Title Deeds: Sydney’s real estate column

Alex Brooks used to fill in for Jonathan Chancellor to write the Title Deeds columns for the Sun Herald when he was on holiday.┬áThe column took in all the gossip and glitz of Sydney’s prestige property market in the late 2000s and was popular weekend newspaper fodder. It involved lots of research and investigation, as well as tight writing.

Sydney Prestige PropertyHoping the glitter will turn to gold

SYDNEY’S gem family the Canturis, who designed jewels that appeared in Moulin Rouge and the Matrix films, are hoping to finally shift their Dover Heights Butterfly House when it goes to auction on Tuesday, July 8.

The space-age home, which doesn’t have any corners after the original Malay-Chinese owners decreed it should have perfect feng shui, has been on – and off – the market for more than a year, with initial hopes of about $7 million.

Designed by architect Ed Lippman, it has a gas-heated pool, five bedrooms, three bathrooms and 10 car spaces (the Canturis collect cars).

The house was bought by Michael Canturi when only half-completed and the family financed the architect’s vision to create the amazing curved walls and windows that dominate the corner of Military and Myuna roads.

Bradfield & Prichard’s Anthony Puntigam has the listing.

He says the price indication has dropped to a “more realistic” $5 million range.

When you wish . . .

IS IT any wonder that Hugh Jackman’s better half Deborra-lee Furness has inspected the Nick Tobias-designed house owned by Sumo Salad entrepreneur Steve Pongrass? The harbourside Rose Bay home in Fernleigh Avenue is stunning, having taken two years to rebuild. Inside it has customised joinery, balustrades recycled from an old Commonwealth Bank and large, open rooms with harbour views.

Pongrass and his wife Lisa are selling the house to buy a low-maintenance apartment in Sydney while they spend more time in Queensland on business.

Raine & Horne Double Bay’s Michael Pallier has the listing and says the Pongrasses are hoping for about $15 million. Pongrass paid $3.42 million in 1998.

Million-dollar views

THERE are only 56 oceanfront houses in Sydney, says Doyle Spillane principal Stephen Doyle – and one of them is for sale at Beach Road, Collaroy, with a $7 million-plus price tag. The position and views don’t come much better, with the 1445-square-metre block facing north-east over the water but the house looks a little worse for wear. The property last traded in 1997 for $900,000.

Worthy of meditation

ONE of Byron Bay’s distinctive acreage properties on Old Bangalow Road has been sold to a couple from Monaco who plan to move their business here.

Kristina Brodie’s four-pavilion meditation retreat on 7.33 hectares has sold for $3.65 million through Frances O’Connor Real Estate. The four-bedroom, four-bathroom timber pavilions, inspired by Kyoto’s Ryoanji Temple, were designed by Bryon Bay architect Christine Vadasz.

The property, a five-minute drive from Byron Bay’s post office, was sold to Joachim Deubel and Maxine Monroe-Deubel. Brodie – who owned Byron Bay’s Green Garage – is spending more time in Africa, where she runs a children’s charity.

Geena’s really in love

ACTOR and archery champ Geena Davis has spoken in glowing terms about Sydney to National Geographic Traveler. “I’ve visited a lot of cities but I fell in love with Sydney because it is the most beautiful,” she said.

The former fashion model is here filming Accidents Happen, holed up in a luxury eastern suburbs rental property and chauffeured to the studio each morning. There’s no word yet that the 195-centimetre tall mother of three has started looking around to buy a home but, with those glowing words about Sydney, you never know!

Justin going nowhere

I HEARD a rumour that Merivale Group CEO Justin Hemmes was looking to buy a retreat in Tasmania.

It’s unfounded. “I’m perfectly happy where I am,” he says. And why not? He lives in the grand family home Hermitage in Vaucluse. Who needs a retreat when you have stunning harbour views and Little Hermit Bay at the bottom of your house?

A chance for heaven

HOLY house, anyone? A flurry of former churches are on the local real estate market, with several already converted to homes. There’s a three-bedroom church at Wentworth Street in Tempe, selling for $930,000 through Sarah Lorden Real Estate.

