Luxury Lifestyles

The San Pellegrino Effect: Wealth, Cuisine and Travel

The list is here! For many, the announcement of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World is a harbinger of vacations to come, and entire trips are planned around a twelve course tasting menu. Snagging a reservation at any of the restaurants on the 2017 list is hard enough, but a new trend has emerged making just getting to some of these gastronomic paradises even more difficult.

ElevenMadisonPark

A tasting plate at Eleven Madison Park, named the best restaurant in the world for 2017. Image source theworlds50best.com

In past decades, a majority of the restaurants honored on the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants list were (and still are) in the expected culinary destinations of the world: London, New York, and, of course, Paris. Each of these cities is also an economic capital of the world, so it comes as no surprise that where the wealthy live and work is where they eat. The restaurants that emerge in these cities rely on their affluent citizens to sustain them year after year. In line with that expectation, Tokyo's notoriety for fine dining came only after years of sustain economic growth throughout the 1990s.

However, recent years have seen restaurants added to this list from unexpected places without the support of sustained economic growth or a concentration of high net worth individuals. Wealth-X, a leader in global wealth research, explains that social media has "super-charged" word of mouth, meaning that the sharing of reviews and the awareness of awards makes the remote locations of some of the newest top restaurants a destination for the jetsetting crowd. As Winston Chesterfield, custom research director for Wealth-X, notes:

An entry in the list acts as a siren call to luxury concierges, jetsetters, and the world’s elite – and as such, almost guarantees full tables for the next 12 months.

The native, resident populations are, most often, not the focus for these modern marvels of food. Though they are, no doubt, a discerning group whose palates often inspire the innovative menus, the close presence of internationally renowned, multi-starred, celebrity-visited establishments is largely inexplicable and as remote from their existence as the cities from which these international individuals visit.

These individuals are the intended, the chosen ones. The premium-cabin-flying, luxury experience nomads, whose moving meccas are the next travel experience, the next luxury hotel concept, the next cuisine. These experiences have become as much a currency as the designer wallets which they plonk on the tables, and perhaps even more so than the motor cars they arrive in.

Read more about the changing trends in fine dining and where your clients may be eating next at LuxurySociety.com.


Nevada Town Attracts Billionaires With Luxurious Lifestyle - And Zero Taxes

Nestled on the banks of Lake Tahoe is Incline Village — a gorgeous town that’s attracting a lot more than skiers and snowboarders.

Thanks to Nevada’s lack of state personal, business or corporate income tax, Incline Village’s lakefront homeowners now include billionaires such as Oracle’s Larry Ellison, PeopleSoft’s David Duffield and Zazove’s Gene Pretti.

Other affluent tech and financial executives — many of whom hail from California — are establishing residency in Incline Village before a liquidation event. This way, they can avoid tax liability while enjoying outdoor activities year-round.

“There are lots of great reasons to move to Nevada and Incline Village in particular,” says Trinkie Watson, CIPS, CLHMS, a real estate broker who specializes in the Lake Tahoe region. “It’s a thriving community full of year-round residents, many of whom work from home thanks to technology.”

When it comes to lifestyle, Watson notes the “seasonal weather that includes snow in winter/spring for skiing and snowboarding, summer with lake and water activities, hiking, biking, golf and tennis, and a beautiful fall with changing colors. And for frequent travelers, the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is less than an hour away.”

But clearly, the financial advantages have been the catalyst for the increased interest in “Income Village,” as some call it. Because Nevada has unique laws protecting corporations, Incline Village has gained a reputation as a tax haven — one in which investors can register shell corporations and claim residency to avoid tax liability.

“As long as income isn’t derived from [other states like] California, they will not have any personal state income tax to pay,” says Watson. She also points to the ability of many people to “sell high” in the Golden State and get more value for a new home purchase in Nevada (which, ironically, is known as the Silver State).

