Coronavirus real estate: Full steam ahead for Stella, Benson, 1788, Aristocrat, Surry Hills Village

Stephen Nicholls | 21 Apr 2020

It’s full steam ahead for luxury off-the-plan apartments in Sydney’s east, agents say, despite most not securing a sale for at least a month because of COVID-19.

Other signs of the difficult times are jobless hospitality workers turning up at building sites looking for work; hoarding of building materials and dramatically different work practices.

Yet Rose Bay’s Stella is ahead of schedule and will be complete by Christmas; Luxcon Group’s Aristocrat by June and Fortis Development Group’s The Benson by July.

The 1788 Residences in Double Bay will also be complete in “late 2020” and work is expected to start in October on Surry Hills Village, albeit three months later than anticipated.

And McGrath agents sold a just-complete townhouse in Elevate in Randwick for about $2.9 million over the Easter break.

At Stella, construction manager Toby Meads says he has jobless at his gate every day.

“Seeing so many people unemployed, all the tradies are up for the task and determined to make it work,” he said.

“We’re very grateful that the construction industry has not been shut down during the crisis.”

The builders at the Newcastle St site are taking advantage of Planning Minister Rob Stokes’s announcement on April 2 that they can now work seven days a week.

“We are fortunate, progress is ahead of schedule,” Meads said.

However, it’s taken careful planning, with windows and doors manufactured locally. Hoarding of building materials is also rife in the industry.

“Some sites have been significantly delayed as the windows are imported from China and some trades are experiencing hoarding of building materials such as electrical cables etc,” Meads said.

Work practices have also changed, to accommodate the social distance rules.

There are fewer builders on the site at one time.

Specific walkways to maintain separation are created.

Meal times are staggered.

Spitting is forbidden.

Cigarette butts have to go in the bin.

Touch points are reduced: access doors are left open where possible.

Sales agent Peter Anderson, of Christies International, says of the 11 premium apartments by the Windesea Group, eight remain for sale, priced from $3.95 million for a two-bedder.

The apartments, designed for senior buyers aged between 55 and over 90, have lots of windows and are full of light. They also come with either two or three side-by-side car spots, which is rare.

Anderson said the market in the east had started strongly this year and “all indicators are pointing to a strong back end to 2020 once this pandemic has been overcome”.

He believes during this self-isolation period, property owners will assess their current living arrangement and will quicken their downsizing time frame, both from a financial and property maintenance viewpoint.

Stella has been designed for downsizers with its ideal location opposite the Royal Sydney Golf course and five minutes walk to the village and ferries.

“The development provides a safe and secure haven in Rose Bay,” he says.

Among the first to go at Stella were two top-floor units which will be combined to create one large penthouse. Sources told the Wentworth Courier the buyers were Vass Industries founder Nicholas Vass and his wife, Marion. Their $50 million Coolong Rd, Vaucluse, waterfront mansion remains for sale.

The penthouse at The Benson at 33 Newcastle St, has also sold along with two others, but Ray White Double Bay’s Michael Finger has offer and acceptance on three more.

“They’re selling well at an average of $29,000 per sq metre, which is strong … it’s such a hot spot.”

Another Rose Bay development is The Aristocrat, by Luxcon Group, at 483 Old South Head Rd, which is due for June completion, a month ahead of The Benson.

This consists of 24 apartments. Paul Biller of Biller Property reports that half have sold.

“Obviously there’s been less buyer interest due to the virus,” Biller said.

“But this development has the best finishes of those available in the area and these apartments will sell themselves when buyers can walk through and see the finished product.”

The prices of those remaining are two bedders priced between $1.9 million and $2.5 million, with three-bedders $2.8 million to $4 million.

Meanwhile, the $10.5 million penthouses were also among the first to go at the Double Bay development 1788 when they were first launched to the market in August, 2017.

CBRE agent Ben Stewart had sold $55 million worth of apartments within hours on launch day, from the buyers who’d registered interest. A month later he sold an amalgamation of two apartments for $13.75 million, smashing the suburb record.

With completion coming into view, Ray White Double Bay’s Craig Pontey was charged with selling what remained of the 31 units.

He has 11 left. His most recent sales were a one-bedder for $1.69 million; two-bedders for $3.4 million and two three-bedders $6.25 million and $6.4 million.

But his last sale there was back in February.

Sales have also been in hibernation for the past month at the Surry Hills Village — TOGA Group’s redevelopment of the rundown old ‘Murder Mall’ shopping centre on the corner of Cleveland and Baptist St.

An artist’s impression of TOGA’S Surry Hills Village on the corner of Baptist and Cleveland St.

The SJB and BKH-designed apartments cost about $1 million per bedroom. There have been 22 sales so far, including the three penthouses in the first stage which sold for between $4.5 million and $6 million depending on the size.

When asked if there was any prospect of prices being reduced because of the crisis, he said: “We think we’ve priced them well … by 2021, 2022 and 23 there will be significant supply issues in the NSW market and we’ll start to see some price increases.

“We’ve priced them for today … our apartments won’t be complete until 2022 or 23 at best.”

“So buyers will look back and see they were good value.”

He’s optimistic that building will start in October.

The townhouses, developed by Bondi Construction and designed by Brenchley Architects with interiors by Coco Republic, were opened for private inspection for the first time during the Easter week.

The exchange was done over the Easter break, with the buyers eastern suburbs locals. They’d recently sold their home and had been renting in Potts Point.

Two townhouses remain in Elevate: one for $2.69 million and the other for $2.9 million.

The apartments are designed by SJB with interiors by BKH

Meanwhile, agents selling just-completed new developments are having better luck selling during the coronavirus crisis.

Over Easter, Imran Hamidi and Kevin Mendes of McGrath Coogee sold a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with double parking in the Elevate complex at 2 Llanfoyst St, Randwick, for about $2.9 million.

The townhouses, developed by Bondi Construction and designed by Brenchley Architects with interiors by Coco Republic, were opened for private inspection for the first time during the Easter week.

The exchange was done over the Easter break, with the buyers eastern suburbs locals. They’d recently sold their home and had been renting in Potts Point.

Two townhouses remain in Elevate: one for $2.69 million and the other for $2.9 million.

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