by Crown - a $250 million gleaming residential tower set to soar above the city's CBD - sold within 45 minutes.

Crown Property's Iwan Sunito founded the company in 1994 after gaining a degree in architecture from UNSW. When the 2004 recession hit, he made the call to build a luxury apartment complex in Parramatta offering resort-style living. 

"Sydney's popularity with international visitors and investors is increasing every year and this, combined with strong economic fundamentals, significant government investment in infrastructure and shortage of housing supply, is providing a strong base for the property market," Sunito says.

Part of the appeal for high-flying executives, both local and international, is that they can stroll to the office or the iconic harbour. "Location is key; buyers want to live close to transport, shops and restaurants with easy access to employment hubs, reputable schools and universities."


Yates of Yarra

Michael Yates, one of Melbourne's leading property developers, has been working at the top end of town for more than 50 years, focusing on the affluent suburb of South Yarra. His latest project, Yarra House, will feature two north-facing, three-bedroom penthouses with striking views and interiors by renowned design house Hassell. 

Yates has noticed a distinct shift in the demographic buying into penthouses, towards older couples with teenage children. He says luxury apartment living is increasingly winning out, because they can be locked up and left easily. "Life's a lot faster than it used to be and as a consequence, people aren't as interested in having a garden or maintaining houses," he says.

A father to five kids, only three of whom have moved out, Yates says on-site security and concierge services also appeal. "We sold an apartment the other day for $3.5 million to a chap who had a business interstate and spent a lot of time commuting to Sydney," he says. "He has a couple of teenage children and leads a very busy lifestyle, travelling overseas with his wife a lot, so he can leave them behind knowing that there's security in the building giving him peace of mind."

The Sunland state

Brisbane is proving fertile ground for high-end developers too, with both local and interstate companies taking full advantage. Sunland Group was established there in 1983 and has offices in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast. It is making its mark on the city skyline in the most dramatic way.

Sunland's latest signature project Abian, with its sculptural, curved façade, was designed in collaboration with lauded Melbourne-based architecture firm Wood/Marsh, and will sit at the entrance to Brisbane's Botanic Gardens. Another inspiring development, a riverside trio of tulip-like towers called Grace on Coronation, sees them working with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid.

"She is one of the most recognised and influential architects of her generation, and this will be her first work for Australia, in collaboration with the Sunland design studio," Sunland managing director Sahba Abedian says. "From the very beginning, we've been focused on this notion of architecture as an art, to redefine living space."

Abedian says these luxury developments have an obligation not only to their intended wealthy residents, but also Brisbane's citizens at large.

"Increasingly, architecture is being used as a commodity, not recognising the implications on the urban environment. It's our hope that maybe through example, we can really strengthen the debate, not only about design and functionality, but also asking how does vibrancy in community life come about through the built form?"