Also contributing to this newfound interest in areas like Incline Village is the growth occurring a short drive away in the Reno-Sparks region. That area has been transitioning from a gambling economy to a manufacturing economy thanks to about 100 new companies. New additions coming soon include Tesla’s battery factory in Sparks and Switch — the company that developed the Supernap, which is the world’s largest data center ecosystem — is constructing a huge campus nearby.

Both the old and new residents of Incline Village see this situation as a “win-win” — the town gets cache from its new billionaire neighbors and enjoys growth, while these new residents enjoy the ability to avoid paying big tax bills.


Trendingwatch: High-Fashion with Designer Names

Today’s luxury homes feature dozens of amenities never seen before, or even dreamed of. One of the fastest-growing concepts in the luxury residential market is the “branded property” — a residence associated with luxury brands and high-end designers.

Among the big names working to develop these beautiful properties are Armani, Versace and Bottega Veneta, among others. These designers are each bringing their own unique styles and sensibilities to projects around the world.

Armani’s upcoming projects include the Smart Hero-Central Park Plaza complex in Beijing — the renowned designer will be creating the residential units, shared areas and various amenities, to be completed by the end of 2017 — as well as the Century Spire residential tower in one of the Philippines’ top luxury districts, due to be completed by the end of 2018.  

In addition, Versace has begun work on its AYKON Nine Elms project in London (scheduled to be completed in 2020), and is nearly done with projects in Beirut and Jeddah. Bottega Veneta recently started developing its initial residential design work. And Eisenzahn 1 — a major property in Berlin — will feature design work by creative director Tomas Maier and furnishings from the luxury brand’s home collections.

While a famous name on the side of the building is a major selling point, this trend is more about what each designer/fashion brand brings to the actual properties. Homebuyers and investors alike are looking for aesthetics, comfort, amenities and lifestyle when it comes to a luxury residence — and a world-famous designer’s creativity can give a property a decided advantage over other luxury homes.

There are varying levels of brand association per property — some projects and brands are limited to the design of the common spaces and individual units in a building or complex. Others have brand associations incorporated into the amenities and additional features of the property.

But some owners may pay for the privilege of having the brand’s interior design team on the project give them personal consultations to add an even higher level of customization to the residence — or a complete branded design with furniture at an exclusive price.

Overall, these branded residences are often priced 30% to 50% more than unbranded properties. Not that a larger price point deters luxury homebuyers; many of these projects sell out quickly.

This is likely due to one of the basic tenets of the fashion industry — reinvention can revitalize an entire product line. In this case, the reinvention is the concept of residential development, which is now incorporating a new level of branding and design into these projects to attract luxury homebuyers.

Because these branded residences are currently located around the world, they may be some investors’ first experience with an international purchase. This means dealing with a different country’s real estate laws, as well as the unique issues of owning a property halfway around the world. But having a world-famous brand associated with the home can boost an investor’s confidence and provide a sense of security.

While this trend has already taken hold in hospitality — many hotels have established associations with luxury brands — the enjoyment of high-end accommodations, amenities and conversation-starters is taken to a new, longer-lasting level with branded residences.

And while this trend creates substantial opportunities for investors, it’s also an appealing option for home-buyers to have a unique property created by world-class designers.

 


Luxury Garages Become A Swanky Social Space

Along with clothes, watches, and wine, high-end and vintage cars are a favorite collector’s item for high-net-worth individuals. And—just as many luxury homes have custom wine cellars and walk-in closets—luxury homeowners with treasured car collections are likely to want a special space for their high-end vehicles.

Luxury Garage

Top end luxury garages have little in common with the dusty cement rooms that immediately come to mind and they’re about much more than car storage. For individuals with prized vehicles—whether 1 or 100—the ideal luxury garage might be used for:

  • Entertaining. A high-end car enthusiast wants to be able to spend time socializing amidst their car collection, so luxury garages can boast an entertainment system, seating area, wet bar, and card table or billiard table to widen the space’s utility.
  • Showcasing. For car collectors, each vehicle is a work of art, and so a luxury garage acts as the gallery. Custom lighting and rotating turntable displays can enhance the presentation of a homeowner’s favorite vehicles.
  • Maintenance. Many car collectors like to get under the hood of their cars and a well-equipped maintenance bay is the perfect space to tinker.
  • Preservation. Finally, a collector will want their high-end vehicles to be cared for and protected from the elements, so climate control is a must in humid climates where weather can speed deterioration and encourage rusting.

