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Not only that, the market has been buoyant over the last year and has been “extraordinary” at the upper end.
Aucklanders, Australians and the occasional Singaporean are driving big sales in the scenic town – some of which are among the top sums fetched for real estate nationally all year.
Smith says he can’t talk about all his sales but reveals he sold a luxury property in Glenorchy for $17 million in October and another equally stunning home nearby for $17.5m.
The buyer of the $17m property at Twin Peak View got a house with four “lodge-scale” bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, an executive office, a games room, an industrial-styled bar, cinema, wellness area and a five-car garage on 7.4 acres, with plus shared ownership of 89ha with hiking trails, a water front clubhouse and trout filled fishing lake.
The $17.5m property offered a 754sqm five-bedroom residence designed by Mason and Wales architect Hamish Muir on 6.69ha, with shared ownership of an additional 89ha with exclusive access to 9km of hiking trails.
The vendors had listed it four years ago with a record price tag of $33m.
These homes are in magical settings with lakes and snow-capped mountain views, often with helipads so their wealthy owners can fly in.
There have also been several sales of bare land at Jack’s Point Preserve, with single residential sites going for around $4.5m. Smith says Ray White sold another site at 66 Lake Hayes for $5.1m.
“There's been a higher volume of high-end sales in Queenstown,” he says.
“It’s from people taking equity out of the Auckland property market and shifting it to Queenstown, as well as educated Australian buyers who can read the tea-leaves a little bit and know what's going on globally.
Queenstown has seen a heightened demand at all levels of the market, though, and the average price is now $1.6m – more than Auckland’s average, says Smith.
However, listings numbers are down overall.
Smith says Queenstown has always been seen as a bit of a safe haven and the pandemic has enhanced that reputation.
But while the pandemic was hard on the tourist-based town’s economy, there is a diverse community with diverse income streams, and there are a lot of international business people who can live and work in Queenstown without having to travel, plus there is a huge construction industry, he says.
Some locals saw the break from international tourists as a relief because infrastructure wasn’t keeping up with the huge growth in the town over the past 10 years.
“While Queenstown is not a town to protest much there was certainly a bit of pushback starting on the mass tourism model in the lead up to Covid, with locals wanting to limit the number of flights to the airport.”
Definitely part of the market has been wealthy foreigners who have seen Queenstown as another Aspen or Tahoe with not only the scenery and activities going for it but the cosmopolitan nature of the restaurants and wineries. It’s a town that caters well to the high-end visitor, Smith says.
As for those persistent rumours about wealthy foreigners building bunkers in the hills to guard against the apocalypse, Smith says sorry, not true.
There are bunkers – but not for the end of the world. “There are some incredible homes that have got underground parts to them but they are not bomb shelters so to speak - they are man caves and wine cellars.”
One of the more high-profile Queenstown “bunkers” is the one being drawn up by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, which includes space for 24 people, water features and a meditation pod.
Smith doesn’t see demand drying up any time soon in Queenstown.
The area is constrained by a lack of land but the region is in hot demand with Wanaka over the hill extremely sought-after and a hive of building and developments.
“It’s this region that people want to come to. I think we are going to see consistent growth and consistent demand continuing in the area.”