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Succession NZ: How the super-wealthy live – mega-mansions that can lie empty half the time

Catherine Masters,
Publish Date
Tue, 6 Feb 2024, 1:39pm
The TV show Succession pokes fun at the super-wealthy and their extravagant lifestyles, including their homes. Photo / HBO
The TV show Succession pokes fun at the super-wealthy and their extravagant lifestyles, including their homes. Photo / HBO

Succession NZ: How the super-wealthy live – mega-mansions that can lie empty half the time

Catherine Masters,
Publish Date
Tue, 6 Feb 2024, 1:39pm

Mega-mansions are dotted around New Zealand, owned by people with so much money they probably own more than one. 

Inside these sprawling trophy estates you’ll likely find: pool houses, guest houses, fully equipped gyms, walk-in fridges, kitchens within kitchens, outdoor kitchens, present-wrapping rooms, games rooms, music rooms, cinema rooms, wine cellars, six-car garages stacked with designer cars, panic rooms, golf simulator rooms and art galleries. 

The sheer size of some of these properties begs the question: do the owners use all that space, and how often are they even there? 

Agents say that depends. 

Wall Real Estate, which has been meeting the property needs of the very wealthy for well over a decade, has a couple of mansions currently listed on the open market. 

One is a 900sqm Ron Sang-designed house on Paritai Drive, one of Auckland’s wealthiest streets. Another is a legacy property on Remuera Road. 

The Paritai Drive house has been extensively renovated, has a 2021 CV of $19.5 million and boasts four bedrooms and five bathrooms across three levels as well as two kitchens, a gym, a pool and a six-car garage. The Remuera Road property, which has a CV of $25m, comes with five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a floodlit tennis court, a pool house, two road frontages, a cottage for tenants or a caretaker, and 14-car parking. 

Ollie Wall, who sells with his father Graham and brother Andrew, said he has a Kiwi couple looking at the Remuera Road house as a family compound. 

“It’s a relatively successful young couple who travel a lot and are talking about having both of their parents living there, one in the guest suite above the garage and (the other) in the guest house.” 


92 Paritai Drive, Orakei, Auckland, Auckland2

A renovated, modern mansion for sale at 92 Paritai Drive, in Auckland's Orakei. It is packed with features and, according to the agent, "seriously cool". Photo / Supplied 

The Paritai Drive house, on the other hand, is not set up for more than one family, despite its size. 

“It’s absolutely massive and seriously cool,” said Wall. “It’s a very luxurious one-family house [but] it doesn’t have guest houses or pool houses or anything like that.” 

It does feature the biggest living room Wall has ever seen: “It would be 40 metres long, the main living room.” 

Wall said the most unusual room he had ever come across was a disused shooting range under a house dating back about 80 years ago. It had been kept purely for the novelty value. 

He said that while panic rooms were not exactly common, neither were they unusual, some owners in the top-end of town wanted somewhere safe to hide in if there was a home invasion. 

“Quite often there are tunnels out the back of a wardrobe or something – a hidden room out through a wardrobe, like a Narnia-style thing.” 

Paul Neshausen, from Barfoot & Thompson St Heliers, said he often walks into houses with a lot of “nice to have” rooms that are barely used, like bars, games rooms and gift-wrapping rooms – he saw one gift-wrapping room that was the size of a double bedroom. 

228 Remuera Road, Remuera, Auckland, AucklandAnother grand Auckland mansion for sale, this time at 228 Remuera Road, in Remuera. Photo / Supplied 

He said he just nods, as if such rooms are the norm. 

One upcoming listing has two media rooms – one for the children and one for the adults – and a teppanyaki outdoor kitchen with full cooking facilities. Buyers will be there, he said, and will probably be entertainers who will bring a chef in to entertain the guests. 

A lot of houses have almost commercial-type gyms, with all the gear for when the personal trainer comes in and there might be three living spaces with two of them not used a lot. 

On a percentage basis, the amount of house used at the best of times was probably “bugger all”, he said, because the super wealthy, like most people, tended to live mostly in the kitchen, lounge and bedroom. 