If the luxury home is in an area without space restrictions, then an added garage can span thousands of square feet and accommodate dozens of vehicles without issue. For city dwellers, however, a car storage space can prove more elusive. One popular solution for wealthy collectors is a car elevator such as the PhantomPark, which starts at about $40,000, is custom built to fit the homeowner’s needs, and stores cars below ground. It is important to note, however, that while a lack of garage may diminish a home’s value and desirability, luxury garage renovations see a mere 52% return on investment in resale.


Global Wealth Forecast: New Money, Same Tastes

The next decade and beyond will see many changes in who holds the world’s wealth, how they acquire it, and what they do with it.

Old Money

Individuals who have inherited their wealth favor investing their money in luxury residential real estate. According to the recent Decades of Wealth report by Wealth-X, ultra-high-net-worth individuals with inherited wealth hold 17% of their wealth in high-end residential real estate. This figure is only 9% for self-made UHNWIs. This trend is likely to continue as Baby Boomers age and pass their wealth on to younger generations. In the next decade alone, global UHNW individuals will bequeath $4.1 trillion in wealth to the next generation. An estimated 30% of this projected wealth transfer will be in liquid assets.

The number and nationality of individuals with inherited wealth is shifting. In North America and Western Europe, for example, the past decade has seen a decline in the number of wealthy individuals with “old money.” The opposite trend can be observed in developing nations where most of the wealth is brand new: the first big wave of new wealth is being passed down to the next generation.

New Money

According to the World Wealth Report, the global HNWI population grew by 6.7% in 2014 and the group’s total wealth grew by 7.2%, resulting in an estimated HNWI population of 14.6 million.

  • The HNWI population in China grew by 17% in 2014. China continues to experience economic prosperity and a growing upper economic class, the older generation of which is now passing its wealth on to the next generation and investing in foreign economies.
  • Over the past year, the number of millionaires in India grew by 27% and their HNWI population grew by 26% in 2014. According to Wealth-X, “Aligned to this wealth growth is an equally substantial increase in luxury consumption.”
  • African nations. As entrepreneurial and tech-centric countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda continue to experience increased economic prosperity and innovation, they are catching the attention of foreign investors—particularly wealthy Chinese nationals. Wealth-X projects that Africa’s UHNW population will quadruple by 2040.

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Globalized Taste

In their Decades of Wealth report, Wealth-X wrote, “China is often cited as a market that has surprised observers with the speed of its move from conspicuous consumption to careful, tasteful purchasing.” With the globalization of media and entertainment—and, as a result, trends and lifestyles—the world’s new wealthy are expected to follow in China’s footsteps by becoming discerning consumers with refined tastes—including a taste for luxury residential real estate. Roughly 80% of the world’s UHNW population own 2 or more residences, and it is becoming increasingly popular for UHNW individuals to invest in unique and exotic luxury homes outside of their home country. The United States remains the most popular destination for wealthy individuals seeking a place to invest in real estate


Luxury Bathroom Trends: TOTO Washlet

Even in the most extravagant homes, in which no expense is spared to make the homeowner and their guests feel pampered, Americans have historically deprived themselves of the ultimate in household luxury: heated, remote-controlled toilet seats with a built-in bidet feature. While the concept may seem too bizarre (or too indelicate) to those with American sensibilities, it is estimated that roughly 76% of households in Japan have such a technologically advanced toilet seat. In fact, the Japanese government tracks the popularity of electronic bidet seats as an indicator of economic prosperity. This luxury bathroom accessory is also used widely throughout Asia and the Middle East, and is even disrupting the market for traditional bidets in Western Europe. Although their use in the United States has mostly been limited to luxury hotels and a small cult following, the electronic bidet seat seems to be taking root.

