May 11, 2015 / Market Insights

10 Definitions of Luxury

What the world’s wealthy consider the most desirable features, amenities, and styles in luxury property is always evolving

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From the collective insights and experiences of our expert international real estate affiliates, we have crafted a snapshot of luxury home buyer preferences in 2015. This is what luxury is today...

1 | LUXURY IS… SO MUCH MORE THAN LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Traditionally prominent addresses and prized ZIP codes are no longer the defining baseline concept for luxury homes. HNWIs are expanding the borders of traditional luxury locales, and are willing to pay a premium in emerging luxury areas if the amenities and lifestyle offerings are right. The evolution of high-end commercial real estate is also driving this phenomenon.

- “As certain areas of London become more accepted (The City, Battersea, Vauxhall, White City/Hammersmith, Earls Court, Shoreditch), we are finding domestic and international purchasers more open to areas traditionally outside their comfort zone. This is due to gentrification driven by increased residential development and improved infrastructure.”
Lulu Egerton of Strutt & Parker, London

- “After being priced out of the traditional luxury areas, younger and international affluent buyers have embraced non-traditional areas such as Kowloon Island, where new developments are offering high-quality services and amenities.”
KS Koh of Landscope-Christie’s International Real Estate, Hong Kong

One Nine Elms is the glittering pinnacle of the regeneration of London's Battersea district and will be one of the tallest residential developments in Central London.

2 | LUXURY IS… CONSCIOUS LIVING
Owning a home that doesn’t negatively impact the community—and one that can even bring positive meaning—is attractive to wealthy buyers. The demand for more sustainable and healthy environments has placed greater emphasis on knowing where and how products are manufactured, and has fueled a trend toward conscious living.

- “The essence of the Cayman Islands lifestyle is derived from the beauty of our water and weather, and from the alignment of sustainable architecture with the natural landscape. In the luxury market, these elements remain a priority for discerning buyers who value creative vision and thoughtful design as a way of enhancing their lifestyle.”
Jackie Doak of Provenance Properties, Grand Cayman, The Cayman Islands

- “Luxury-home buyers are looking for houses that are energy-efficient as well as environmentally conscious in construction and amenities.”
Walt Danley of Walt Danley Realty, Paradise Valley, Arizona

- “Affluent buyers are increasingly looking for close proximity to a vibrant community rich with cultural offerings and outdoor activities, as well as opportunities to volunteer and make a difference.”
Michael Saunders of Michael Saunders & Company, Sarasota, Florida

Bayfront Contemporary Home, Sarasota, Florida

3 | LUXURY IS… EXPERIENTIAL
Today’s new wealthy consumers are more informed, more globally exposed, and more sophisticated than previous generations. Baby boomers in particular are now “less materialistic and more experiential,” noted Cognizent in a luxury retail trend study. And HNWIs are being led into the luxury experience by prestige brands such as Christie’s. “The worlds of high-value art, education, travel, luxury goods, and architecture are colliding,” observes Dirk Boll, European Managing Director of Christie’s. “Our focus remains on serving our clients whenever and however they choose to connect with art. Increasingly they are connecting with art in luxury sectors such as architecture and travel, where the enjoyment extends beyond ownership and into experience.” This shift toward experiential luxury is similarly reflected in the amenity and lifestyle preferences of HNW home buyers.

- “Buyers are increasingly seeking to spend money on property features that could be described as ‘experiential’, such as a meditation garden or an outdoor shower.”
Justine DeLuce of Chestnut Park Real Estate, Toronto

- “When economic imperatives aren’t driving things, there is a quest for meaning and a better life. The choice becomes: How is family life enriched by having access to amenities and lifestyle options that can be experienced every day?”
Ruth Kennedy Sudduth of LandVest, New England

- “In Pebble Beach and Carmel, buyers are looking to harness some of the perceived slower tempo and quality-of-life priorities, especially when they select a property with provenance. It is not that the former owner has to be famous, or even widely known, but rather that the home has a history, a legacy and sense of presence that the new owner can honor as they create their own memories”
Bill Mitchell of Carmel Realty Company, Carmel, California

The master bedroom in this Vero Beach, Florida, estate features a double-sided linear fireplace shared by the master bedroom and spa-like marble bath featuring a soaking tub, steam shower, and outdoor shower.

