An eclectic mix of mansion buyers has emerged at the top end of the Sydney market, ranging from young families wanting to put their stamp on the luxury properties, to heritage bodies seeking to conserve historic properties.
The buyers, some of whom are young entrepreneurs, are part of the renaissance in classic homes, with the purchasers seeking to put a new lease of life into their properties that range from harbourfront estates to historic country hideaways.
Atlassian co-chief executive Scott Farquhar, who recently bought Australia’s most expensive home, former Fairfax family harbourside estate Elaine in Sydney’s Double Bay, for more than $70 million, is at the vanguard of this movement.
The young tech billionaire and his wife Kim Jackson are planning to overhaul the 1863-era mansion, which had not undergone a major renovation since the 1950s.
The seven-bedroom home carries plans by heritage specialists TKD Architects, allowing the new residents to put their touch on the property.
Elaine’s vendor, John B. Fairfax, rebuffed higher offers from developers that could have seen elements of the historic estate carved up.
While selling agent Christie’s International’s Ken Jacobs notes the desire of both parties to keep the estate whole, other families are also looking to bring life to their historic properties.
Sydney-based corporate lawyer Karthika Gunalingam bought historic upper-north shore trophy estate Berith Park from former Coca-Cola Amatil managing director Warwick White and his wife Karen for more than $11m last year.
Berith Park, a master-built heritage home designed by Francis Ernest Stowe, is considered an architectural masterpiece, with grand interior living spaces flowing into manicured gardens.
The prized estate, sold through Ray White agents Elliott Placks and David Walker, needs little work.
“Every owner has treated it with such respect and I hope to do the same,” Gunalingam says of the Wahroonga home, which sports a pool, tennis court and golf driving range.
Not all Sydney estates are left untouched, with some owners turning to subdivisions or renting them out for concerts and race days to make them viable.
But one historic mansion, the historic Fernhill Estate appears safe from a potential subdivision plan that would have seen about 50 lots created on the edge of the property under plans submitted to the local council.
The Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust has now emerged as the party undertaking due diligence on the central parcel of the historic Fernhill Estate being sold by Adelaide-based finance house Angas Securities for about $30m via Mr Jacobs.
It has flagged plans to preserve the homestead and heritage landscape and would create a buffer of more than 25ha around the Georgian mansion and another 220ha of bio-banked land on the site at Mulgoa in far western Sydney.
Remaining areas would become a mainly lawn style cemetery. “We pride ourselves as heritage custodians and we welcome the opportunity to conserve Fernhill in the same way that we conserve Rookwood,” RGCRT chief George Simpson said.
Another nearby home is in the hands of a heritage-loving owner.
Glenleigh Estate, another stately manor home in Mulgoa, is set on 35ha of parklands on the banks of the Nepean River.
Last year it sold to Yundi Hua, chairman of the Shanghai Minhang Real Estate Development company, for more than $7.5m.
Selling agent Richard Royle, of Colliers International, says Hua will continue the restoration and upgrades of the Glenleigh grand residence and grounds.
Built in 1882-1884 for Irish shipping merchant James Ewan, the home has been surrounded by myth, including one that painters from Italy to decorated it with friezes, stencils and murals.
Many are hoping the new wave of mansion owners will bring a contemporary touch to Sydney’s prized historic homes.
Reader comments on this site are moderated before publication to promote lively and civil debate. We encourage your comments but submitting one does not guarantee publication. We publish hundreds of comments daily, and if a comment is rejected it is likely because it does not meet with our comment guidelines, which you can read here. No correspondence will be entered into if a comment is declined.