All posts by Kelly Potts

For the Wildlife

Explorers looking to stray from the usual sightseeing routes or tropical destinations and go off the beaten path are in luck as high-end travel companies begin to offer more journeys that embrace wildlife and nature.

Enjoying 24 hours of daylight on a cruise through icy waters, standup paddle boarding in the vicinity of pink dolphins and trekking through a national park to appreciate the sight of tigers and elephants are just a few of the many exceptional offerings from luxury travel companies.


“Travelers are now more than ever looking for extraordinary moments filled with authenticity and personal value,” says Sarah Casewit, co-founder of curated experiential travel company Naya Traveler. “It’s no longer enough to check off the must-see list, or come home with a suitcase full of souvenirs. They’re seeking personalized experiences that go beyond the tourist sightseeing route, in favor of opportunities to engage with locals and their traditions.”


When it comes to the exact locations that allow for unique, nature-driven travel, destinations all over the globe have a lot to offer, but Casewit notes that a few particular locations are of high interest lately. “These destinations attract a similar traveler profile due to the adventurous nature of the experiences, complete with adrenaline-filled activities,” Casewit says, noting that clients usually look for rustic chic lodges and a high-end glamping experience that infuses unique cultural elements including music, art or cuisine to complement the journey.


According to luxury travel company Natural World Safaris, one such location is Norway — experience life under the midnight sun with 24 hours of daylight while cruising the icy waters of the Svalbard Archipelago. “Great for those seeking a niche experience with an interest in wildlife, polar regions and conservation efforts,” is NWS’ Polar Bear Explorer trip, starting at $9,305 for 11 days.

Set sail north from Longyearbyen aboard some of the smallest expedition ships to cruise these waters with just 12 passengers for a uniquely intimate voyage. “This small ship expedition isn’t possible to book yourself, plus NWS offers the expertise of specialist leaders including National Geographic photographers,” says Will Bolsover, NWS founder and managing director.


The Polar Bear Explorer journey includes walking and sailing through incredible landscapes, fjords and waterfalls, and searching for colonies of walrus, polar bears and other marine mammals. The small ships are perfect for exploring the icy waters, creating the opportunity to have unrivalled up-close encounters with Arctic wildlife.


For a warmer destination, adventurous families looking for a multi-activity break can venture to Costa Rica for NWS’ 10-day, tailor-made trip, starting at $3,520. The excursion can include activities such as whale-watching, observing turtle nesting on the beaches, learning more about the species found in Costa Rica at butterfly, frog and iguana farms and exploring tropical Tortuguero, home to tapirs, jaguars, monkeys, sloths and more.


The safari is full of adventure, with jungle walks, horseback riding and canoeing, as well as the chance to witness four species of primate in Manuel Antonio National Park. If Bolsover had to pick just one experience that every client or visitor must take advantage of in Costa Rica, he says: “It has to be zip lining through the jungle canopy.”


Marine wildlife and tropical birds abound in Peru, where Naya Traveler offers a three-night journey in Puerto Maldonado combined with three nights aboard River Cruise in Iquitos starting at $900 per person per day. The country has three distinct regions, one of which is the virgin rainforest, which covers about 60 percent of the country and is rich in a biodiversity that is native to the Amazon. Journeying from Iquitos, travelers can explore the rainforest from the river on an intimate cruise, or stay in a missionary-style hacienda on the banks of the river in Madre de Dios.


“Visitors can cruise along the Amazon River and witness the meeting of the waters, standup paddle with pink dolphins surrounding them, and fish for piranhas at night,” says Casewit. She recommends taking a “night safari” through the Amazon rainforest, where travelers can see the animals that come out at night.

Across the South Atlantic Ocean in South India, Naya Traveler’s six-night journey consists of trips to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Coorg, starting at $600 per person per day. This journey can be curated to include trekking alongside a tribal villager through Periyar National Park, a wildlife sanctuary that is home to some of India’s most majestic creatures including tigers and elephants, riding a skiff through the backwaters of Kerala to see locals living in equilibrium with nature, or spending the night on a traditional houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala.


