Backpackers HQ owners in Potts Point say ‘it’s time to roll the dice’ as demand grows for big houses

Selling the Backpackers

Simon Marsh and Bruce Drayton with their dog Amelia outside Backpackers HQ at 172-174 Victoria Street, Potts Point, which is set to go to auction. Picture: John Appleyard

Yet another backpackers has hit the market in one of inner-Sydney’s most beautiful tree-lined streets.

With no foreign tourists for more than a year, the owners of Backpackers HQ at 172-174 Victoria Street, Bruce Drayton and Simon Marsh, have decided to capitalise on the high demand for big houses.

“It’s time to roll the dice and see what we can get for it,” says Marsh.

They’ve listed the four-storey terraces on a 460 sqm block with Raine and Horne Potts Point/Elizabeth Bay principal Jane Schumann and her son, Samuel Schumann. The terraces each have a price guide of $4.5m for the April 20 auction.


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The terraces at 172-174 Victoria Street, Potts Point, have a price guide of $4.5m each ahead of auction.

The terraces feature large rooms with original Kauri timber floors and high ceilings.

“They’re two big beautiful homes and they would be an absolutely fantastic double-fronted house,” says Jane Schumann.

“It would also be gorgeous as a boutique hotel.”

On recent trends, someone extremely wealthy will snap them both up to create an inner-city mansion.

It would be quite a house, with a 12m street frontage.

The terraces combined offer 21 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, some of which could be reconfigured into grand living rooms with soaring 3.7m ceilings and original Kauri timber floors.

There’s even potential for a four-car garage with rear access to Earl Street.

Selling the Backpackers

Bruce Drayton and Simon Marsh with their dog Amelia inside their Backpackers HQ at 172-174 Victoria Street, Potts Point. Picture: John Appleyard

The terraces offer rear lane access to Earl Street.

The hostel is bigger than another backpackers, Kanga House at 141 and 141A Victoria Street, that sold at auction on March 20 for $11m via Bernadette Summers of The Agency.

She’d been guiding $9.6m.

The purchaser, stockbroker Angus Geddes who runs the financial services firm Fat Prophets, has been telling Potts Point locals he wants to turn the heritage 1890s terraces, comprising 18 bedrooms, into a single private residence.

Other backpackers have gone in recent years, with operators blaming lockout laws, high property prices and the rise of Airbnb.

The two terraces that made up Zing backpackers was sold to property developer Theo Onisforou, in 2018 for $3.25m each.

He plans to redesign them as terraces for his children.

Demand for backpackers has disappeared since foreigners have been unable to enter Australia.

But the terraces are likely to be reborn as one big inner-city mansion or even a boutique hotel.

But Marsh says the arrival of the lockout laws, now relaxed, was a “godsend”.

“Rather than party people wanting to write themselves off, we ended up with the nicest genre of backpacker: ones with money!”

The couple bought the hostel — which had operated as a backpackers since 1982 but once been a brothel — a decade ago for $3.75m. “It was basically derelict,” says Drayton. “Water was pouring down walls … so we threw a bit of money at it.”

They noted that backpackers changed over the years. “When we first opened, they socialised more … we couldn’t hear ourselves speak!

“Then happy hour would start at O’Malley’s (Hotel), and they’d empty out.

“Now everyone’s just on their phones and you can hear a pin drop.”

COVID, of course, changed everything.

With no visitors from overseas they were down to a dozen long-term guests paying $25 per night.

“It wasn’t worthwhile coming in,” says Marsh.

They’re now planning to spend more time in their favourite holiday destination, Hawaii.