In 1999, John Howard-Smith set out to find a plot of land for a compound in North Queensland, Australia, that would house himself, his wife Jade, and his parents.

At that time, Howard-Smith was a commercial helicopter pilot for a mining company, so he fired up a chopper and made passes up and down the coast, photographing areas that struck his fancy.

“We found one piece of property that was fantastic and available,” he says. “There was nothing here, just some old tracks— there’d never been a dwelling on the land, ever, which is very unusual.”

That could have been because the land that Howard-Smith settled on was a 200 acre plot at the top of a mountain, with views of the Keppel Islands and the Coral Sea. “There was no water, no power, nothing,” he says. “We had to build everything from scratch.”

Howard-Smith and his father Ian, a mining executive, closed on the property in 2002 and embarked on a five-year building project that removed nearly 26 feet of mountaintop in order to construct a pair of three-bedroom houses surrounded by lush gardens.

The result is a family compound built to withstand extreme weather events—with its own power source, water, and mechanical systems—at which the family has lived for more than a decade.

In 2016, Howard-Smith and his wife decided they needed to sell. “I suppose age ends up being a problem,” he says. “My parents were well and truly into their 70s, and my daughter was becoming a teenager. We weren’t in a rush, but we started down the road of selling it.”

They listed it for a few months that year, then took it off the market; they did the same thing in 2018.

Now, they’re listing it in earnest with Carol Carter from Queensland Sotheby's International Realty for A$15 million ($10.4 million). “Without a doubt, it’s unique,” he says. “You can’t recreate this anywhere.”

The Origins
The decision to live on the property with his parents, Howard-Smith says, “was mostly a lifestyle choice.” That said, he knew that he wanted some measure of distance between his house and his parents’ house. After they chose the land, they began to plan out how the houses would be arranged.

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