The return of the prestige rural retreat

Fernhill Estate, Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa, NSW.
Fernhill Estate, Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa, NSW. Photo:

“Well-priced prestige properties in the country are selling exceptionally well now,” he says. “We’re now seeing more a lifestyle market, particularly in NSW and Victoria, and it’s very strong. “I think people are looking for manageable space for children to run around and low interest rates have made country retreats a lot more affordable. We’re getting a higher level of inquiry than ever before.”

Now could also be an opportune time to buy. Domain Group chief economist Dr Andrew Wilson says prices of prestige country properties haven’t kept pace with rises in the cities, but we’re now seeing them start to move.

Fernhill Estate, Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa, NSW.Fernhill Estate, Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa, NSW.

“There is a lag effect but regional markets are now doing very well,” he says. “I think prices will rise now, and will continue to rise before they peak out.

“That makes buying a second property as a holiday home or weekender, or retiring and cashing in on city property rises to take advantage of, for example, that 54 per cent growth we’ve seen in Sydney’s median price over the last three years, a good value proposition.”

The market outside Melbourne is also doing well, particularly around the Mornington Peninsula. “It’s always been popular,” Williams says. “But prices have risen strongly in recent times and we’re seeing the emergence of places like Lorne and Apollo Bay too with large increases.”

Part of the reason is a growing desire for the kind of privacy it’s much harder to find in a big city, believes Andrew Hines of Kay & Burton in Victoria. “Privacy is a major factor because people want to be in a good location but they still want to be able to really get away from it all while not being too far from restaurants and other amenities,” he says.

The quality of prestige country homes on offer also influences the demand and how quickly they then sell, according to Christie’s International Real Estate’s Ken Jacobs. They’re often on the market longer because they are a discretionary purchase.

“I think there is some very good value to be had at the moment and, with cities getting so congested with traffic and choking on population growth, properties outside the cities have more and more appeal,” Jacobs says.

“That’ll only improve in the future too, with technological advances, more flexible working environments and better infrastructure making travel to them easier. The future for them is looking very rosy.”

What the experts say: “After the GFC … prices dropped 20-30 per cent …it’s a good time to buy,” Drew Lindsay, Drew Lindsay Real Estate.

What’s on trend: “We’re now seeing more a lifestyle market, particularly in NSW and Victoria,” Marcus Williams, Harcourts Group.

What to look for: “People want to be in a good location but they still want to be able to really get away from it all while not being too far from restaurants and other amenities,” Andrew Hines, Kay & Burton.

Feature property

Fernhill Estate, Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa, NSWFernhill Estate, Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa, NSW 

Mulgoa Road, Mulgoa NSW
$30 million
13 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, 1 pool

An hour’s drive west of the Sydney CBD overlooking the Mulgoa Valley at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Fernhill Estate is an 1830s heritage-listed sandstone homestead  with eight

bedrooms, a 16-seat dining room, ballroom and terrace with classic columns. It’s set in  more than 380 hectares of rolling grounds, with two other cottages, a horse racing track and stables that, over the centuries, have been home to two Melbourne Cup winners – in 1877 and 1880.

“It was one of the early land grants by Macarthur and it has so much rich history behind it,” says Ken Jacobs of Christie’s International Real Estate. “It’s a really lovely story, and one of the country’s most magnificent estates. And it could generate a good income too.”

The grounds include top equestrian facilities in show jumping, dressage and eventing, a pool surrounded by lawns, dams and lakes, and plenty of secluded seating areas and porticos. There could also be the potential to open a restaurant on the estate.

See more at Domain

40 Wilson Road, Arthurs Seat, VIC.40 Wilson Road, Arthurs Seat, VIC. 

40 Wilson Road, Arthurs Seat, Victoria
$4.2 million
5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 parking

Designed as a series of pavilions with concrete sheeting and copper walls, linked with boardwalk decking, this three-year-old five-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom country escape on 24 hectares of land feels a world away from anywhere, yet is only 70 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD, and a 10-minute drive to beaches. “It really feels like a complete getaway, but it’s actually very close to everything you need,” says Andrew Hines of Kay & Burton.

The interiors have walls of floor-to-ceiling glass to fill the home with light and bring the outdoor views inside, while there’s a wood combustion fireplace in the open-plan living area which flows out to the sheltered deck. There are two large dams on the property.

See more at Domain

Expansive decking with lake views at Jensens Lane, Exeter.Expansive decking with lake views at Jensens Lane, Exeter.

Jensens Lane, Exeter, NSW
$3.8 million
5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 parking

There is vast open-plan living, with high timber ceilings and french doors opening on each side to decking with lake views, at this five-bedroom, three-bathroom modernist house on nine hectares. “People tend to expect more traditional architecture in this area, but this is very special and in a beautiful setting,” says Karl Zabel of Drew Lindsay Real Estate.

This home, 1½ hours  from both Sydney and Canberra, was built 12 years ago by the current owners and has a double-height library, a sunroom and a rumpus room opening to its own terrace. Four of the bedrooms open on to verandahs.