The original St Matthew’s Church rectory in Addison Road, Manly, with four bedrooms and awesome harbour views, is on the market for $3 million-plus. In Woollahra a four-bedroom 416-square-metre apartment in a gothic church in Jersey Road is still on the market for $2.5 million after being passed in at auction in February.

But the real bargain must be a weatherboard heritage-listed church in Medlow Bath listed by Raine & Horne Katoomba for a heavenly $225,000. It’s enough to make you come over all spiritual.

It’s really an L of a reshuffle

THE property magnates behind the controversial redevelopment of Pittwater’s former union-owned workers’ retreat Currawong and Bondi’s beachfront Swiss Grand Hotel – Eduard Litver and Allen Linz – have been busy tidying up their own real-estate holdings.

Following Linz’s purchase of the house next door to his Watsons Bay waterfront for the princely sum of $8.15 million late last year, Litver is flogging off the luxury Darling Point house he has called home for only seven months.

Litver is hoping to snag more than $17 million for the palatial Eastbourne Road home, which includes self-contained maid’s quarters and four levels of living space.

Designed by Burley Katon Halliday, it has lavish appointments including an internal lift, customised joinery, heated swimming pool with water feature and a mosaic tiled art wall.

McGrath’s Steven Chen and L.J.Hooker’s Bill Malouf, the co-agents, say Litver is hoping to upgrade to a bigger home.

South African-born Linz and Russian-born Litver hope to build luxury homes and a marina at Currawong and plan to turn Bondi’s Swiss Grand Hotel into apartments.

Ghosts and golf

A VICTORIAN-ERA mansion in Elderslie, which is said to be haunted and hosts weekend ghost tours, is for sale. It is hoped it will sell for between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.

Studley Park House, built in 1888 as a grazier’s home but now owned by Camden Golf Club, is on the market for the first time in decades. The heritage-listed property is run down but has features including a tessellated tile foyer, stained glass windows and traditional joinery.

On 5.5 hectares and accessible only via the golf course, it is for sale by expressions of interest closing on July 30 through Ray White Macarthur Group’s Mark Jennings.

Kylie’s isle, anyone?

RON and Carol Minogue’s daughter Kylie has an on-again, off-again French boyfriend Olivier Martinez. Other daughter Dannii had a dalliance with French businessman Jeremy Garamond. The parents of the famous sisters, however, have a French Island. It’s not an isle in France but an island off the coast of Victoria. And now they are selling it.

They bought the 20-hectare retreat four years ago for $400,000 and spent a fortune transforming it into an eco-sanctuary, with its own wind and solar power generators hidden in an old chicory kiln.

There is also a 1000-square-metre walled garden growing organic vegies and a rainwater tank irrigation system. The four-bedroom house has open-plan living areas and is surrounded by a French-style stone wall. The retreat is looked after by a farm manager and is said to have its own wildlife, including koalas.

Kylie has stayed on the island several times, including a stint while recovering from breast cancer. The property failed to sell after an expressions-of-interest campaign this year and the Minogues are now offering two parcels: one with house and organic garden for about $1.2 million; the other of unimproved land for $600,000. Hocking Stuart agent Hendrik Boer has the listing.

Waterhouse on move

A MEMBER of the Waterhouse horse-racing and bookmaking family, Martin Waterhouse, has sold his Narrabeen beachfront for $3.25 million. The four-bedroom Pittwater Road property was on 815 square metres of level land with direct access to the beach. Waterhouse, the solicitor cousin of Robbie and David, tried to launch a new political party last year, Provident Party Australia. At the time, Waterhouse, an amateur pilot, said the PPA was “spawned by a large number of unhappy members of the general aviation community who have been massively disadvantaged by airport privatisations”.

