THE auction of exclusive Byron Bay beachfront hotel Rae's on Wategos was scheduled for Friday afternoon when the owner accepted an offer at the last minute reportedly in excess of $21 million.

A crowd of more than 80 people had gathered for the 2pm auction but were informed by auctioneer Andrew Bell at 2.30pm that a contract had been accepted by owner Vincent Rae.

The new buyer has not been officially disclosed but they are believed to be from overseas.

The smart money is on Sir Richard Branson who Mr Rae told reporters had expressed strong interest in the property prior to the auction.

"I've had discussions with Richard Branson over the last year or two, he loves the place," Mr Rae told a Sydney newspaper.

There was talk in local real estate circles that two offers, of $16m and $21m, were knocked back before the final offer was accepted.

"What an anti-climax," was the response of one of many curious onlookers who gathered to see what price the internationally renowned hotel would fetch.

But local real estate identities said it was a good result for the agent - Ray White Hotels on the Gold Coast - and was a positive sign for the local market.

Past guests of the hotel, which charges up to $1,380 a night, have included Elle McPherson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, Keith Richards, Pink and Sir Richard Branson.

It is the first time in 20 years the property, which enjoys sweeping views of Wategos Beach, had been on the market.

PROPERTY PRICES

Top five Byron house sales since April:

47 Browning St - $2 million

28 Brownell Dr - $2 million

87 Massinger St - $1.77 million

62 Carlyle St - $1.48 million

28 Beachcomber Dr - $1.48 million

SOURCE: RP DATA



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