The status of Palm Beach and Whale Beach as a predominantly holiday destination is under threat by well-heeled Sydneysiders hoping to make the glamorous beachside retreat their permanent home.
The rethink on Palm Beach real estate comes in the wake of COVID-19-related shutdowns earlier this year in which the sleepy reaches of the northern beaches were inundated by city folk, leaving the area as busy as it is during the Christmas peak season.
The shutdown saw a hiatus on turnover in the local property market, but agents say demand in recent months has surged, which will no doubt be welcome news for former Woolworths boss Bill Wavish and his wife Vonnie given their grand Palm Beach weekender hit the market this weekend with a guide of $7.5 million.
Wavish had recently stepped down as chairman of Myer when he bought the architect Michael Robilliard-designed residence known as Koombahla in September 2009 for $5.45 million from Surfection’s Chris and Amanda Athas.
The hilltop 2400-square-metre property has been one of Palm Beach’s most popular holiday rentals in recent years, taking in $25,000 a week in peak season, before LJ Hooker Palm Beach’s Peter Robinson and Ray White Mosman’s Geoff Smith started taking buyers through this week.
“Usually about 70 per cent of my buyers are holiday home sales, but in the past three months that’s flipped so at least 70 per cent of buyers are moving here permanently and only 30 per cent are holiday home buyers,” Mr Robinson said. Of his past 15 sales in Palm Beach and Whale Beach, 11 were to people buying permanent homes.
Despite a pause in activity from March to April, sales for the local LJ Hooker office are up 40 per cent in the first half of this year compared to the first half of last year, according to principal David Edwards.
“At the same time as more money is being pulled out of the stockmarket and into quality real estate, the pandemic has forced a re-evaluation by many people about where they’d like to live and how they’d like to work, and Palm Beach has come out of that looking very appealing.”
Demand has seen a spate of top end sales this year, most notably early in the year for a record $24 million for the holiday home of the late television legend Sam Chisholm to investment banker Mike Messara, and this week for the Alex Popov-designed residence on Whale Beach known as The Hutt.
Mr Edwards declined to reveal the sale price of The Hutt, but its original guide of $12 million in 2018 was revised to $10.5 million last year and it is understood to have sold for close to that.
The downside has been a lack of suitable housing for buyers, says Ray White Prestige Palm Beach’s Noel Nicholson, who has resorted to having staff door-knock houses valued in the $8 million to $12 million range to see if the owners would consider selling.
“Local owners know that international travel is off-limits for the foreseeable future, and even travelling to Noosa isn’t possible now and so the idea of buying a second home and being able to base yourself here for work for the next few years is really appealing,” Mr Nicholson said.