Fashion changes

THE historic family home of fashion designer Robbie Cranfield is on the market again, this time with hopes of more than $4 million. The Tudor-style house in Suffolk Avenue above Collaroy beach, built in 1936, was listed with several agents, originally at a price of about $5 million. It is now with Jaime Upton of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Wine man hope for premium price

IF YOU’VE lived near Bondi you’ve probably bought a tipple or two from Bondi Road wine merchants Kemeny’s. Owner Andrew Kemeny – also the chairman of Sydney FC, the football club of which actor Anthony LaPaglia is a director – is auctioning his luxury Vaucluse home on Tuesday. The five-bedroom Olola Avenue house includes a gas-heated pool and spa – and customised wine cellar, of course. Since the house up the street has just sold for a little more than $8.2million, Kemeny is hoping his place will fetch more. He probably won’t spend the profits on more wine, though – he’s upgrading to a bigger and better pad.

Hugh house-hunting

HUGH JACKMAN, who has been in Sydney for the past few months filming Wolverine, is due to depart Australian shores soon. While here he stays in luxury rentals around the eastern suburbs where he can easily have a dip at Bondi Beach and take time out with wife Deborra-lee Furness and his kids. There are whispers they have been doing a spot of house-hunting during this visit. The couple also enjoy a holistic heath retreat – particularly the Gwinganna Resort in the Gold Coast hinterland, where Jackman enjoyed his last stay so much he decided to invest in the business.

Double your money

CHANNEL TEN’s 9am With David And Kim presenter Kim Watkins is hoping for more than $3.5 million when she sells her Randwick house at auction on Saturday. Now that Watkins calls Melbourne home, it’s time to flog off the five-bedroom house she lovingly renovated with husband Simon Tornya. On 612 square metres, the property has its own home theatre opening directly to the level backyard, which includes a thatched gazebo. Watkins bought the house in 2003 for $1.7 million. GoodyerDonnelley principal Debbie Donnelley has the listing.

Oasis unit on market

POLITICAL supremos Tanya Plibersek, the federal MP for Sydney and Minister for Housing and the Status of Women, and her husband, NSW Education Department chief Michael Coutts-Trotter have listed their swish Oasis art deco three-bedroom apartment for July 5 auction. The P&O-style complex is known for its whopping light-filled apartments, just a short stroll from Woolloomooloo and the finger wharf. Other owners in the building include socialite and former Qantas steward Lorenzo Montesini.

CBD prices to soar

MCGRATH Real Estate founder John McGrath has released his market report. He predicts Sydney is going to be another New York, a city where few people will be able to afford to buy within five kilometres of the CBD. “The inner ring already has a median house price above $1 million and, with those growth rates, it means that a child born today who wants to buy a one-bedroom apartment in the city on their 21st birthday will need to spend $4 million,” he told me. Meanwhile Rismark International – the company behind shared equity mortgages – says Sydney property prices have fallen by an average of 4per cent since 2004. “Between 2004 and 2006 they actually fell by 12 per cent and have come back by 8 per cent since then,” researcher Matthew Hardman says. “It’s hard to talk about average prices in Sydney because eastern suburbs prices remained flat but places like Bankstown and Fairfield fell by 20 or 30 per cent.”

Russell’s shrewd buy

McGRATH also mentioned the north tower of Woolloomooloo wharf, where he helped mate Russell Crowe buy his 1000-square-metre apartment. Crowe paid $14 million in 2003, but McGrath estimates it’s worth more than $35 million today. “It has security, privacy, everything,” he says. It’s no secret Crowe and wife Danielle Spencer are looking around for a bigger house for their two small boys, Charlie and Tennyson. Crowe told 60 Minutes he’d like another child and he’s been spotted inspecting a couple of houses, including businessman David Coe’s Vaucluse waterfront that reportedly has a $50 millionprice tag.

