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A bargain at $24 million. Photo via Nestseekers.
A bargain at $24 million. Photo via Nestseekers.

SocietyAugust 9, 2020

US high-roller estate agent hawks ‘billionaire’s retreat in Covid-free NZ’

A bargain at $24 million. Photo via Nestseekers.
A bargain at $24 million. Photo via Nestseekers.

Celebrity agent Ryan Serhant is promoting the sale, a snip at $24 million. It looks so good, why let pesky details like closed borders and foreign buyer bans stop you?

Along with panoramic views, adventure sports and fine wines, the New Zealand pitch for super-wealthy Americans now includes the lure of zero Covid in the community.

A Queenstown home is being offered for purchase as a “billionaire’s retreat in Covid-free New Zealand”.

The sale is being promoted by Ryan Serhant, who achieved a celebrity status among property brokers after appearing in the reality series Million Dollar Listing New York. “This one-of-a-kind lakeside estate is your rare chance to join a burgeoning billionaires’ sanctuary,” tempts the Nestseekers listing.

The home is up for sale for a mere $16 million, or $24,317,772 in local currency. It boasts six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and, naturally, a “self contained nanny’s quarters”.

The listing continues: “The house is stunning. The landscape is sublime. Every room possesses prime views of Lake Wakatipu, the snowcapped peaks that surround it, and Queenstown. The house is positioned on the highest point in Queenstown Hill backing onto the nature reserve [and] was developed by a team of New Zealand’s best architects and builder designed this estate as a seamless blend of natural schist, steel, glass, and concrete.”

On top of all that “New Zealand is a Covid-free haven” – but wait, there’s more – “with a favourable exchange rate”.

Stelvio in Queenstown on Nestseekers.

For some years Queenstown has been high on the list of posh-preppers: people looking for a spot to escape to in the case of some unknown future catastrophe. Like, say, a pandemic.

The allure of Aotearoa as a super-wealthy corona-refuge was apparent as early as mid-March, when the ODT reported that “billionaires looking for a bolthole safe from the spread of coronavirus are eyeing up New Zealand”, as evidenced by local agent interest and incoming private jets.

According to Bloomberg, “Serhant said the listing has sparked interest among clients in something increasingly top of mind in the age of Covid: obtaining a so-called billionaire bunker, a secure hideaway to escape to should global events spin further out of control (and should New Zealand ever open its borders).”

But aren’t non-residents as of a couple of years banned from buying New Zealand houses?

The listing brushes that aside: this purchase is “exempt from the buyer restrictions which apply to the majority of residential homes in New Zealand”.

Bloomberg asked about the agents. “The house for sale is exempt from typical buyer restrictions because it has been rezoned as a commercial property, according to Serhant’s co-listing agent, Nathan Frank,” it reported.

Which, well, maybe, but it seems unlikely you’d then be able to use it as your home, not even the nanny’s quarters.

The good news for a keen purchaser who is “unable to view the residence or occupy the home for 12 months following completion due to travel restrictions” is that “the owner is open to leaseback the residence at a rate of $85,000/month NZD”. That’s a mere $2,800 a night.

A spokesperson for told Stuff last month that there appeared to be a link between good news stories about the handling of the Covid crisis in New Zealand and overseas interest in property listings. Recent months have also seen surges in visits to the Immigration New Zealand pages for people looking to migrate.

Almost all will be looking in vain, however. Under current rules, there are very few exceptions to the rule that only citizens and residents and their families can travel to New Zealand. If you’re after the gym, the view and that nanny flat, your options would appear to be: qualify first as a high-level medical professional, have a role in a major film or TV production, or marry a New Zealander. Failing all that, you could always try your luck at the New Zealand consulate in Santa Monica a la Citizen Thiel.

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