Cultural diversity and a rich heritage abound all throughout South India, including Kerala, where language, music, art, cuisine and architecture can vary from one state to the next. The region also boasts a varied topography, with rolling hills, winding backwaters and tropical valleys to explore during the trip.


The land throughout the Southernmost continent in the world is barely touched by humans, offering breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Travelers can ride among whales, pinnipeds, albatross and penguins, and take a flight over the Geographical South Pole on a journey through Antarctica with Naya Traveler’s ‘The White Desert by Cruise’ trip.


“Cruise through Drake Passage with Antarctica on the horizon, take a dinghy to walk on Earth’s White Continent, witnessing Emperor Penguins breeding,” Casewit says of the trip, consisting of 10 nights starting at $1,300 per person per day. The excursion can also be altered to travel from South Africa to Antarctica by private jet and stay in luxury pods for eight nights, starting at $80,000 per person.

If you’re looking to explore more than a single continent in one sweeping trip, Natural World Safaris’ 18-day multi-destination experience, starting at $37,391, takes travelers on a journey from the red African deserts to Antarctica’s white landscapes. This safari expedition includes activities such as quad biking across the deserts of the Makgadikgadi Pans, a hot air balloon flight over the sand dunes of Sossuvlei, and discovering the desert-adapted wildlife of the Kalahari.


Each day offers a unique experience, such as flying in by jet to land on an ice-runway in Antarctica, where you can spot penguins and trek on the tundra. Bolsover says, “This is a finely-tuned safari which is coordinated to maximize on time and uses the expertise of the team to ensure the best experiences in each destination.”


No matter what destination your wildlife-oriented journey brings you to, Casewit recommends taking advantage of a travel company to enrich the experience, noting “These trips are designed to provide a unique space for clients to discover a destination through the eyes and knowledge of those who know it best.”

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New Game from Luxury Travel Company Inspires Clients

A new offering from one luxury travel company is inspiring clients to change the way they travel by transforming a standard journey into a game full of unexpected scenarios with strangers, intellectual puzzles and physical experiences.

By: Kelly Potts

Philippe Brown, founder of Brown + Hudson, knew that it was time to shake up the way people travel when a client came to his company and mentioned that their kids are more excited to play computer games at home than they are to experience new destinations. Enter The Great Game — a tailored journey that includes challenges, clues, puzzles and chance encounters to help you discover a location in a completely new and engaging way. “We started researching the particular games the kids were playing and the mechanics of how those games become utterly addictive and engaging,” Brown says. “We had to take everything that’s so messed up about these computer games and translate that to the real world, to include varying levels of challenge, prizes and a sense of competition.”


For this family, and many others, Brown notes that the issue wasn’t where they should travel, but rather how they should travel. The Great Game can range from physical stimulation to intellectual challenges, but every trip encourages clients to travel in a way they’ve never traveled before. “We turn it into a game and then the client has a better chance of seeing a place with new eyes or childlike wonder,” he says.


Where you play the game is totally up to you, though Brown does recommend you allow enough time in a destination that offers much to experience, such as Downtown Buenos Aires or Patagonia, for example. “Places that are more intense offer a richer palette,” he says. “To get the full benefit of the trip, it’s better to have it be longer than four days because then you really get into it.”


Before embarking on this unique getaway, there’s a planning process that Brown compares to working with an architect. “We get to know you, get a feeling of what you’re looking for and make sure we ask the right questions so we get the trip right,” he says. “We believe that before getting excited about places, the client is the destination.” The trip planning interview consists of questions that may seem random, but were crafted with the assistance of a therapist to really get to the heart of the person and understand their motivations, fears and goals for the trip. “Unless you ask the questions, there’s no point in talking about places,” he says.


Brown + Hudson currently has three Great Game trips in the works and one that occurred in India last year. One trip the company is planning to Costa Rica includes a challenge with zip lining. “When people come to us and say we want the kids to build up confidence, zip lining was the perfect way to build physical confidence,” says Brown. 


