Luxury Trends

Renovation Angel Leads A Revolution In Luxury Home Remodels

It’s no secret: renovating a luxury kitchen has historically been an outlandishly expensive endeavor. For owners of a high-end home, a kitchen update can cost anywhere from $50,000 to well over $100,000. These renovations, however, imply another hidden cost: the loss of the existing luxury kitchen, which in many cases includes valuable appliances, cabinets, and fixtures with plenty of life left in them. Not only is this bad for the homeowner who is dumping their valuable property, but it’s also an unsustainable building practice that is bad for the environment. Since 2005, however, a New Jersey-based non-profit has been working to reduce the high financial and environmental costs of luxury kitchen renovation.

Recycling Luxury Kitchens

Steve Feldman founded Recovery Unlimited, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, after happening upon the renovation of a luxury mansion. Feldman explains, “The trucks, the piles of rubble, the ‘Demolition in Progress’ sign in the driveway all sparked an unexpected thought: Why did all this have to go to waste? Why couldn’t at least some of these luxury goods go to a worthy cause?” Thus began Renovation Angel, Feldman’s answer to the luxury renovation problem. Since 2005, Renovation Angel has recycled over 4,000 luxury kitchens and awarded over $2 million in proceeds to non-profit projects and charities. To date, Renovation Angel’s kitchen recycling program has diverted over 22 million pounds of waste from landfills.

It’s a great deal for homeowners, too: the individual incurs no cost for removing the old kitchen, receives a full tax deduction, and the premises are left clean and ready for renovation work to begin.

How Does It Work?

Luxury homeowners need only visit the Renovation Angel website to submit information and begin the appraisal process. If Renovation Angel specialists confirm that the items meet their benchmarks for quality and condition, the company offers free, insured, and professional “white glove” removal of all donated items. The organization accepts luxury items that are of high value and in good condition.

  • Kitchens: cabinetry, appliances, countertops, light fixtures, sinks, faucets.
  • Bathrooms: vanities, free-standing tubs, fixtures, mirrors, pedestal sinks.
  • Interiors: high-end and antique furniture, fine art, pianos.
  • Exteriors: generators, outdoor bars and kitchens, statues and fountains.
  • Showroom displays and inventory.

Renovation Angel has recycled kitchens from coast to coast, and can do removals in luxury markets nationwide. 

The Institute Members are welcome to attend a special webinar with Steve Feldman, President and Co-Founder of Renovation Angel, as our presenter. Join us February 25th, 2016 at 3pm CST, as Steve shares how Institute members can provide a fascinating resource to client’s who are looking to update a space without emptying their wallets, all while being environmental conscious. 

To register for this webinar visit, www.LuxuryHomeMarketing.com/Webinars

 


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.


New Tech Means More Luxury Buyers Making Offers Site-Unseen

Consumers are looking for new ways to buy and sell real estate. A recent Redfin-commissioned survey of 2,134 individuals who had bought a home in the last 2 years shows that only 21% of respondents prefer buying and selling homes using the traditional methods. In contrast, 64% of respondents were open to unconventional, alternative, and innovative takes on the home buying and selling processes. But just what do we mean by “alternative” and “unconventional” ways of buying a home? One example: putting in an offer on a luxury home without ever setting foot inside.

The SurveyMonkey-run survey showed that 21% of buyers—or 1 in 5—had made an offer on a home without having ever visited it in person. And more than 50% of these site-unseen offers were made by high-end consumers who ultimately bought luxury homes with a purchase prices of $750,000 or more. Behind luxury homeowners, the demographics most likely to make an offer without seeing the property are millennials (30%) and single, never married people (30%). These numbers are huge and, according to SurveyMonkey’s review of the data, “a testament to the proliferation of online listings, mobile real estate apps, and cool things like 3D scans that take you inside and through every room of a home for sale online.