4 | LUXURY IS… CONVENIENCE
The resurgence of urban downtown cores in many major cities and changing age dynamics are having a significant impact on the home-buying preferences of the world’s most affluent. As millennials grow up and baby boomers transition into life as empty nesters, many larger cities are witnessing a surge of affluent older buyers to urban areas. Residents of suburban areas are also increasingly seeing a preference for urban amenities.

- “Local empty nesters are opting to ‘downsize’ from large single-family homes into generously sized condo and townhome units, with many opting for developments that are within walking distance of offices, shopping, and restaurants.”
Ron Shuffield of EWM Realty International, Miami, Florida

- “We have witnessed a trend of affluent buyers, generally aged 50 and above, selling the house in the greens and moving to town.”
Michael Blaser of Wüst und Wüst, Zurich, Switzerland

- “Many baby boomers are downsizing and wanting to live near town for the convenience. They’re looking to be as close to city/urban living as the suburbs will allow.”
Barbara Cleary of Barbara Cleary’s Realty Guild, New Canaan, Connecticut

- “Lisbon’s property market has been growing, fueled by demand from clients looking for new and modern buildings in the city center.”
Rafael Ascenso of Porta da Frente, Lisbon, Portugal

Spectacular penthouse offering luxurious urban living in the heart of Zurich West, directly adjacent to the relaxing green area of the newly developed Pfingstweidpark, only a few steps away from the train station Hardbrücke

5 | LUXURY IS… AGE-AGNOSTIC
Multigenerational travel (trips involving at least three generations) was dubbed the biggest trend for 2014 by a luxury travel industry report. As growth in this type of tourism increases, some prestige real estate markets, particularly those in resort destinations, are seeing increasing demand for luxury homes with spaces that have the flexibility to adapt to generational diversity and entertaining requirements.

- “Wealthy buyers are increasingly focusing on family spaces such as places for adult children or grandchildren and guesthouses for elderly parents.”
Dub Dellis of Walt Danley Associates, Paradise Valley, Arizona

- “We are seeing a trend toward the purchase of upscale apartments in luxury vertical developments that offer multi-functional spaces for flexible entertaining.”
Lucia Cavazos of Gerencia RED in Monterrey, Mexico

- “A wide array of amenities and entertainment for the entire family are increasingly a priority for affluent home buyers. This trend is especially noticeable in young families where homes with amenities for children of all ages has become a must. This has led to a rise in important new developments being built in the outskirts of Bogotá, even within Country Clubs.”
Juan Carlos Corredor Muñoz of Julio Corredor & CIA, Bogota, Colombia

6 | LUXURY IS… ULTIMATE PRIVACY
The age of the smartphone and its pervasive social-media feeds has brought with it an increasing desire for privacy, particularly for high-profile and celebrity buyers of luxury homes.

- “Eye-grabbing street views, which take out-of-town tourists by surprise and which took precedence in the days of Gregory Peck and Greta Garbo, have morphed into a preference for longer-than-ever gated drives, security systems, and being out of the public eye as much as possible. Ostentatiousness has been abandoned in favor of subdued.”
Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland, Beverly Hills, California

- “A key characteristic of many of today’s highest-end listings is ultimate privacy and seclusion. Paparazzi-proof hideaways—such as Donna Karan’s ‘The Sanctuary’ with its private-island feel—are increasingly sought after by security-conscious buyers.”
Katherine Baryluk of Regency International, Turks and Caicos

The Sanctuary, Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos Islands

7 | LUXURY IS… COLLECTIBLE
“For today’s wealthy investor, acquiring and holding collectibles is akin to building a store of treasure,” notes a report from Barclay’s Wealth Insights. Trophy real estate is the ultimate collectible treasure. Like buying a prized sports team or high-value artwork, trophy residences can ignite the passions of ultra high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI). Many developers of ultra-luxury properties have baked collectible concepts right into their plans with limited-edition structures and one-off creations by highly regarded international architects and designers.