Of the game that took place in India, Brown says, “This particular story was really interesting because they came to us with their great aunt’s diary. We realized, we can integrate this between what this family does and what the great aunt did to make the story richer and more connected.” One aspect of this trip involved a young boy, a complete stranger to the family, taking their hand and leading them to the entrance of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan after closing hours to enjoy time alone with the director of the fort museum.


If a meaningful or insightful journey is on your agenda, Brown + Hudson can certainly incorporate these aspects into the game. “If the family wants to learn about important issues of a particular area, part of the game might be meeting refugees,” he says. There’s also the chance to have a trip full of physical adventures and activities, a vacation that offers intellectual challenges and puzzles or a voyage offering interaction with strangers and family alike. Brown says, “There isn’t one recipe, it changes for each client.”


During this journey, clients can choose to have the help of a ‘guardian,’ a local guide who understands the game and the family’s needs, and ensures that the family is enjoying the game and moving through it in a timely manner. They can offer as much or as little assistance as the client wants, while also helping to ensure that everything the family hopes to get out of the trip is accomplished. “We want them to achieve their objective, so we control what happens to a certain extent,” says Brown. “Sometimes the guardian needs to be there to help them see the big picture.”


While The Great Game was not inspired by the traditional escape rooms that have been gaining popularity around the world, Brown notes that they have much in common. “The parallels are there — going into an unfamiliar environment, not knowing the rules, having someone guide you.” Just like an escape room, Brown notes that the loss of control is what sparks interest in The Great Game. “People realize that it’s a return to child’s play… how many adults get to play and think ‘it’ll be fun to not worry about anything and let myself be guided through this game’? It’s utterly relaxing,” he says.


The Great Game can be enjoyed by families, couples or individuals of all ages and backgrounds — and each client will gain something different from the experience, whether it’s solving a problem they’re facing, learning more about themselves, or just have a unique and unforgettable trip that opened their eyes to a new way of travel.

Of the game that took place in India, Brown says, “This particular story was really interesting because they came to us with their great aunt’s diary. We realized, we can integrate this between what this family does and what the great aunt did to make the story richer and more connected.”

One trip the company is currently planning to Costa Rica includes a challenge with zip lining. “When people come to us and say we want the kids to build up confidence, zip lining was the perfect way to build physical confidence,”
says Brown.

During this journey, clients can choose to have the help of a ‘guardian,’ a local guide who understands the game and the family’s needs, and ensures that the family is enjoying the game and moving through it in a timely manner.

“The Great Game is suitable for anyone who is willing to question how and why they’ve traveled in a specific way,” Brown says. “It’s perfect for someone who wants to get more out of their time abroad and someone who’s got an appetite to devour a place.”


While the pricing of The Great Game does vary from trip to trip, figure on a minimum of $25,000 per person (Brown + Hudson recommends a minimum of one week), in addition to a retainer fee of $4,000 for the planning and creation of the game (including the involvement of specialist experience and game designers). Brown does have some advice for those playing the game — “Trust, use your brain, expose yourself and the answer could be in something random.”


His hope for The Great Game is that it will awaken clients to realize that they deserve more from their travels. “If you could leave yourself behind and be a completely blank canvas everywhere you went, then your experiences would be much richer, more memorable and actually have therapeutic effects,” he says. “That’s what our approach does.” 

Photos courtesy of BrownandHudson and

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Private French Polynesian Island Listed for $42 Million

Motu Tane, a 9.6-acre private island located in the lagoon of Bora Bora, is dotted with 1,500 coconut palms and native flora, and 22 separate structures to create a remote, garden-like retreat.


Owned by cosmetics mogul François Nars, Motu Tane features two luxurious 2,500-square-foot suites, each with a sunken lava bathtub, shower and dressing area, as well as panoramic views to the garden, the beach and the main island.


“The island is a uniquely realized meld of striking natural beauty, world-class beaches and dream-like views, complemented and enhanced by the visions of François Nars, Parisian landscaper Pascal Cribler and interior designer Christian Liaigre, who together created the ultimate luxury retreat,” says listing agent Bob Hurwitz of Hurwitz James Company.