TOTO, the largest plumbing manufacturer in the world, has sold more than 40 million Washlets, its brand of electronic bidet seat, since launching the product in Japan in 1980. Although only a few thousand Washlets are sold each month in the United States, TOTO’s U.S. sales figures have increased by 20% in each of the last five years.

TOTO

Why A Washlet?

In a recent press release announcing their huge sales success, TOTO described the revolutionary accessory: “Washlets use pure, clean water – and myriad technological innovations – to make their users cleaner, happier, more refreshed than they have ever felt after a bathroom break by reinventing the humble toilet seat as a warm water personal cleansing system.” And Toto seems to have succeeded in making its users happier. People who have had the pleasure of sitting atop a Washlet typically respond with rave reviews. In “The Cult of the Toto Toilet,” for example, The Times interviewed the owner of a Manhattan plumbing showroom who said that going back to a regular toilet seat would be like “going back to the Stone Age. It feels very uncivilized.”

Depending on how advanced an individual wants their electronic bidet seat to be, a TOTO Washlet can cost anywhere from $1,000 to almost $10,000. In addition to the standard features—heated seat, bidet wand, remote control—more high-end models might include UV light technology that kills bacteria and other cleansing functions to keep the luxury bathroom clean and fresh.


Enormous Basements Add Space & Value To Urban Luxury Homes

Londoners with limited space are digging deep

Over the past decade, many of London’s most famed and wealthy residents have been expanding their homes’ square footage by adding enormous basements below their gardens. The controversial trend came about when wealthy Brits wanted more space, but were bound by plot constraints and property laws that prevented them from expanding up or outward. The result: so-called “iceberg” mansions all over London, where what you see from the street is only a sliver of the home’s actual space. These basements can go many floors deep and often house the homeowners’ wildest dreams, from pools to ballrooms to 15 additional bedrooms.

Blockbuster British Basements

In the cramped and centuries-old streets of London, hundreds of mega-basements have been dug for the UK’s most rich and famous residents, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Foxtons founder Jon Hunt, and Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi N Mittal. The basements belonging to these ultra-high-net-worth individuals are home to ballrooms, lap pools, vintage car garages with lifts and turntables, gun rooms, wine cellars, saunas, industrial-sized kitchens, movie theaters, dozens of spare bedrooms and bathrooms, and—in the case of British recording artist Damien Hirst—an art gallery.

Floorplan-basement

Hirst recently won a planning battle to add an enormous 150-foot-long backyard basement to his £39.5 million, 19-bedroom home in Westminster. The property, bought by Hirst in 2014, is considered unique for its half-acre yard and large garden, although his renovation proposal was contested based on the number of trees that would have to be cut down to carry out the plans. Despite protests, Hirst and his legal team prevailed in November 2015. Beyond simply adding more square footage to his home, the enormous bunker is destined to hold Hirst’s storied multi-million-dollar art collection, which includes works by masters like Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The subterranean art gallery renovation boasts double-height ceilings and an elevator that can lift art weighing up to ten tons.

Buried in Controversy

Although politicians, actors, and athletes seem thrilled to have the mega-basements of their dreams, the blowback has been widespread and multi-faceted. Neighbors resent finding themselves living beside noisy construction sites, and often fear what the fast-and-deep digging might do to their own homes. And their fears are not unfounded: Goldman Sachs’ Christoph Stanger undertook a basement renovation that caused his neighbors’ homes to slide toward the excavation site, causing their door frames to shift and trapping them in their own homes. Billionaires’ basements have proven dangerous for construction crews, too, as the UK’s Health and Safety Executive has reported 17 deaths and 27 injuries in the last decade. In a rush to respond to the wave of problematic and over-the-top mega-basrments, London boroughs are now tightening their regulations on subterranean renovation. In Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, for example, homeowners can now dig basements no more than one story deep and these additions cannot take up more than 50% of their garden.

Your Client’s Mega-Basement

 There are several important design elements to bear in mind for the luxury homeowner who is considering a major basement renovation or addition.

