Australians are increasingly leaving the quarter-acre suburban dream behind in favour of a more manageable, low-maintenance lock-and-leave lifestyle afforded by luxury apartments.
Within three weeks of launch of what will be the country's highest residential tower, Melbourne's Fender Katsalidis Architects-designed Australia 108, 75 per cent of apartments were already claimed.
The majority of the three-bedroom units, ranging in price from $1.6 million up to $12 million, were pegged by downsizers.
Mirvac Group's stylish Array building in Docklands, with interiors designed by Megan Hess, best known for her illustration work with Chanel, Dior and Tiffany & Co, is a prime example of Melbourne's increasingly popular lock-and-leave apartment complexes.
Executive Residential's John Carfi says a big part of their business is responding to social change. "When you look at social trends over the last five-to-10 years, we're seeing a growing move towards urbanisation and major activity centre living, amplified in Melbourne and Sydney, but you're also seeing changes in how people use dwellings, particularly with white collar professionals. We tend to eat out a lot more and we don't want lingering maintenance concerns."
The quarter-acre dream can be a very empty life. Obviously there's the onerous commute, but the social aspect isn't what people imagined it would be either.John Carfi
Carfi says white-collar purchasers are far more likely to rate close proximity to amenities and a low-maintenance lifestyle. "They can pick up and jump on a plane to Hong Kong for three days for work, then take off to Brisbane," he says.
"The product is evolving to suit their needs. The quarter-acre dream can be a very empty life. Obviously there's the onerous commute, but the social aspect isn't what people imagined it would be either."
Real estate gold
Golden Age Development Group, responsible for the mixed-purpose Sheraton Hotel redevelopment, is currently selling heritage-facade, 57 apartment Collins House in the heart of Melbourne's CBD.
"Collins House is very well located for professionals working in the CBD," Golden Age managing director Jeff Xu says.
Golden Age has also purchased significant blocks in Sydney's Waterloo and The Rocks, with plans to roll out the inner-city lock-and-leave model there too.
Architecture firm Bates Smart is working on Collins House as well as St Kilda Road's Opera, which is set to feature beautifully landscaped communal gardens and a spa facility projected out of the building to make up for down-sizers sacrificing big backyards for minimal stress.
Bates Smart architect Kristen Whittle says that the interiors have to match the communal areas. "The interiors, using marble, glass and parquetry floors, have a level of lustre, weight and gravitas that's compatible with the luxury end of the market, but you don't have to worry about gardeners or other troublesome arrangement for your suburban house and that's something that's very compelling."
Sydney-based Developer Crown Group's sales director Anthony Falas said the trend was also on the up in Australia's biggest city and that one of their top priorities when purchasing new land was that it has to be close to amenities including work hubs, public transport, retail and restaurants.
"Many of our residents are moving from large houses in the hills area into the city and while it's theoretically downsizing, it's actually an upgrade in terms of their lifestyle," Falas says. "We focus on giving residents a luxury life without the worry of maintenance, or keeping gardeners. The concierge downstairs, located in in our grand foyers, will look after your mail while you're away and any maintenance issues."
Crown Group has developments right in the heart of Sydney's CBD as well as in Bondi, Ashfield, Green Square and North Sydney, all with spectacular communal areas including libraries, shared dining areas and music rooms with pianos. "It's very much a hotel feel within low-maintenance, residential apartment complexes," Falas says.
Peter Groenestyn and his wife Kim have recently made the move to Crown's Top Ryde City Living Development and haven't looked back, with recent trips to Perth and Brisbane, jaunts to their home on the Central Coast and a seven week European trip planned.
"We're at the stage of life when the kids have left home and I was watching the grass grow and the leaves falling in the pool," Groenestyn says. "Whenever we went away, someone had to look after the place. It's nice to come to an apartment where we don't have to do any work and we can walk out for a month or two without having to worry about it."