Young couple outbids 10 others for $3 million Bronte fixer-upper semi

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Young couple outbids 10 others for $3 million Bronte fixer-upper semi

By Sarah Webb

The former family home of a once famed Sydney photographer fetched $3 million at auction on Saturday after a young couple muscled out 10 other buyers to nab the three-bedroom fixer-upper.

The semi-detached house, at 3 Belgrave Street, Bronte, was the property of Valentin Sowada and his family for 67 years. The Swiss-born artist often developed his photos in the home’s custom-built darkroom.

Mr Sowada, who was celebrated for his images that depicted Sydney’s changing landscape, passed away in 2012.

Dozens turned out for the emotional auction, and the home sold for $250,000 over the reserve after the buyers threw down a strong opening bid of $2.9 million. The price guide was $2.3 million, increased from an earlier guide of $2.2 million.

“That basically wiped out the competition,” said selling agent Nicholas Kennan, of Ray White Eastern Beaches. “Just one couple from Adelaide were left.

An ageing Bronte house sold at auction for $3 million.

An ageing Bronte house sold at auction for $3 million.Credit: Peter Rae

“The buyers were in their 30s and incredibly motivated. They’d sold their home in Paddington and were looking to move closer to the beach. Having also done a renovation project before, it was something they wanted to do again.”


During the campaign Mr Kennan said more than 120 groups inspected the home. Its location near three beaches, its good bones and sheer uniqueness drew strong interest.


Mr Sowada’s daughter Karin attended the auction and said while the result was outstanding, it was bittersweet.

“We were thrilled with the price, but money doesn’t replace the memories of growing up in that house,” she said.

Ray White auctioneer James Hayashi at the Bronte sell-off.

Ray White auctioneer James Hayashi at the Bronte sell-off.Credit: Peter Rae

“My mother was pregnant with me when they moved in, and that home has been such a rock for us. It was in the late 1960s that my dad built a dark room under the house, so photography was a big part of our lives.

“And when dad worked his magic in that room, we would stand beside him and he would talk about his photography and share stories about his journey to Australia via northern Africa.”

It was one of 764 auctions scheduled in Sydney on Saturday. By evening, Domain Group recorded a preliminary auction clearance rate of 67.7 per cent from 495 reported results, while 108 auctions were withdrawn. Withdrawn auctions are counted as unsold properties when calculating the clearance rate.

Elsewhere, on an elevated block at Malabar, an old two-bedroom coastal cottage bound for the bulldozers at 136 Prince Edward Street fetched $5.1 million after a local man outbid five developers.

Co-selling agent Ken Smith, of NGFarah, said the 613.4-square-metre block was $600,000 over the reserve, which was a suburb record for land value.

The auction started with a developer bid of $4.3 million, then bids rose in $50,000 and then $25,000 increments before the buyer threw down $100,000 to clear out the competition.

“That took the price to $4.9 million and it left just two bidders,” Mr Smith said.


“It was an incredible result and it’s probably one of the best auctions I’ve done all year. We had a big crowd there and you couldn’t even move in the street.”

Mr Smith said the cottage had belonged to the same family for well over 60 years, and the new owner plans to knock it down and build his dream home.

“I actually sold the home next door to this one 28 years ago for what was then a record price of $680,000,” Mr Smith said.

Over at 31 Morshead Street in North Ryde a first home buyer paid $2.5 million for a four-bedroom duplex on a 352-square-metre semi-detached block.

Selling agent Damian Kennedy of McGrath Ryde said the young woman paid $200,000 over the reserve and beat out three other active bidders, of which most were young families.

“She only inspected the home on Wednesday, and she just fell in love with the place,” he said.

“She even started the bidding at $2.18 million which was quite strong considering our price guide was $2.1 million.

From there, Mr Kennedy said bidding rose to $2.2 million and then $2,225,000, and a flurry of smaller bids brought the price to $2.45 million.


“We thought it would stop there and the auctioneer began to call it and told the bidders it was now or never. That sparked the final two bidders to battle it out until the end,” he said.

“The vendors have had that home since 2016 and they were just over the moon, they couldn’t believe the result.”

Mr Kennedy said their agency had sold a nearby, similar duplex just two months ago for $2,285,000 which showed how much buyer sentiment had recently strengthened.

“There still isn’t the flood of stock we were expecting to get,” he said.

A three-bedroom brick home at 29 Penrose Street in Lane Cove also fetched a strong sum at auction after a couple, who had been living with their children, paid $1.82 million after only joining the auction at the end.

Selling agent Tim Holgate, of Belle Property Lane Cove, said a young couple kicked the bidding off at $1.48 million, with $50,000, then $20,000 bids thrown down until it slowed to $1000 increases.

It was then that the buyers plated up a $20,000 bid to secure the single-level home.

“We had seven bidders of which three were active … and I think we got such a strong result because you don’t get much in Lane Cove for under $2 million,” Mr Holgate said.

“This was a deceased estate and we had three of the four kids at the auction and they were quite emotional as they grew up there.”

The reserve was $1.7 million. Mr Holgate said the market in general seemed to change from week to week with much of the initial spring stock already snapped up by hungry buyers.

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