- “South Florida developers and globally recognized star architects are creating ‘works of art’ within many of Miami’s newest condo buildings. Buyers are being drawn to purchase third, fourth, or fifth homes here in order to own a unit in one of these iconic buildings.”
Ron Shuffield of EWM Realty International, Miami, Florida

- “One-of-a-kind trophy homes are becoming the latest ‘must have’ for the world’s most affluent. Akin to owning a Warhol or a Bugatti, UHNWIs are increasingly seeking to own an architectural collectible, such as one of the 41 residences within the iconic Ten Trinity Square development by London’s River Thames. Discerning buyers see acquisitions of this kind as an opportunity to be a resident of a living piece of art and history.”
Dan Conn, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate

Ten Trinity Square, London, England

8 | LUXURY IS… TURNKEY-READY
Many buyers are willing to pay a premium for the convenience of a “just bring your toothbrush” property, outfitted with top-of-the-line accoutrements that amplify a luxury lifestyle. Brokers reported an increased interest in brand-new residences, with buyers happily paying a premium for security, concierge, and other luxury amenities.

- “The year’s top sale in Beverly Hills was a $70 million ‘spec’ home, purchased with all furnishings and appointments, including an extensive collection of wines in the 2,500-bottle cellar and a fully stocked $200,000 candy wall. Tired of the line ‘just bring your toothbrush,’ the agent even provided eight OralB 3D Braun toothbrushes as part of the deal!”
Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland, Beverly Hills, California

- “Many buyers are more insistent on immaculate condition of houses or apartments. They have little appetite for refurbishment or ‘a project’ and are willing to pay more to be able to move in straight away.”
Lulu Egerton of Strutt & Parker, London

- “Responding to interest from buyers, a number of new ‘turnkey’ homes came onto the market in 2014, an emerging trend in St. Barths.”
Christian Wattiau of Sibarth Real Estate, St. Barths

9 | LUXURY IS… A BLANK CANVAS
At the other end of the spectrum, some enthusiastic buyers are pushing the desire for newness to new heights. Impeded by lack of quality inventory, more and more ultra-affluent buyers wish to build their own trophy homes from scratch.

- “One of the most interesting trends is that of purchasing a trophy property with an older home and tearing that home down. As the very best lots were some of the first developed in Jackson, we anticipate that trend to continue.”
Julie Faupel of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, Wyoming

- “The highest priced sale in 2014 was a $13 million estate. The property is set to be demolished and the owners will rebuild a new mega home.”
Robert Greenwood of Regency International, Turks & Caicos

- “Due to the greatly constricted inventory in our market, we’re seeing significant new and custom construction for buyers who are seeking expansive, one-of-a-kind estates.”
James Bruner of Fenton Lang Bruner & Associates, Jupiter Island, Florida

A rare find on Jupiter Island—A homesite in a most convenient location offering over 2.5 buildable acres with beautiful golf course views across Bassett Creek just off the Indian River

10 | LUXURY IS… UNDERSTATED
Luxury is no longer about brash displays of wealth, note many experts in our network. Instead, scaled-back, quality-over-quantity luxury will continue to be one of the key tenets behind many prestige property acquisitions.

- “Luxury buyers aim to be more discreet, less ostentatious. There is a trend toward architecture that blends into the topography of the area, not about everything being overtly expensive.”
Justine DeLuce of Chestnut Park Real Estate, Toronto

- “Quality of amenities and lifestyle offerings are becoming more important to affluent buyers than the size of a home.”
Emily Moreland of Moreland Properties, Austin, Texas

- We are witnessing a continuing shift from ostentatious displays of one’s wealth... to a more restrained expression of tasteful understatement.”
Bud Clark of Willis Allen Real Estate, La Jolla, California

 

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