Kidmans may get what they paid

THE Kidman family’s rustic retreat in the South Coast town of Rosedale – including three basic log cabins on a grassy verge within metres of the surf – is on the market, but it may only fetch the $4million originally paid back in 2004. Nicole Kidman’s soon to be former brother-in-law Angus Hawley bid for the log cabin property at its auction on Valentine’s Day in 2004, paying $1.47million for the retreat when he and Antonia Kidman were still a happy couple. The Kidman clan also paid $2.53million for the house and a block of land next door to the cabins, taking their total Rosedale investment to $4million. Now that Nicole has married Keith Urban and is expecting his baby, the Hollywood star will reportedly base herself in Nashville and dispose of her NSW property assets. She sold her Walsh Bay apartment last year. The Darling Point home she shared with former husband Tom Cruise has hefty $20million price expectations. Rosedale residents reported seeing her in the South Coast town only three times in the past four years, but Angus and Antonia, as well as Nicole’s parents, used the property frequently. “Angus loved the place. Just before the split [from Antonia last year] he was bringing the kids down most weekends,” a resident said. Ray White Batemans Bay principal John Haslem says the South Coast property market has been slow since the property boom ended in 2004 but the Kidmans “should get their money back”. Meanwhile, Skyline Real Estate’s Stuart Bath has scotched rumours that Nicole was looking for a house in Oxford Falls two weeks ago. She is reportedly looking for another Sydney abode as a base when she returns to visit family.

Chichi’s on steroids

SYDNEY’S chichi apartments with harbour views seem to be on steroids, with massive prices being fetched for house-sized pads. Following the $16.75million sale of an apartment in Bennelong comes another price-smashing record of $20million for a massive 531-square-metre penthouse in Potts Point’s new 10 Wylde Street development. Richardson & Wrench’s Jason Boon sold the yet-to-be-built penthouse to a Sydney businessman whom he refused to identify. “I can’t tell you who it is. If it gets out, I’ll only get half my commission. Safe to say it’s someone who doesn’t fly on commercial airlines.” The apartment is being designed by Alex Tzannes with interiors by fashion designer Alex Perry and should be completed by the end of next year.

Architect downsizing

BARBARA BROWN, a designer who worked with McDonald’s restaurants putting a bit of shmick into the interiors of the golden arches and McCafe, is auctioning her Phillip Cox-designed house at 198 Edinburgh Road, Castlecrag, with $3million expectations. The North Shore enclave has become a hot spot for architect-designed houses, with sprawling homes by Alex Popov, Hugh Buhrich and Walter Burley Griffin all fetching $2million-plus price tags. Brown is downsizing to her Balmoral apartment while she looks for a new, smaller home on the lower North Shore.

Developer uproots

BRONTE property developer Richard Walsh will sell his five-bedroom Thomas Street house with hopes of more than $2.5million. He’s off to Lennox Head on the North Coast, to be closer to his developments around Byron Bay.

Doctors’ retreat

FERTILITY guru Dr Graeme Hughes, the clinical director at IVF Australia Eastern Suburbs, and his wife Dr Bronwyn Hughes have bought one of Pearl Beach’s architect-designed beachfront houses for $4.5million. They’re selling their lagoon-front home in the celebrity Central Coast holiday spot, with hopes of $1.5million-plus when it goes to auction on June 14 through PRDnationwide Ettalong’s Stuart Gan. The sleepy village surrounded by national park has long been a celebrity haunt, with film director George Miller, SBS’s Jenny Brockie and Jeanne Little all owning retreats there.

Makeover helps a bit

HERE’S proof that swanky home makeovers don’t always add a tonne of value to a property. A five-bedroom south Coogee house with awesome ocean views tizzied up by the producers of TV show Selling Houses Australia sold for $2,850,000 last week, just $50,000 more than an offer made before expensive renovations took place. Ray White Randwick’s Natalie Zulian says the house in Denning Street had an offer for $2.8million before the show’s producers (the same people who make Hot Property) put in a new kitchen, a new bathroom and repainted and updated the second bathroom.
The auction is scheduled to be aired on June 18.

Nothing if not cosy

THERE’S nothing like the inner city for innovative – and tiny – houses such as a cute but kooky renovated one-bedroom terrace in Denham Street, Darlinghurst. On just 79 square metres, the terrace was gutted in the early 1990s and had several mezzanine platforms installed to create more internal space. There is just more than 70 square metres of internal living and room for outdoor entertaining in the rear courtyard. It’s for sale with offers of $600,000-plus sought by McGrath’s Chris Chung, who’s also listed a former electricity sub-station in Seale Street, Darlinghurst, for $600,000-plus.