Bill McIntyre in his beautiful underground wine cellar at his home in Rivett, Canberra. Photo: Melissa Adams
Forget swimming pools and expansive views, the new cool in real estate is the wine cellar.
Canberra's lusher suburbs are hiding veritable treasure troves of both liquor and design, with one inner-south cellar rumoured to require a hand scan to gain entry.
What used to be little more than storage space is now becoming a status symbol, according to Real Estate Institute of the ACT president Craig Bright.
Bill McIntyre in his beautiful underground wine cellar at his home in Rivett that is the only one of its kind in Canberra. Photo: Melissa Adams
''It does add a certain prestige to the property,'' he said. ''I have noticed in the more exclusive properties, they have made it part of the advertising campaign. I think it certainly is one of those cachets, similar to swimming pools.''
It's a trend confirmed by Ultimate Cellars' Bill McIntyre, who has been fielding an increasingly steady flow of inquiries from the city's wealthier residents. The glass flooring of his own cellar in Rivett allows visitors to look down on 1900 bottles, spread across 11 spiral steps spanning a three metre drop - in Mr McIntyre's words, it is ''quite impressive''.
He said wine consumption in Australia had increased in the past decade, but collectors were still naive about storing bottles correctly.
''People put wine in boxes in the roof, or in the garage,'' he said. ''Unfortunately this often means the wine, when you get to drinking it, has decreased in quality.''
Mr McIntyre said wine could be damaged by everyday elements such as changing light and temperature, factors that remained constant within a cellar.
Installing a spiral cellar in either a new or established home usually takes about three weeks from inquiry to finish, with the actual installation requiring only 10 days.
Mr McIntyre said it could cost investors up to $80,000. ''These are a high-end product,'' he said. ''People will only be installing them if they're confident about their income.''
Property adviser at Herron Todd White, Jordan Hayes, said cellars weren't usually found in homes worth less than $700,000, but noted there had been some smaller wine storages built into less expensive homes. ''You do see rainwater tanks converted, because they're generally underground and stay cool,'' he said. ''It's one of the more innovative ways to put one in.''
However, he said the trend may be slowing. ''The biggest things we're seeing at the moment are refurbishments to bathrooms and kitchens,'' he said. ''It costs a bit more but it sees the most return.''
This hasn't stopped a number of agencies from highlighting wine cellars when marketing homes, including that of winemaker Nick O'Leary, whose Lyneham house goes under the hammer today. Mr O'Leary said although the traditional cellar was less popular than it used to be, more people were installing wine storage facilities within the nooks and crannies of their home.
''A lot of people put wine under the house as well, or anywhere where it doesn't get too hot,'' he said. ''What people are looking for is something cool.''
Mr O'Leary's own stash at 74 Lewin Street can be found in a converted space below the stairs, originally used for storing firewood.
Local housing identities have spruiked the idea of converting old swimming pools to cellars, bringing some truth to the notion that they may be replacing a stretch of chlorinated water as the latest in status symbols.