“We’re seeing a lot of confidence in the ultra-luxury homebuyer,” says Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.
Anton’s Chicago-based company helps real estate clients, including Sarasota’s Michael Saunders & Co., market to wealthy buyers; and at a recent presentation to Michael Saunders agents who had gathered in a mansion listed for sale on Longboat Key, Anton noted there are lots more of those wealthy buyers these days. In the last five years, the number of wealthy people around the world has doubled, and the ultra-wealthy, those with more than $50 million in net worth, have increased by 53 percent.
“The global affluent,” as Anton likes to call them, are also richer than ever before. Those in the top 1.5 percent have an average of $3.5 million in assets and $125,000 in income, she says; the top .5 percent have $19 million in assets and $1.2 million in annual income.
Anton calls the top 1 percent of luxury buyers “Power Players.” Largely self-made, these entrepreneurs and business leaders own an average of four homes—their primary home is worth about $9.5 million—and plan to buy another one in the next three years. They want the best and expect to pay for it, but they have exacting standards. And it isn’t easy to impress them.
After all, as 95 percent declared in a recent survey by Luxury Portfolio International, “I have everything I need to be happy.”
What must a home offer to attract buyers like that?
First of all, says Anton, “They don’t want to renovate.” Power Players want homes that are move-in ready with all the latest bells and whistles. That doesn’t mean they won’t gut the house and completely redo it when tastes change in a few years, but they don’t have the time or inclination to purchase a fixer-upper.
But what do they want? According to Anton and some other experts, these are some of the latest must-haves:
- Smart homes with the newest technology, from security and sound systems to window blinds that can be managed from a cell phone or by voice. State-of-the-art appliances are a given—among them fridges that announce when food is expiring or it’s time to restock.
- Sustainable features, like solar panels or systems that conserve water. This wasn’t on the wealthy’s radar even a few years ago, but now it’s fashionable to protect the planet. “They don’t want to be viewed as wasteful,” Anton says.
- Mega-mansions are so pre-recession. “Now people will spend as much for a smaller property if it fits their lifestyle,” says Anton. That’s especially true in urban areas. Garish displays of wealth can be frowned upon these days. As the CEO of Dwell magazine recently put it, “Small is the new big.”
- 1 percenters have enjoyed home theaters for years, but now some are installing IMAX theaters.
- Big private gyms, fully equipped, with sound systems, TV and saunas.
- Inspired by the lavish resorts they visit around the world, the ultra-wealthy want multiple swimming pools, from Olympic-sized pools with infinity edges to smaller play and plunge pools.
- Expansive views, especially of water, and a design that brings that gorgeous outside in.
- Not just his-and-her bathroom vanities, but his-and-her bathrooms and master suites. Hers may have romantic chandeliers and gold-leaf accents; his will be dark and masculine. A sitting room or office connects the two.
- Custom, artisan-made features that tell a story, from hand-painted Mexican tile to original frescoes rather than wallpaper. Homeowners want to know—and share—the history, provenance and meaning of their home’s décor.
- Huge, walk-in closet rooms, with lots of shelves and racks, comfortable seating, and lighting and mirrors that allow homeowners to preview outfits and style hair and make-up.
- And finally, forget wine coolers and cellars. Power Players want private wine lockers, where they can dine on a long, gorgeously set table while surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine, each temperature-controlled by invisible technology.