  • Open floor plans help to prevent the space from feeling too dark and cramped.
  • Natural light is vital for a luxury basement, so designers should opt for light wells rather than light switches. See-through glass stairs also provide an opportunity for light to filter down from above.
  • Light colors will help the space feel airy. Think white or beige walls, light-wood flooring, and neutral fabrics.
  • Egress to green space. Consider installing a door with a stairway up into the backyard garden, or even digging a lowered private garden at the basement level.
  • Great space for kids, storage, and quiet entertaining. When considering what to do with a big basement renovation, think first of playrooms, cinemas, laundry rooms, wine cellars, and gyms. Let more social spaces remain upstairs in the light of day.
  • Think twice about pools. While storage space, gyms, and playrooms often add resale value, this is not always true with pools.
  • Permits and insurance. Be aware of the laws and regulations that govern basement renovations and additions in your area, as well as the insurance options for during and after construction.

U.S. Will Unmask Secret Buyers of Luxury Real Estate

Beginning in March of this year, the Treasury Department will take steps to increase transparency in luxury real estate transactions. The new initiative will target all-cash real estate purchases made by shell companies, LLCs, partnerships, and other entities that conceal the homebuyer’s identity. The use of shell companies in real estate purchases is legal, and this will be the first time that high-end buyers—often private by nature and necessity—will be required to reveal their identities. While an individual might utilize a shell company or LLC to protect their privacy and protect themselves from liability, the Treasury and the FBI are aiming to crack down on the international buyers who use these transactions to hide illicit funds and illegal activity.

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Money Laundering & Luxury Real Estate

In “Towers of Secrecy,” a series of investigative articles published in 2015, The New York Times pulled back the curtain on all-cash, multi-million-dollar real estate purchases made by mysterious shell companies in Manhattan. This investigation revealed that many of these real estate transactions were being used to shield the significant wealth of foreign politicians and business people who had been accused of or tied to criminal activity. The Times reported: “Many of the owners represent a cross-section of American wealth: chief executives and celebrities, doctors and lawyers, technology entrepreneurs and Wall Street traders. But The Times also found a growing proportion of wealthy foreigners, at least 16 of whom have been the subject of government inquiries around the world, either personally or as heads of companies. The cases range from housing and environmental violations to financial fraud.” This investigation revealed that, of all the homes worth $5 million or more in the United States, nearly half are purchased using shell companies. It also suggested that, in many instances, luxury real estate professionals do not know the true identities of their clients.

Unmasking Secret Buyers

Partly in response to The Times’ findings, the U.S. Treasury is launching their initiative to unmask mysterious buyers of high-end homes. The initiative will start in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, running from March through August, and apply only to all-cash purchases made through shell companies. When a shell company pays cash for a Manhattan property worth at least $3 million or a Miami property with at least $1 million, the title insurance company will be required to identify the “natural persons” behind the transactions—“each individual who, directly or indirectly, owns 25 percent or more of the equity interests” of the entity that purchased the property. The title insurance company will then copy the license or passport of each individual and report their findings to the Treasury. The government will compile this information in a database for federal law enforcement, who will investigate the buyers and the origins of their cash.

If many sales involve suspicious money, the Treasury will instate permanent reporting requirements across the entire country. The Treasury also noted that, as part of a broader push to crack down on money laundering in real estate, future investigations would focus on the professionals who assist in these suspicious transactions, such as lawyers, bankers, and real estate agents.


High-Rise Living: The World’s Wealthy Move Toward City Centers

The growing popularity of high-rise living is most notable in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Miami, where ultra-high-rise condo towers offer high-end amenities, high quality of life, great views, and unbeatable convenience for individuals who would rather not commute. High-rise living isn’t for everyone, but it presents a desirable lifestyle for wealthy international buyers who want a landing pad in a U.S. metropolis and U.S. families seeking hassle-free access to the city. These buyers are willing to pay huge sums for the high-rise lifestyle, and condo units regularly sell for prices starting around $5 million and climbing all the way to $100 million.