Throughout the island are nine beach bungalows to accommodate up to 20 guests, a library with Polynesian art and artifacts, a photography studio, a chef’s kitchen featuring commercial-quality equipment and two staff quarters. The great room, perfect for small gatherings or formal entertaining, and the adjacent dining area featuring extra-large, custom-made tables, are surrounded by the garden. Custom-crafted furniture made from rare tropical wood and natural fabrics can be found in rooms throughout the island, listed at $42 million.


“Traveling is my longtime passion and I have both marketed and vacationed on some of the most beautiful and pristine properties on earth,” says Hurwitz. “This includes a large number of jaw-droppingly beautiful islands. Among the many privately owned islands I have visited, Motu Tane stands alone at the top of the list.”


“For the rare individual who has the money to buy whatever he or she wants and has already done so, there still remains Motu Tane. Anyone who can afford it and visits it will buy it,” says Hurwitz. — Kelly Potts

Photos courtesy of Hurwitz James Company

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Going Global — A Mexican Marvel

Owners at Costas Palmas have access to the members-only Beach Club, which serves as the heart of the club community, offering organic cuisine, fitness and locker rooms, full-service pools and proximity to the beach.

Owners can also take advantage of “Aventura” guides, offering jet skiing, paddle boarding, wake surfing, sport fishing, ATV adventures to secret caves or waterfalls, and sunset horseback rides on the beach. The Costa Palmas Marina, a deep-water marina with 250 slips, is located just steps away from the marina village offering artisanal boutiques, dining, music and art. — Kelly Potts

rendering & photos courtesy Costa Palmas

Costa Palmas, a 1,000-acre private beachfront resort community on the East Cape of the Baja Peninsula, will soon be home to the first Four Seasons Resort and Private Residences in Los Cabos. Options for owners include a fully furnished, fully managed golf, beach or marina one- to five-bedroom residence, or one of just 18 private, custom-designed villas of 5,000 to 10,000 square feet located on the beach or marina.

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3 Ways to Enjoy Glamping This Summer

Summer is the season for camping! Or, if you’d rather not sacrifice comfort and luxury during your scenic outdoor expedition, then ‘glamping’ may be the perfect fit. From tiny homes bordering national forests to island excursions for young campers and expansive tents with endless views of Hollywood Hills, here are three ways to glamp all season long.

Beverly Wilshire

Beverly Hills, California

Bringing a touch of the great outdoors with the first urban glamping experience available in Los Angeles, the Veranda Suite is a one-of-a-kind, studio-style suite suite featuring a 2,140-square-food terrace with unparalleled 270-degree views of the Hollywood Hills and Rodeo Drive.
The expansive tent, which is 16 feet in diameter and over 10 feet tall in the center, offers the coveted Four Seasons sleep experience with a queen-size bed and Four Seasons linens, and lavish furnishings including a crystal chandelier, marble lamps, fur rug and antique nightstands. Outdoors on the terrace, oversized lounge furniture surrounding a fireplace and a dining area for eight completes the glamping experience.
Guests can also enjoy an exclusive glamping menu during their stay, prepared on the veranda by the executive chef. Urban glamping in the Veranda Suite is available for a limited time, with rates starting at $3,500 per night.

Snake River Sporting Club

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Situated on 800 acres with nearly seven miles of private access to Snake River, this private club recently began offering luxury overnight lodging to the public.
The Discovery Village, perfect for couples, is an intimate collection of four designer-furnished, 1-bedroom tiny homes, each with their own fire pit and patio surrounding a communal open space. The tiny homes range from $225 to $625 per night, and guests can enhance their stay with outdoor activities such as world-class golf, fly fishing, hiking and biking, or the restored hot springs.

Four Seasons Resort O’ahu at Ko Olina

Kapolei, Hawaii

Located at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, the glamping excursion allows young campers to gather under the night sky surrounded by the comfort of a luxurious tent with Four Seasons bedding.
The well-appointed outdoor accommodations are matched by traditional camping experiences for an evening of Hawaiian stargazing and story-telling, games, movies and a “Great Outdoors” inspired dinner.
Overnight glamping is $150 per camper, which includes supervision, dinner, camping materials and breakfast. Glamping without camping is $100 per camper, including supervision, dinner and games until 10 p.m.

