Last week a New York real estate listing started making the rounds on Twitter creating a great deal of debate. The author Tweeted: “New barrier breached in NYC real estate? The US$1 million STUDIO.” The New York based broker had listed a 532sqf (49.4sqm) studio for almost US$1.1 million (AUD$1.172). What’s more, the particular studio was described in a somewhat down-beat way as “not even in a coveted block!”

The Twitter activity started a conversation about how realistic this claimed ‘record’ was and for my part, back in Australia, and for Sydney in particular I also find myself asking if the $1m price benchmark needs to be updated, specifically when it comes to apartment values.

Back to New York for a minute. In reality the listing was not “a new barrier breached” for the city. It’s not even the most expensive studio listed because right now there’s a range of studios from 400sqf at US$1.05 to an eye watering US$1.8m (which last sold in 2009 for US$925,000) for just 689sqf that’s 64sqm which is a much more familiar size and price for a quality well-designed 1-bedroom unit or for some 2-bedroom units here.

Recently, in just a few hours, Colliers International sold out Aqua at Bondi Junction where 66 of the 129 apartments were sold for an average of $1,000,000 plus.

Today Sydney has around 170 suburbs with a median house price of $1million. In fact, one in five Sydney suburbs is a $1million plus area, which underlies the city wide trend, but this also argues the case for another benchmark to be used to gauge evolving values.

It’s also estimated that half of Sydney’s home owners will find themselves ‘millionaires’ by 2020, by virtue of the fact that an estimated 625,000 houses across the metropolitan area will have a value of more than $1million, when twenty years ago, we weren’t even at $200,000.

Prices, even for some prime 1-bedroom apartments are now, as the Bondi Junction example shows, long past the $1million price point. At Sydney’s Barangaroo that price has been achieved for an off-the-plan 1-bedroom apartment with parking at around 60sqm, ($16,600/sqm). While at just below this price a 60sqm 1-bedroom apartment on level 36 at The Cove, on Harrington Street The Rocks could today be purchased at $950,000, ($15,833/sqm).

Many if not most buyers are now very comfortable with per sqm rates being used to underpin process. And for apartments, that might be a much better city-wide guide than the $1million sale price measure.

The use of a rate per sqm I think better reflects the location, quality and facilities of individual apartments and also gives a more accurate reflection of the total project. We also need to try and more fully factor in the big leap forward in quality and design that apartments in 2014 now deliver. There has been a massive increase in quality, finishes and design and we also need to better reflect location and building facilities and there is sound reason to suggest that a rate per sqm benchmark would do this.

Otherwise like the New York example demonstrates the raw price can give a flawed or even misleading impression.