Technology & Lifestyle Marketing Are Key In All-Virtual Sales

So, how do you make yourself and your listings more attractive to prospects who might buy without stepping foot in the property—or even the same country? SurveyMonkey posits that “[it] has a lot to do with technology that enables people to know agents and properties intimately without a walk-through or face-to-face visit.”

Some important marketing and branding techniques to consider in attracting and closing these all-virtual transactions:

  • 3D virtual walk-throughs. Nothing offers a more realistic and intimate off-site home preview than 3D walk-through technology. Luxury real estate professionals can hire a service to photograph and construct the 3D walk-through, or buy their own 3D real estate camera and software packages, like the very impressive 3D Showcase from Matterport. Prospective buyers can navigate throughout the home, explore floor plans and specs, and even seeing what the view is like from each window in the house. In addition to increasing the accessibility of your listings, this exciting technology has the added benefit of differentiating you from other luxury real estate professionals.
  • Rich, up-to-date websites. With consumers relying heavily on property information found over the Internet, it’s vital to maintain an impressive and up-to-date website for your listings—or possibly unique websites for each of your biggest properties.
  • Statistics don’t lie: listings with video get 4x more inquiries than those without, and 85% of buyers and sellers want to work with an agent who uses video to market or showcase a home. Video is a fantastic way to bring a property and its lifestyle to life for a viewer.
  • High-quality photography. It’s always a must-have—especially in luxury—but site-unseen buyers want images that showcase minute design details and insinuate the lifestyle that accompanies your luxury listing.
  • Great lifestyle copy. For wealthy individuals doing their home shopping from afar, it can be difficult to get a sense of the lifestyle that comes with a property. Paired with video and area guides, good copy can change all of that by transporting the reader to their possible future in your luxury listing.
  • Social networking. Social media, blogging, and online networking present an opportunity to build an authentic, trustworthy personality over the internet so that your relationships can blossom before (or without) face-to-face encounters.
  • Testimonials. A simple way to build trust with far-flung consumers is via testimonials from your past satisfied clients.
  • Traditional printed property promotion. Where videos and 3D tech fail, traditional marketing materials, resources on local culture and amenities, and quality copywriting can bring high-end homes to life and help push the online buyer to make an offer.

If the 64% of consumers interested in alternative buying processes are any indication, then site-unseen luxury home offers and sales are likely to become more and more common in the coming years. Luxury real estate professionals who want to capture business from this growing market must leverage both new technologies and traditional marketing methods.


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.


Complex Luxury Consumers Crave Experiences, Not Things

In decades past, luxury consumers were a primarily homogeneous group with ostentatious style and a taste for status-setting items with luxury labels. Today, however, these values are all but obsolete. Luxury consumers are more varied, diverse, numerous, and complex than ever before, and thus less receptive to old marketing and branding tactics such as regionally- and demographically-targeted messaging. Market research shows that the “new” luxury consumer—in all of her instantiations—demands a fresh approach from luxury brands and service providers.

Luxury Experiences In High Demand

One of the most important changes in the luxury consumer is the shift in interest from luxury “things” to luxury experiences. “Shock of the New Chic,” a recent research article by BCG Perspectives, reports that “newly affluent buyers tend to amass tangible goods that show off their wealth. Those who have acquired the ‘things’ they want tend to move on to one-of-a-kind experiences that they can share with others.”

From free-diving with hammerhead sharks to attending art auctions, the interest in luxury experiences is growing across all levels of affluence. American Millennials, for example, generally place much more stock in shared experiences than the elder and wealthier Baby Boomers. BCG’s 2013 Global Consumer Sentiment Survey showed that 51% of American consumers prefer enriching experiences to products. Remarkably, experiential luxury constitutes 55% of luxury spending worldwide, and sales of luxury experiences now outstrip sales of high-end products.