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5 Things to Know About Buying a Vacation Home in the Bahamas

When you think of the Bahamas, what comes to mind? Do you envision the white, sandy beaches of the Exumas? Or do you see Nassau’s happy nightlife? Did you run away to the Bahamas to escape the frigid temperatures of the winter and enjoy the warm sun of the Bahamas? Whatever your experiences, the Bahamas has provided a perfect vacation spot for you and your loved ones.

By Abby Drexler

Hotel Life — Is It For You?
If you come to the Bahamas every once in a while, then staying at a hotel may be a good fit. However, if this is one of your regular vacation destinations, such lodgings may become undesirable. One thing that might make this living paradise more complete would be your very own vacation home.
Think about it — no one will tell you when you can check in or out because it is your own home! Anyone who is in your abode will be completely vetted by you. You won’t have to worry about the quality of a hotel because it will be your house.
If you want to own a house in the Bahamas, congratulations! As with any enterprise, research is imperative. Here are five tips to help you accomplish your goals.
Knowledge is Power!

  1. Research

Before you go into your Bahama Real Estate Adventure, do some preliminary research of the properties. Window-shopping will enable you to investigate the various communities. Find out about the availability of retail stores, schools, law enforcement, demographics, patterns of weather, religion — anything you may want to know about the area. You can also check on what is required to buy a home in the Bahamas. Knowing what to expect can prevent the adventure from any mishaps.

  1. Affordability

That villa in Abaco is your dream! But if it is on four acres of land, costs $750,000 and you can only afford a home on one acre for $250,000, then you may want to rethink your villa! Buying your home is just one aspect of obtaining it. You have to have enough money to pay for the fees, taxes and moving costs to name a few. So yes map out your bedrooms, baths and kitchens of your dream house. Just make sure that you have enough currency to cover it.

  1. Know Your Taxes and Fees

Part of managing your expenses relies on knowing how many taxes and fees you have pay for purchasing your new home. This includes the VAT (Value Added Tax), the stamp duty, the annual real property tax and the government tax, just to name a few. Some fees include registration, legal, the real estate agency, permits, appraisal of property, surveys and closing fees. These are just a few items to look out for when buying your new home.

  1. Real Estate Agency and Lawyer

This advice should be a no-brainer but there are plenty of people who want to do everything themselves and get into plenty of trouble for their efforts. While it is good to be proactive and do as much as you can in acquiring your vacation home, you will need professional help eventually. Unless you are proficient in Bahamian law and how to buy a house there, procuring a lawyer and real estate agency will help you get the best deal for your money.

  1. Rental Property

Living in the Bahamas can be quite costly. After you finally buy your house, keeping up with the costs of it can be a challenge — especially if you aren’t there all the time. One way to offset the cost is to make your property a rental. Non-Bahamians who lease their homes get a tax break.
Another advantage is your living quarters will have someone to watch over your investment. Even if you were to visit your place for ten weeks out of the year, who will tend to it during the other forty-two weeks? Leasing your dwelling will ensure that a trusted tenant will take care of your home during those times that you are away. An added benefit of this type of arrangement would be in the form of receiving rent money.

Abby Drexler is a contributing writer and media specialist for Holowesko Realty. She regularly produces content for a variety of travel and realty blogs.

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Latest Works from Trompe L’oeil Master Exhibited at Martin Lawrence Galleries

Martin Lawrence Galleries recently announced that the latest works from pop-illusionist Philippe Bertho — which showcase his recent decision to explore the dreamlike deliriums and the vibrant pleasure of his own personal narrative, context and texture — will be exhibited at its SoHo location.