There are sometimes live-in housekeepers and nannies with their own accommodation, and a lot of the extra rooms are there for guests and entertaining, but the rest of the time owners probably walked around in their dressing gowns, he said. 

Barfoot & Thompson Remuera agent James Doole, who has a background in interior design, said walk-in fridges the size of a triple closet were now a thing and there were houses where the designer kitchen was just for show with the cooking done in the scullery. 

There are saunas and spas and pool houses, which are possibly only used 5% of the year, and some parts of the house might not be used at all. 

Barfoot and Thompson Paul Neshausen St Heliers Auckland Fiona Goodall 4Barfoot & Thompson agent Paul Neshausen says a lot of trophy homes are barely used by their owners. Photo / Supplied 

“Obviously, when people buy big family homes and then the kids leave home and they don’t come back there’s a big wing in the house that’s just closed off for when they might return, which they often don’t,” he said. 

In older homes, formal dining rooms are hardly used as modern living is open plan. New builds often include a gym and office space. 

Doole said some of his clients have multiple properties, such as a lake house or a beach house, or both, and follow the seasons, which leaves some properties empty for parts of the year. 

An agent from the Queenstown Lakes area, who did not want to be named, painted a Succession-style lifestyle of some owners. 

The TV show features a media family dripping in wealth and the agent said there were certainly wealthy people in the area who bought big homes but hardly used them, or only used a tiny part of them. 

“There’s a lot of empty homes at Millbrook [a luxury golf and lifestyle resort between Queenstown and Arrowtown] and they’re huge and there are only two or three people in some of them.” 

There are also huge and expensive lock-and-leave properties which might be empty half the year. 

A_240518SPLmillbrookMillbrook Resort, in Queenstown-Lakes. The area is a magnet for the rich and famous. Photo / Supplied 

He said it was hard to fathom how different these houses were from the standard: “There’s games rooms, there’s a library, there’s four or five bedrooms, some are bigger than that, they might have six. They don’t just have garages, they might have six-car garages.” 

Owners fly in from around the world and might be high-powered executives keeping a low profile. 

The level of wealth was hard for mere mortals to understand, he said. Some arrive on direct flights from China “and they are wealthy, wealthy people” while others might fly in on private jets. 

Independent economist Benje Patterson, who is based in Queenstown, said it was hard to say how many big homes were uninhabited and for how long. 

There are a lot of rich-listers who have boltholes in the area, but their behavioural patterns were based on anecdotes. 

“It really is difficult to get those precise patterns. In some places I suspect it’s not a large amount.” 

Ross Hawkins Ray White Epsom Photo Fiona Goodall 1Ray White agent Ross Hawkins says many trophy homes are viewed as sound investments. Photo / Fiona Goodall 

Mark Harris, managing director for New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty, said buyers of big, wealthy homes were spending more time in them. 

They come in the ski season and at this time of year, taking advantage of the golfing, boating and hiking on offer. 

“They seem to be spending more time here than previously and I think that’s just a change in dynamic in terms of people being able to work remotely and spend less time in the cities than what they previously had to.” 

Some, although not all, put their homes up for rent part of the time, while others tend to bring extended family members when they come so the property is fully utilised. 

Ray White agent Ross Hawkins sells upmarket coastal and lifestyle properties around the country, including in Queenstown and up North as well, and he said there were plenty of people who have properties all over New Zealand, and a boat in the Mediterranean. 

They may have their own helicopters so can get from one property to another easily, but a lot of the time properties do sit empty because owners also have a busy life and travel a lot. 

Hawkins said not only were these high-end properties trophy homes, but they were also looked at as sound investments. 

He said while Hollywood stars, who could spend $20m on a property without even thinking about it, can’t buy easily because of the foreign buyer ban, stars still come and stay in them so at any one time there could be foreign celebrities dotted around the country. 

“They definitely fly in and out in private jets and things. There’s plenty of that happening in New Zealand these days.” 

- OneRoof

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