Adapting To The New Complex Consumer

As market research reveals the luxury consumer’s ongoing transformation and diversification, there is mounting evidence that it’s time for big changes in the luxury industry. Although luxury brands generally put less stock into research than their mainstream counterparts, opting instead for creativity and exclusivity, BCG Perspectives stressed that “the formulas for success have become much more complicated.”

Here are 3 ways that luxury service providers can change their “business as usual.”

  • Offer luxury experiences. This might mean organizing exclusive events, hosting community meet-ups for high-net-worth individuals, or throwing soirées featuring local luxury brands and products. Think of creative, on-brand ways to enhance your clients’ experience and enable them to share and “live” luxury, rather than just live in it.
  • Enrich your sales process. To excel with today’s consumer, all aspects and stages of your service need to be top-tier. “Turning sales activities into deluxe experiences in their own right is nothing new,” according to BCG’s research. “But the practice is reaching new levels of excellence across a widening range of luxury segments . . . and across all channels.” Ask yourself how you can enhance your sales experience in the office, online, and everywhere in between.

Test out new “experiential” business models. Over the past decade, the luxury market has seen a proliferation of businesses based on “sampling” luxury items or experiences, sometimes through rental or subscription models like those of Bag Borrow Or Steal and Birchbox. BCG noted that, “Although some see such businesses as democratizing luxury—perhaps even diluting the participating brands—the new model clearly resonates with consumers, especially Millennials.” In other words, it’s time to second guess the old assumption


World’s Most Expensive Home: Château Louis XIV Sells For US$301 Million

A mansion outside Paris just shattered the record for the world’s most expensive home, selling for 275 million Euros. Although it was constructed in 2011, the Château Louis XIV is built in the style of 17th-centruy French estates, featuring a gold-leaf fountain, ceilings painted in the style of the Sistine Chapel, and 56 acres of gardens that rival those of Versailles.

Although the sale was private, two sources close to the deal report that the unnamed buyer was Middle Eastern. Christie's International Real Estate was involved with brokering this incredible sale, one of the sources said.

Considered as a wedding venue for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, the Château Louis XIV boasts both rich old-world aesthetics and cutting edge technology: a cinema, wine cellar, lavish ballroom, underground nightclub, squash room, and an underwater room with fish and sharks swimming in the clear walls.

Chateau back

Click the image above to view a property tour video in French

The mansion sits between Versailles and Marly-le-Roi, on the same land where Louis XIV developed a palace in the 18th century. The land was cleared in 1888 and used for agricultural purposes until 2008 when Emad Khashoggi decided to restore it to its regal heritage. The project was coordinated by Cogemad, a French company that develops luxury villas in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. The construction reportedly took 3 years.

Cogemad provides 360-degree panoramic photos, and this video shows the grand scale of this record-breaking home. Cogemad’s website describes the attention to detail in the mansion’s interior: “The automated high-tech controls are incorporated with the utmost discretion, blending invisibly with the interior’s breathtaking Grand Siècle décor: gold-leaf moldings, marble inlays, tables sculpted from solid stone,  the finest silks, hand painted frescoes, elegant metalwork, and countless other refined details.” According to Cogemad’s website, the expansive gardens feature “elegantly planted parterres, a gleaming gold-leafed fountain, an infinite array of flowers, marble statues, bridle paths, and a hedged labyrinth.”

The previous record for highest confirmed sales price was $221 million, set when a London penthouse apartment sold in 2011.


Chinese Nationals Buy Luxury US Real Estate Via Social App WeChat

WeChat1

Affluent Chinese nationals are scrambling to invest their wealth in US real estate. As of last year, Chinese consumers are the biggest foreign buyer of US real estate, and they’re the nationality willing to pay the highest prices for their properties. Chinese nationals are also the largest group of luxury consumers in the world, accounting for 32% of global luxury consumption. But with traditional avenues of engagement such as Google and Facebook being banned in China, how do US real estate professionals tap into this high-volume, high-demand market? Believe it or not, one solution might be found in a smartphone app.