Philippe Bertho, Gruetesque, acrylic on canvas,     47 1/2 x 47 1/2 inches

Philippe Bertho, Le Grand Saut, acrylic on canvas, 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches

Philippe Bertho, Love Pop 3, hand-signed serigraph on linen, 24 x 24 inches

Philippe Bertho, Le Plus Beau Cosmonaute, acrylic on canvas, 28 3/4 x 23 1/2 inches

MLG began presenting the unique works of Philippe Bertho exclusively at its nine galleries across the country a decade ago, noting that never before had it seen a painter of such magnificent vision and unique perspective. Since then, Bertho’s work is exclusively offered at its fine art galleries from New York to Orleans to Maui to La Jolla. MLG notes that Bertho’s personal and visual works illustrate, enlighten and — with gloriously subtle nuance — confound the eye.
“I think my paintings are paintings of ideas. There are many kinds of painters; I am a painter of ideas who paints with delicacy and restraint,” says Bertho. Bertho, born in the Brittany of France, is a classically trained artist who began studying his craft in the early 1990s in Reims. He spent considerable time mastering trompe l’oeil (“to fool the eye”) painting, a technique which literally creates the illusion of a third dimension on a flat surface.
“For a long time, I naively believed that painting was a matter of technique. Then I read about Picasso, son of a drawing teacher, who spent his life learning to draw as a child; then and there, my perspective on art was transformed forever. To represent a face in profile and from the front at the same time; it is simply great poetry,” says Bertho.
Bertho’s newest works, now offered for acquisition at MLG’s SoHo, New York and San Francisco locations, reflect his desire and recent decision to return to his vision of life as new ideas. New and original works on canvas and hand-signed prints are available to view and acquire.

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Arteriors Debuts Guest Designer Collection with Celerie Kemble

Arteriors, a leading provider of luxury lighting, occasional furniture and decorative accessories, is debuting its latest guest designer collaboration with interior designer Celerie Kemble. The collection recently launched online in advance of the April release at the Spring 2018 High Point Market.

“Celerie brings a different design vision to the Arteriors assortment with feminine, soft designs that bring a light and playful element to interior spaces,” says Mark Moussa, founder and creative director for Arteriors. “She has a special sense for shaping materials that, when combined with the skills of our factories, resulted in a truly exciting collection that we are thrilled to share with our customers.”
The Celerie Kemble for Arteriors collection features an assortment of wicker, rattan and bamboo pieces showcasing the natural materials that are signature to Kemble’s design aesthetic. “I designed this collection to be very tactile, with materials that pull from the natural and the handmade, where coastal informs the urbane,” says Kemble. “These pieces are meant to add levity and warmth to interiors — a touch of whimsy or flight of fancy, balanced with a modern edge.”

Ecru Ottomans, Set of 4

This neutral set of leather ottomans, offered at $5,670, can fit together to form one larger ottoman featuring a platform base plated with an antique brass finish.

Tinsley Bar Cart

This sleek bar cart is crafted with a vintage brass finish, featuring two tiers plated with antiqued mirror glass with a whimsical pattern. The bar is footed with 360-degree swivel casters for mobility and available for $1,800.

Waterlilly Sculpture

Rich in organic textures and lifelike details, this aluminum bowl has a polished brass finish to accentuate the intricate veining, leaf textures and natural curves. This piece, offered at $450, makes a great table accent or can be installed on the wall.

Calla Sconce

Made entirely from brass from stem to petal, this sconce is finished in a warm polish for added gloss and shine. Hand-punched details in the six lampshades cast dots of light around the room. At over two feet tall, this light is offered at $570.

Mystic Lamp

Sultry, wine-colored glass is hand-blown to form this bottle-vase lamp. The iridescent, deep lavender hue casts a natural allure in this sleek and modern lamp, offered at $900.

Calliope Chandelier

With over 150 stainless steel metal disks, this chandelier, available for $3,300, has an antique brass finish and a unique design. Three fittings hold standard-size bulbs, and a frosted acrylic plate beneath filters downcast light beautifully.

Photos courtesy Arteriors; headshot courtesy Josh Gaddy

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T. Boone Pickens selling ranch for $250 million

Comprised of over 100 square miles of Eastern Texas Panhandle ranch land, the ranch features man-made streams and lakes, and offers what many agree is the “world’s best quail hunting.”

By Kelly Potts

Business magnate T. Boone Pickens’ 65,000-acre Mesa Vista Ranch in Texas is listed for $250 million.

Over the course of decades, Pickens, longtime owner of the ranch, invested time and money into wildlife management, programs and facilities to create a unique combination of pristine lands and world-class amenities at the Mesa Vista Ranch.

