City & Country: Sanctuary for empty nesters

It’s got to do with the scarcity of land in the area. Once this development is completed, there will be no other like it in Melbourne. It also boasts quality architecture and resort-style amenities

WHEN Hamton Pty Ltd, a Melbourne-based property developer, launched two apartment projects named Fifty Albert and Eden, it did not anticipate that the bulk of the purchasers would be parents between the ages of 50 and 70.

According to Cameron Yates, director of sales for Hamton, the empty nester trend has been on the rise for the past three years in the city, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down.

“When we launched Eden, we did not conceptualise it with the nesters in mind,” he says.

Eden, offering a total of 205 apartments, was launched in 2010, completed in August 2013, and has been handed over. The one- to three-bedroom units range from 50 sq m to 170 sq m, and are priced from A$350,000 (RM1 million) to A$2 million. The project, which also includes four office lots, has a gross development value (GDV) of A$190 million.

“We were overwhelmed with the request for three-bedroom apartments, so we combined one- and two-bedroom units and started being reactive to the marketplace,” Yates says.

Hamton launched the second block, Haven, last year. Comprising  two and three-bedroom apartments measuring  150 sq m to 200 sq m, 166 of the 169 units have been taken up to date. Haven, which also offers two office lots,  commands a GDV of A$150 million.

The developer is now launching the third and final block of its Victoria development, called Sanctuary. It offers 193 apartments ranging from 45 sq m to  170 sq m, with prices from A$365,000 to A$1.95 million. Sanctuary has a GDV of A$150 million.

Facilities for the three blocks include a spa, video room, bar, lap pool, gymnasium, massage parlour, sauna, theatre, BBQ area, two restaurants, a sun deck and outdoor kitchen.

There will be two restaurants in Eden and Haven, and Hamton is looking for operators to run them.

According to Yates, it’s not in a hurry to get tenants. “We want to get a good operator for both and it’s critical for us to get the right two so they don’t cannibalise each other.”

Like the previous two blocks, Hamton is marketing Sanctuary to Malaysia, offering Malaysians 15 units, ranging from 46 sq m to 170 sq m. The launch was held in August with Henry Butcher as the marketing agent. The marketing campaign was held for three months before the developer moved on to Singapore.

Yates says the main attraction is the lifestyle the location offers. Sanctuary is located on a piece of land fronting the Yarra River and occupies the entire 200m river bend.

“It’s got to do with the scarcity of land in the area. Once this development is completed, there will be no other like it in Melbourne.  It also boasts quality architecture and resort-style amenities,” he explains.

On why Hamton chose to market the project here, Yates says Malaysians generally like being close to nature. “There’s a strong demand from Malaysians who send their children to school [in Melbourne] and who are looking to invest offshore,” he says.

The development is also popular with local investors as well as owner-occupiers. “This is really important for foreign buyers because if you purchase the property, you can only resell it to a buyer with Australian Permanent Resident status or citizenship. It is important for Malaysians to buy what the locals buy. In this case, it’s the empty nesters.”

Yates says that the empty nesters’ market has exceeded expectations. They make up 70% of the buyers and come from the eastern suburbs such as Cue, Camwell and Hawthorne.

The success of Haven as well as the customisation of Eden for bigger units spurred the developer’s confidence to build Sanctuary.

Yates says developers don’t like the risk of developing big apartments. “The developers are afraid that if they don’t sell, they’re going to be left with a property that is built but no one wants. We, on the other hand, are located on a rare parcel of land backed by demand from the empty nesters. We knew that we could take the risk.”

He says Melbourne  is seeing a big shift from first-home buyers and investors to empty nesters or downsizers in the last three years.

“Since then, downsizers have become more familiar and more understanding of the apartment market. They’re looking for low maintenance and lifestyle. The children have moved out of the home and they’re looking for a more convenient position that’s close to public transport and shops, and quick to get into the city where their children are,” Yates adds.

In the eastern suburbs, these empty nesters would have family homes, for instance, costing A$5 million in Hawthorne. “They’ll be selling these family homes, buying into our development in the A$1 million to A$2 million range, and moving there for the lifestyle.

“They don’t want to move from their homes and live in a boring area, they want to live somewhere exciting. Here at Eden, they can walk out and have a jog, walk or ride a bike along the river, or cross the road and go to the cinema. There’s a supermarket there and a big Ikea. There is also a tram that stops in front [of Eden],” Yates says.

Hamton is currently undertaking an aggressive acquisition programme. It doesn’t have anything in the pipeline but is doing a lot of feasibility studies on potential projects.

Yates says Hamton builds for owner-occupiers.  “Our attitude is to build for the owner-occupiers and the investors will follow,”.

Left: An artist’s impression of Sanctuary in Melbourne Right: An artist’s impression of Haven’s ground floor apartment

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 16, 2013.

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