Downsizers in Australia are increasingly looking for properties with house-like proportions and great amenities – and this has ramped up demand for luxury apartments across the country. The trend is also triggering a shift on the way the development industry is approaching new projects.

“Downsizing has been a major driver of demand for apartments in lifestyle areas around the country, especially markets such as the Gold Coast,” said Matt Schneider, Gold Coast director at consulting firm Urbis. “These buyers are typically highly active retirees, or empty nesters, who want apartment living ‘with the lot’ and more developers are responding to this demographic.”

Schneider said he has already started seeing a shift in the apartment market from mostly offering one- or two-bedroom units in larger cities catering to younger working professionals to upsized apartments in lifestyle locations designed for the downsizer sector, which is dominated by the boomer generation.

A recent report from real estate firm Knight Frank revealed that Queensland’s Gold Coast is one of the biggest adopters of the larger apartment trend, with 70% of medium-density dwellings built in the past four years featuring three bedrooms or more. The number is higher than any major city in Australia.

“The economic reality in lifestyle cities such as the Gold Coast, for example, is that there is a ready market for luxury apartments that offer more space and the flexibility of more bedrooms,” Schneider said. “Apartment buyers may be looking for lock-and-leave, maintenance-free living, but they’re also looking for privacy and amenity with the room to move that they have become accustomed to in their family home.”

He added that such developments often feature landscaped open spaces with recreation areas that “enhance a residential community feel” and large apartments with “deep liveable balconies and that are designed to optimise privacy.”

Typical amenities also include multiple carparks for each apartment, expansive indoor residents’ area, large swimming pool with residents’ lounge, outdoor barbecue area, dining pavilion, gym, and sauna.

“The common denominator with all of these projects is they are tailored to the ‘rightsizer’ – the ones who are leaving their houses, downsizing, but not sacrificing the living spaces they had in their homes,” Schneider said. “These are all large apartments that maximise livability and space, while allowing people to get out of the traditional home.”

In recent years, Urbis’ Gold Coast Apartment Essentials Report has shown larger owner-occupier apartments taking a bigger market share of sales annually on the Gold Coast.

A separate report from the firm also found strong sales increase in million-dollar-plus apartments, townhouses, and duplexes across the city.

According to the research, Gold Coast registered 478 apartments, townhouses, and duplexes worth $1 million and above sold in 2019, a 57% rise from five years ago. Between 2014 and 2019, there was also an increase of 13% per annum in sales of properties priced between $2 million and $2.9 million.

“What is evident is the downsizer market doesn’t want to sacrifice the space they may have had in a home and are looking for projects that offer house-style living in larger, more spacious apartments,” said Lynda Campbell senior consultant at Urbis. “Boutique-style projects that cater to premium owner-occupier market are driving this trend.”

“It’s become a value proposition that’s actually working for buyers and for developers. In the end, this type of development provides a better outcome for the broader community as well. And people will sacrifice being on the beach to find the apartment that offers these larger living options,” she said.