Robin Boyd’s last house sells for $1.61 million at auction

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Key points

  • The auction of the last house designed by architect Robin Boyd drew a large crowd and nearly 100 bids. 
  • A townhouse near the Williamstown beach similarly attracted dozens of bids. 
  • There were 566 auctions scheduled for across Melbourne on Saturday. 

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The last house designed by legendary Melbourne architect Robin Boyd has sold for $1.61 million at auction, after a hard-fought contest which pushed the price $460,000 above the reserve.

About 100 people lined what would typically be a quiet Ringwood East street on Saturday to see the sale of 20 Byways Drive.

The three-bedroom, modernist home was built into the gradient of the sloping block and had multiple living areas which cascaded onto one another.

The home named “Hegarty House” was the last design Boyd saw through to completion and was finished in the early 1970s. It has only had three owners since.

Boyd is considered one of Melbourne’s most celebrated architects, known for his innovative approach to designing modernist homes.

Jellis Craig listing agent Mark Salvati said the home was popular with potential buyers, and stood out in the listings-deprived market. It was originally listed with hopes of $900,000 to $990,000, but the quoted price range was later lifted to $1.05 million to $1.15 million.

A large crowd gathered to watch Saturday’s auction of the Ringwood East home.Credit: Justin McManus

“It would have been the largest number [of people looking at a Boyd house], and probably one with a fair amount of interest in it from a buying point of view as well,” Salvati said. “But lots of people were looking at it because it was a Boyd and certainly, there’s a lot of interest in the marketplace in these mid-century homes, especially when they’re tagged with the notable architect.”

The interest translated to five active bidders and the auction opened with a bid of $1.05 million, and rose in $10,000 increments over about a dozen bids, before it slowed to smaller raises.

The contest came down to the opening bidder and a latecomer, who traded about 20 bids. For every $1000 bid the latecomer placed, the opening buyer rounded up to the nearest $5000 or $10,000.

The home sold to the opening bidder, architect Craig Tan, who had been looking for a family home for some time, and couldn’t go past an important example of Boyd’s legacy.

Craig Tan with wife Gemma and their children after their success at the auction.Credit: Justin McManus

“I’ve always really respected Robin Boyd’s work,” Tan said. “I know it pretty well and this one is particularly special, so it was quite amazing to come and see it and then have the opportunity to live in such an amazing space.

“We were looking for a sanctuary … this house has an amazing relationship to the site in the way it works on a very steep site. It creates a lot of little pockets of intimacy within a connected, open space.”

Tan and wife Gemma lost out at previous auctions, and said house hunting had been difficult even when not bidding for architecturally significant homes.

“There’s not as much stock as you know historically there has been,” he said. “So when there has been good houses that come up, the cream rises to the top, and people will come out and they’ll bid hard for it.”

Craig Tan (left) shakes hands with the underbidder after the hammer fell.Credit: Justin McManus

Tan said he would consider working with the Robin Boyd Foundation to open the home for tours.

The house was one of 566 Melbourne properties scheduled for auction on Saturday.

In Williamstown, a three-bedroom townhouse sold for $1,108,000 in another spirited auction.

The home at 6/20 Victoria Street was thought to have been built in the 1970s and was popular for its proximity to the beach, Ray White listing agent Joanne Royston said.

She listed the property with a price range of $950,000 to $1,045,000.

“It’s hard to find [a home] at that price point in Williamstown, especially at the south end near the water,” Royston said.

Four bidders too part in the auction, which began at the bottom of the range and had a reserve of $1 million.

The home sold to an owner-occupier with family in the area.

In Alphington, a three-bedroom villa unit at 2/23 Coate Avenue sold for $825,000 after passing in following a sluggish auction.

The property’s garage was converted into a third bedroom in a renovation by previous owners, Nelson Alexander auctioneer Robert Enes said.

Bidding for the property began at $780,000, below the quoted price range of $800,000 to $825,000.

Two buyers traded seven bids before the home passed in at $802,000 to the opening bidder, who lived in the area and bought the property for a family member.

“It sold for the reserve right away afterwards,” Enes said. “It was overall a little bit subdued, but in line with expectations. Overall the outcome was positive and strong.”

A portion of the interested parties were first home buyers, he said, who had been spooked by rate rises and the cost-of-living crisis.

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