WeChat Connects US Brokers With Chinese Buyers

You’ve likely never heard of WeChat, but this social app currently boasts 650 million predominantly-Chinese users. (That’s more than double the population of the United States of America!) Launched by Chinese internet giant Tencent in 2011, WeChat is a one-stop super-app that enables users to do pretty much anything: watch movies, share photos and videos, play games, chat with friends, call cabs, buy clothing, and offer personal loans.

Not only has WeChat had a profound impact on Chinese internet culture and mobile usage, but it’s now becoming something of a gateway between US real estate professionals and Chinese buyers.

Because a flight from the east coast of China to New York City takes a staggering 15 hours, many Chinese prospects are understandably hesitant to personally visit US properties. Instead, some are choosing to carry out the entire process through WeChat—going from initial contact with a US broker all the way to closing without ever setting foot in the country, let alone the purchased property. Significantly, the real estate being bought and sold via WeChat falls within the luxury bracket; a recent Business Insider article features interviews with US real estate professionals who’ve used the app to sell properties worth up to $5million.

How You Can Attract Chinese Buyers On WeChat

If you’re considering getting a WeChat account to tap into the Chinese market, here is some information to get you started.

  • It’s free! Like Instagram or Twitter, it doesn’t cost anything to create an account on WeChat.
  • Blog to build trust. In order to bridge the great distance between agent and prospect, use your WeChat account as a personal blog. In addition to posting your listings, share personal thoughts and photos from everyday life to reassure prospects that you are a real, trustworthy person. A strong personality on WeChat will lead to sales.
  • Virtual tours. Real estate professionals can share photos, walk-through videos, blueprints and other information to “show” a property via WeChat. Clients may also have locally-based representatives tour properties on their behalf.
  • To make communication easier across a massive time difference, you can leave voice messages via WeChat, which your clients can respond to the next day.
  • All digital. Once a deal reaches its final stages, a legal representative will cement your digital communications as binding and send an electronic version of the contract to the client.

Want to know more about working with the affluent Chinese buyer? Checkout The Institute's upcoming Member webinar, on December 17th at 3 pm Central Standard Time. Members of The Institute can register at www.LuxuryHomeMarketing.com/webinars.


The All-Black Kitchen Makes A Statement In Luxury Homes

2015 design trends move away from the all-white kitchen

Luxury Kitchen - Modern Rustic

 

In addition to being a hub of family and social life within the home, kitchens are an important way for homeowners to make a statement about their property, identity, and taste. As a result of their place at the heart of a home, kitchens are the second most frequently remodeled room in the house—second only to bathrooms. This year, the pendulum has swung away from the popular all-white kitchen and toward the opposite extreme: the black kitchen.

Kitchen Design Goes Over To The Dark Side

In 2015, bright-red cabinets and white tile are being eclipsed by darker colors. The beginning of this trend can be seen in the stunning 2014 Kitchen of the Year, designed by designer Steven Miller for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which featured all-black cabinetry, dark tile backsplashes, and a steely grey ceiling. But why the turn toward darker hues? Black kitchens—or ones dominated by other dark shades—make a statement about the home and its owners: bold, strong, sleek, and luxurious. This design idea is particularly fitting for the luxury homeowner who craves a high-end kitchen that leaves a lasting impression.

Here are a few tips for incorporating darker tones into luxury kitchen design:

  • Cabinetry or countertops are perhaps the easiest way to introduce dark tones into the luxury kitchen. If all-black cabinets seem overwhelming, why not balance them out with a white marble countertop or soften the look with distressed or textured wood?
  • To darken the kitchen further, consider bringing in black or dark-colored appliances.
  • Dark wood flooring. If you want to go black but worry that the look will be too overwhelming, dark wood floors are a fantastic way to give the space a warm, rustic feel.
  • Black and green. Perhaps the only look more luscious than an all-black kitchen is a black-and-green kitchen. Apartment Therapy suggests this color combination as a way to make the black kitchen warm, earthy, and even more unique.
  • Look books. The internet is brimming with image-rich resources. Use these to show your clients just how stunning their high-end, on-trend black kitchen could be. (For example, check out this Pinterest board.)

