Glitz, glamour and booming sales returned to Auckland's luxury housing market in 2020 with the year's most expensive sale starring a Hollywood director, an All Black and a billionaire.
That $24 million sale of a sprawling Westmere mansion capped off a "spectacular" 2020 for real estate agents, who began the year fearing a coming economic crisis but ended it posting record sales.
Toy-making billionaire Anna Mowbray and former All Black Ali Williams put down the cash for the Westmere mega-deal.
They snapped up the prized waterfront property – with its Waitematā views and private jetty - from Kiwi filmmaker Andrew Adamson, director of the Academy Award-winning Shrek and Shrek 2.
The $24m price tag soared well above last year's $15.5m top sale of a picturesque Queenstown home.
It was also not far shy of the $27.5m paid by developers Simon and Paula Herbert in 2018 for their sumptuous Herne Bay home boasting a helicopter landing area and expansive harbour views.
Ollie Wall from luxury agency Wall Real Estate said 2020's rollercoaster year started "scary", especially with March's Covid-19 lockdown, but ended on a high.
"I don't think anyone predicted what we have seen in the past few months," he said.
"The last quarter of the year has been our most successful in terms of volume of sales ever."
Pundits had earlier tipped Covid-19's economic fallout to send Kiwi house prices falling rather than soaring.
Instead, the experts looked-on shocked as prices hit repeated record highs and Auckland's median sales price jumped above $1m for the first time.
Initially when Covid hit, the luxury market appeared to be mired in even greater challenges than the wider housing market.
Not only was 2019 a quieter year for mega-sales, but the foreign buyer ban brought into effect in 2018 barred overseas billionaires and Hollywood stars from snapping up Kiwi homes.
Yet, despite the challenges, top-end sales soon began taking off together with the wider housing market as the year's five most expensive house sales totalled $64.25m.
That climbed above 2019's $62m combined top five sales but was still down on 2018.
The Mowbray-Williams mega buy helped push up 2020's total considerably.
Mowbray and her brothers Matt and Nick have a NBR Richlist-estimated $3 billion fortune after earlier co-founding toy company Zuru.
The siblings were also involved four years ago in an even bigger house deal when they paid $32.5m for their "Toy Mansion" in Coatesville.
A sprawling estate built in 2006 for the multi-millionaire founder of online retailer Chrisco, Richard Bradley, it was made famous when Kim Dotcom rented it for a reported $1m a year.
However, both Mowbray's mega-buys still fall short of New Zealand's most expensive house sale.
Meat exporter Deyi Shi set that record in 2013 when paying $38.5m for a Paritai mansion that came with harbour views, an indoor pool and space for 12 cars.
This year's second most expensive sale, meanwhile, was a $12.25m Takapuna beachfront mansion boasting some of Auckland's best views of Rangitoto Island, according to house sale data provided by analysts Valocity.
The four-storey home's new owners - a North Shore family - should now be able to enjoy the views while splashing in their infinity pool and sipping bubbly from their 420-bottle capacity, temperature-controlled wine cellar.
Two Remuera mansions on Arney Crescent and Victoria Avenue selling for $10.5m and $10m ranked next on the list of expensive sales.
Then came a clifftop Waiheke Island mansion with beautiful views over the Hauraki Gulf that fetched $9m.
The Oneroa home was earlier a Homes magazine 2014 Home of the Year finalist designed by architect Wendy Shacklock and boasted sea views from every one of its rooms.
Pene Milne from New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty said the raft of high-end sales in the second half of 2020 was partly due to pent-up demand that had built during the quieter 2019.
However, Milne – who confirmed she made a $24m sale this year but didn't reveal more details about the deal – said New Zealand's Covid-19 lockdowns also played a part in boosting demand.
"People are spending more time at home and coming to the realisation that family time is important," she said.
"It is not always about being on fast-paced trips, but also about having quality time and that has them looking for quality homes."
Wall said record low interest rates had also played a key role in convincing buyers to act now.
Wall also linked his agency to this year's largest sale, while saying they additionally made a $12m sale on Victoria Ave in Remuera, a $10m Parnell clifftop sale and Ponsonby's most expensive sale ever at over $7m.
With some of these private deals not showing up in public records, the total combined amount of the top five sales for 2020 was likely even higher.
And while it might be hard for the top-end market to return to its pre-foreign-buyer-ban heights, returning expat Kiwis were helping boost demand, Wall said.
"We have serious buyers lining up for high quality and well-finished homes in Herne Bay and Remuera at the moment. The only issue is the lack of high-quality stock," he said.
Steen Nielsen from Ray White Remuera said the market for homes up to $2m was still "red-hot", while the market for homes above $4m was hot but slower-moving due to buyers being "picky".
"It is like anything in life, the more expensive the home, the longer the list of requirements," he said.
"Many of the people who are looking in the $5m-$8m range are in nice homes themselves.
"They will only buy if they find something that ticks the boxes that are missing in their existing home."
Nielsen said the overall hot market meant his agency had posted new monthly sales records in each of the last five months.
Wellington's most expensive sale was a six-bedroom Khandallah mansion on Clive Rd that fetched $5.8m.
In Christchurch, the top sale was a sleek, architecturally designed home on Garden Rd in Merivale that went for $4.6m.