Record-Breaking Heights & Price Tags

The sheer, impressive height of today’s newest luxury residential towers afford residents two important things: status and killer views. One57, a high-rise condo development in New York City, stole the title for the city’s tallest residential tower in 2014. One57’s penthouse, taking all of the 89th and 90th floors and towering high above Central Park in Manhattan, sold for just over $100 million in January 2015. To date, the One57 penthouse is the most expensive condo purchase ever recorded.

Endless Amenities

Today’s high-end high-rise developments have truly thought of everything: high-speed elevators and private elevator landings, wine cellars, optional guest apartments and separate servants’ entrances, indoor-outdoor fitness facilities, deluxe swimming pools, exclusive resident-only terrace restaurants with world-renowned chefs, bicycle shops, terrace dog parks, room service and catering, and (unbelievably) so much more. Due to the difficulty of engineering these sky-high buildings, higher units in ultra-high-rise residential towers cannot have terraces or rooftop gardens. To address this shortcoming, residential skyscrapers include community gardens and parks, which are often available to rent for residents’ special events.

Starchitects

Celebrated “starchitects” from around the world are being invited to reimagine urban life for high-net-worth individuals. Uruguayan star architect Carlos Ott is responsible for Miami’s posh Echo Brickell; Pritzker-prize-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando designed 152 Elizabeth St., a 7-unit condominium complex in New York City; and World-renowned Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid created the curvy and futuristic high-end residential building at 520 W. 28th St. While ultra-wealthy individuals have always adorned their walls with one-of-a-kind works of fine art, it is becoming increasingly desirable (and possible) to live within a work of art.

Community

For those who make the move toward inner-city residential towers, the potential loss of community and social opportunity is of utmost concern. Many new high-end urban developments, however, are designed to be communities within themselves. Single-building residential high-rises include common spaces such as parks, entertainment areas, and playgrounds where residents can mingle and form friendships. Other high-end, mixed-use urban developments—such as London’s Battersea Power Station project—encompass entire neighborhoods and include office spaces, shops, restaurants, galleries, parks, music venues, cultural spaces, hotels, and residential towers.

Security & Privacy

In addition to status and luxury amenities, buyers are drawn to high-rise living because they seek a secure and private home within the city center. High-end high-rises boast top-tier security, floor plans that enhance the privacy of each unit, and reliable maintenance and upkeep services to take care of residents’ homes when they are away.


2016 Luxury Bathroom Design Trends

The luxury bathroom is becoming a haven for peace, relaxation, and pampering within the home. Since the bathroom is one of the most commonly remodeled rooms in the house and tastes are ever-changing, here are some of the most important luxury bathroom design trends to watch in 2016.

Walk-in shower.

In 2016, the luxurious walk-in shower is expected to continue growing in popularity. These spacious showers—sometimes as big as a guest bedroom—often feature frameless glass doors, although a step-up entry or small entry hall can eliminate the need for any door at all. Many walk-in showers are entirely walled-in by glass to highlight unique shower tiles and design elements within. If a homeowner wants to maintain some level of privacy, however, lowered walls are a fantastic option. Larger walk-in showers can feature multiple showerheads, bench seating, and even a steam room setup for the ultimate in-home spa experience. Regardless of size, walk-in showers are becoming a staple of the sleek, modern luxury bathroom, and the possibilities for utility and design are endless. (For inspiration, check out these incredible walk-in shower photos on Houzz.)

 

Radiant heat flooring.

Perhaps “trend” is not the right word, because this one is here to stay. Is there anything as luxurious as a heated floor? (And don’t forget to heat the shower bench!)

Freestanding bathtubs.

In addition to being a luxury home-spa necessity, freestanding bathtubs are an opportunity to introduce unusual and captivating shapes into a room that is traditionally full of straight lines and right angles. And when you place a sleek bathtub by a floor-to-ceiling window? Now that’s luxury. Pictured below, check out the Wissioming Residence bathroom by Robert Gurney Architect.