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Stay at home orders began in the U.S. on March 19, 2020. In the four months since, homeowners' needs have shifted dramatically for one very clear reason: They’re spending more time at home than ever before. Commutes are nonexistent for the most part, and few business travelers are booking first-class tickets to upcoming conferences around the world. And so, as the real estate world begins to reopen, now accommodating distanced in-person showings, buyers are inclined to make changes to suit their new lifestyles. And the luxury real estate market is fast adapting to these new requests.
Already, sales for ultra high-end properties saw a significant uptick in June. Michael Nourmand, president of Nourmand & Associates, known for selling multi-million dollar properties in Los Angeles, saw sales triple from May to June.
Brendon O’Rourke, a real estate professional working for Sotheby's International Realty in New York City, says that in addition to homeowners looking to make changes, first-time buyers are coming out of the woodwork to capitalize on all-time low interest rates.
“We are seeing long-term renters realize their current buying power [and look] to purchase for the first time,” says O’Rourke.
For the New York City market, O’Rourke says this is a great time to purchase in the luxury space “which had already been somewhat soft before the pandemic.” Specifically, he says, “for those looking to purchase or upgrade to that three to four-bedroom dream home, luxury penthouse, or private townhouse, this is their time to act.”
Residential developments by luxury hotel brands are also getting increased attention from luxury buyers interested in integrating the five-star amenities they’ve missed into their day-to-day lives. Ophir Sternberg, founder and CEO of Lionheart Capital—the developers behind The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach, a newly completed 111-unit Miami residence—says their buyers are particularly excited to find everything they need in one building.
“We have seen buyers interested in the fact that we have curated private office suites exclusive for residents to purchase so they can have an at-home office in the development, just steps away from their residence,” says Sternberg. The idea of commuting within the building has taken hold—residents want a detached office space that’s accessible without having to leave the building.
The commute—even to an office a few floors below their apartment—still needs to be private. Sternberg says their 20 private elevators have been a big draw for buyers as well.
As Sternberg suggests, luxury buyers in concentrated urban markets—like Miami and New York City—are keen on condos with amplified amenities that allow them to safely work, play, and live, all within their high-rise apartment building.
“Higher square footage, views, balconies, terraces, private garages and communal roof decks, as well as more private elevators are some of the architectural points that people are certainly looking for,” echoes O’Rourke.
The emphasis on private amenities is a shift for New Yorkers, who, as O’Rourke points out, “are used to sharing space.”
“So, now, smaller boutique and midsize buildings are more attractive for the fact that [residents are] less likely to run into others in elevators and common areas,” O’Rourke explains.
However, in areas with more space—like the LA market—the “vertical living” trend, which had started to take hold as luxury buyers flocked to downtown Los Angeles, has paused for the foreseeable future.
“Buyers are more interested in single-family homes with more square footage and larger yards to accommodate things that used to be done outside of your house such as exercise, work, and play,” says Nourmand. “This has translated into increased demand for homes with a pool, gym, home office, guest house, game room, and screening room.”
Beyond the need for additional space, detached offices, multiple outdoor areas, and other privatized, luxury amenities bringing all the perks of the outside in, health concerns are top of mind as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The convenience of being near medical centers has always been a topic of interest,” says Sternberg. But in light of the current pandemic, it’s become a crucial question for buyers. The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach venture has taken things a step further to accommodate their residents’ needs, now providing a medical concierge for each buyer.
“[That] includes an exclusive one-year family membership with The Agatston Center for Private Medicine, a primary care and cardiology concierge practice,” says Sternberg.
There’s no doubt that real estate needs have seen a significant shift in just four months, but in essence, buyers are interested in making these changes to increase their safety and comfort while staying home. Just as decor trends show tastemakers bringing elements of travel into their home, luxury buyers are bringing the best parts of their cities and the amenities of their office buildings home, too. And leaders in real estate—from luxury hotel residences to New York City high-rises and Hollywood Hills compounds—are rising to meet this new set of standards.