A run-down three-storey house with knockout ocean views on a steep Clovelly street sold for almost half a million dollars over the reserve price on Saturday after an unpredictable auction.
The house at 31 Knox Street, which sold for $3.4 million, had been held by the same family since 1969 and at one point housed four generations across its three self-contained levels.
The two higher levels each boast multimillion-dollar views across rooftops to the sea, and there is a large roof deck.
But the lowest floor is accessible only via a small spiral staircase from street level and is crying out for a thorough restoration. A large windowless recess is reached through a gaping hole in a crumbling bedroom wall.
It was one of 675 properties listed to go under the hammer across Sydney on Saturday. By evening, Domain Group had recorded a clearance rate of 67 per cent from 441 reported auctions.
A sizeable crowd of neighbours and prospective buyers filled Knox street on Saturday to bear witness to the end of an era for the extended family.
Charismatic agent Jason Pantzer of Phillips Pantzer Donnelley ran the auction himself, referring to two of the four bidders by their first names and charming the assembled crowd with quips about the bidding process. Six bidders registered before the auction began.
“There’s just such enormous upside with this property because those views will never get built out,” Pantzer said just before bidding started.
“There have been sales in the street up to $6 million, so there’s certainly a lot of capital growth prospects for whoever buys it.”
Two bidders faced off in the early stages, surpassing the $3 million reserve within two bids. At the $3.2 million mark, a third bidder emerged briefly before dropping out. Then a fourth bidder – the eventual winner – made his presence known, beating his two opponents into submission.
The winning bidder, a married father of two who attended the auction with his daughter, requested privacy after the sale, but described himself as a “sort-of local” who “saw the potential” in the property and hoped to move his family into it “eventually”.
Meanwhile, members of the selling family gathered on the top floor to take stock of the momentous occasion.
“My mum and dad bought it in 1969,” said second-generation Ian, who declined to give his surname.
“We had four generations living in this house: my grandmother, my mum and dad, my wife and I and our two kids. My grandmother was on the top floor, my parents were on the next floor down, and we lived on the ground floor – all self-contained.”
Ian’s sister-in-law Sue added: “We all had our private times, and then we’d all meet for maybe a Sunday roast and a catch-up. It was lovely knowing there was someone in the house, always.”
Ian said the deaths of both his grandmother and parents forced the remaining family members to reassess their situation. “It’s a beautiful neighbourhood,” he said. “I really don’t want to go. But we can’t afford to stay.”
He added that the family’s decision was made easier by recent changes to the formerly modest area.
“It’s a transient neighbourhood now,” he said. “We’ve been here since 1969, but our new neighbours who keep moving in, they stay less than five years. We don’t know them very well.
“Everybody wants to be in Clovelly,” he added, “but they don’t seem to stay here.”
Domain Group chief economist Dr Andrew Wilson said he wasn’t surprised by the robust selling price.
“The name Clovelly has cachet, of course,” he said. “And land values there are pretty high, so even if you were paying that amount for just land, you could probably build something pretty special and still walk away with a profit.”
The current median house price in Clovelly is $3.2 million, according to Domain data. One property has sold for more than $8 million so far this year.
Dr Wilson said the result in Clovelly was indicative of broader market trends. “Inner-suburban property is the shining light of the Sydney market and has been for really the past year,” he explained.
“We’ve definitely got a two-paced market at the moment: the western suburbs are not performing as strongly as stuff closer in.”
Dr Wilson said the result was “a good portent for spring. It’s another sign that the market for mid- to high-price property is ticking over despite the winter chill. It’s still a seller’s market in those price ranges.”