Australia's millionaire property owners are increasing rapidly. According to latest market intelligence from RP Data, the number of suburbs with a median house price of A$1 million (HK$8.14 million) grew by 35 per cent last year, reaching 212 in December - 55 more than a year earlier, and 134 more than in 2005.
The increase at the higher end came in a year when sales overall were sluggish, and capital city house values rose by just 4.7 per cent, according to the data. It shows that investing in luxury pays, asserts Cameron Kusher, RP Data research analyst. 'These results highlight not only that demand and price growth have been strong for premium property, but that residents are prepared to pay the hefty price to secure a property in a premium location,' he says.
Of the million-dollar suburbs, 56 per cent were in the New South Wales capital, Sydney, and 20 per cent in Melbourne, Victoria.
Kusher sees this as a continuing trend. 'Over the past five years, the premium sector has typically fared quite well [outside of 2008] and has recorded strong growth in property values.'
Sydney claims the lion's share of Australia's blue-chip real estate. It has 14 suburbs with median house prices in excess of A$2 million, including Vaucluse and Bellevue Hill - average price well above A$3 million - compared with Melbourne's two, Toorak and Kooyong.
However, neither can claim the most expensive suburb in Australia: that title belongs to Peppermint Grove in Perth, Western Australia, with a reported average price of A$4.6 million.
In Peppermint Grove, A$12.5 million (negotiable) will buy you an early-century federation style home in need of renovation. Or as local real estate agent William Porteous tactfully puts it, the buyer 'would want to spend money to enhance it'. Set on 1,596 square metres of land at 12 The Esplanade, the home occupies the perfect vantage point for enjoying views over the river, bay and city. To escape the Perth heat, there's an outdoor swimming pool and an expansive, breezy veranda.
Sydney has its harbour, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, but Melbourne has charms of its own - not the least, her 'grande dame' style.
During the 1800s' Victorian gold rush, tycoons and entrepreneurs built their dream homes, many modelled on the great villas of Europe, in the 'best' suburbs like Toorak, South Yarra, Armadale and Malvern. Many of these mansions remain - lavishly refurbished - as homes to the high society of Melbourne today.
John Bongiorno, director of Marshall White and Co, points to Melbourne's consistent ranking in global surveys as one of the world's most liveable cities. He notes the shopping, fashion, restaurants, parkland and world-renowned education. Tens of thousands of overseas students are enrolled in Melbourne's high schools and universities, including many from Hong Kong and the mainland.
Among properties for sale in Melbourne's 'iconic' suburbs, Bongiorno highlights the refurbished art deco mansion at 27 Hampden Road, Armadale, complete with the genteel touches of library and music room, as a property 'without peer'. Set on 1,784 square metres of parkland gardens, the agent is seeking expressions of interest at A$8 million-plus.