China’s UHNWIs Invest In Top-Tier Homes & Higher Education

For luxury real estate professionals in certain markets, international buyers are a growing source of opportunity. According to the Knight Frank 2015 Wealth Report, there are 172,850 individuals globally who have a net worth of $30 million or more. An estimated 32% of an UHNW individual’s assets are invested in real estate, and that 81% of UHNWIs are most interested in the residential market. Amidst the growing pool of wealthy international investors, Chinese clients stand above the rest.

The NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients showed that, for the first time ever, international buyers from China exceeded all other foreign buyers in both units and dollar volume, spending $28.6 billion on United States residential real estate last year. While Chinese buyers are undoubtedly attempting to shelter their wealth from a chaotic domestic market, reports show that they are dually motivated by an interest in the United States’ prestigious universities.

Chinese students account for approximately one third of all international students in America, and an estimated 10% of Chinese UHNWIs send their children to college in the United States. It is becoming increasingly popular for wealthy Chinese parents to invest in residential property near their child’s university, constituting a simultaneous investment in real estate and education. Chinese buyers show a strong preference for American cities on the west coast, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, which boast a wealth of educational and business opportunities, as well as relative proximity to China.

Learning To Work Effectively With Chinese Clients

Shake Bow Book Series

Chinese buyers have a unique set of customs and perspectives concerning social and business transactions. Luckily, there are many resources available to luxury real estate professionals who want the tools to attract Chinese buyers and exceed their expectations.


The Luxury Shed: So Much More Than A “Man-Cave”

She Shed
I know what you’re thinking: luxury shed? Sheds have historically been used as a place to store farm equipment, garden supplies, firewood, and seasonal sports equipment. Not so long ago, you would’ve been more likely to find a possum in a backyard shed than someone reading a novel on a rainy day! But you can forget the corrugated metal and plastic siding. Luxury homeowners today are recasting backyard sheds as a vessel for their dreams, built and decorated with the same attention to detail and quality of materials as the main household.

You Call That A Shed?

A “man cave” is a room in the house dedicated to a male head of the household—essentially a no-girls-allowed clubhouse for adult men. The trend of tricked-out sheds really took flight when homeowners began moving these so-called “man caves” out of the house and into the outdoors. The women’s equivalent, which some refer to as the “she-shed,” is becoming increasingly popular.

In general, luxury sheds are designed to provide a private hideaway for working or relaxing. (Because sometimes being behind a locked door in the same house just isn’t enough space!) Sheds also offer an opportunity for homeowners to attain the home of their dreams. If the existing floor plan doesn’t have a room with adequate space or privacy for one of the homeowner’s needs, a luxury shed can offer the perfect solution.

Some of the most popular uses for luxury sheds:

  • Cozy, private reading room complete with coffee maker
  • Gardening shed and greenhouse for growing things year-round
  • Master bathroom expansion (if you want the bath to be really relaxing, put it in a different building)
  • Woodshop, workshop, or hobby space
  • Artist’s studio for painters or sculptors
  • Recording studio
  • Backyard home office
  • Adult tree house (for the young at heart)
  • Backyard bar or cocktail lounge

Endless Possibilities

For luxury real estate professionals, sheds are a way to expand the client’s possible uses of a given space or piece of property. If you are showing a home and the client says they are looking for something closer to the forest, why not suggest a luxury shed in a secluded wooded corner of the property? If an existing luxury home doesn’t have the right space for a bar and lounge, a private office, a craft space, or a recording studio—why not inform your client about the endless possibilities afforded by luxury sheds?

The best part? They are affordable, comfortable, and customizable. Because of their small footprint, sheds can be built virtually anywhere and erected in a matter of days.