“My hopes for the Mesa Vista and my plans for its future remain as vivid as they were when I began assembling the ranch 46 years ago,” says Pickens, regarding the decision to put the property on the market. “We have minimal cattle grazing on the ranch, preferring instead to let the land revert to pristine prairie conditions, much as it has been in centuries past.”

The ranch, bordering the Canadian River, features multiple structures, including a 12,000-square-foot lake house, a 33,000-square-foot lodge, a family house, gatehouse, pub and a kennel with enough space for 50 dogs. The property also features a 6,000-foot runway and hangar, as well as a chapel with views of the mesas.

Comprised of over 100 square miles of Eastern Texas Panhandle ranch land, the ranch features man-made streams and lakes, and offers what many agree is the “world’s best quail hunting.” “The Mesa Vista has been a labor of love that has occupied the better part of my life. And I intend for a lot more good to come from the sale of the ranch,” Pickens says, noting that much of the proceeds from the sale of the ranch will be donated to The T. Boone Pickens Foundation to fund various charities.

The property is offered jointly and exclusively by Hall and Hall and Chas. S. Middleton and Son. Pickens says, “I see this sale as a new beginning — for the Mesa Vista’s new owners and for the recipients of my charitable giving.”

Photo courtesy of Mesa Vista Ranch

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What Now? Series: International Buyers

In 2017, Unique Homes is traveling the U.S. to find the dominant stories in each region of the country — this issue covers international buyers.

By Camilla McLaughlin

Photo courtesy

“International buyers are spreading their wings. It’s not just about New York, Miami and L.A. anymore,” observes Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.

When buyers from outside the country came to the U.S., they used to gravitate to a handful of cities. Today, they are apt to look for homes and condos almost anywhere in the country. Even though five states capture the most international attention, 46 percent of sales to foreign buyers are scattered across the country in states ranging from Kentucky to Massachusetts to Illinois. Buyers from China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and India account for just over half of the transactions, but 48 percent, almost half of all foreign buyers, hail from other countries.

“Quite simply, as the world continues to get smaller, the number of people with the interest and means to purchase outside their own country increases. Buyers are spreading their wings. It’s not just about New York, Miami and L.A. anymore. Global buyers continue to be a small percentage of buyers in most

markets, but even our members in smaller markets like Wilmington, North Carolina or Boulder, Colorado, are reporting demand from non-U.S. buyers,” says Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio International.
The much publicized pull back of luxury buyers and substantial inventory of upscale properties in Manhattan and Miami might create the impression that demand from foreign buyers is in the doldrums; in reality, sales of residential property to foreign buyers hit a new high in the 12 months ending March 2017. Total dollar volume jumped 49 percent (from $102 billion to $153 billion), and the number of sales increased 32 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). “The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of U.S. property over the past year,” observed Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the U.S. is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest.”

Even with a strong dollar, tight inventories and recent appreciation, prices for U.S. residences are still lower than many other countries, and the search for value is bringing new groups of buyers to new places. As an example, Anne Miller, director, business alliances at RE/MAX, says more Canadians from British Columbia are looking in areas surrounding Portland, Oregon, and Seattle for a good investment that will hold its value. Also prompting purchases, according to Yun, is the possibility that other currencies could further weaken against the dollar, making U.S. properties more expensive in the future.

Once again, buyers from China accounted for the most transactions, spending $31.7 billion, up from 2015’s record $28.6 billion. However, NAR’s data was compiled before many of the new restrictions imposed by the Chinese government regarding the transfer of money outside mainland China were fully in force, and sales to Chinese nationals this year have been softer in some places.  Still, brokers who work in the international arena, such as Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, say most very wealthy Chinese already have their money outside the country.

“We have seen a slowdown in the Chinese buyer, but they have by no means disappeared,” says Anton. “The slowdown is felt most directly in U.S. cities that saw a dramatic rise — places like Seattle and San Francisco.” Anton also points to other diverse factors fueling international demand, including changes in direct flights and education. “Boston is another example where we still see a lot of international buyers due in large part to the significant concentration of colleges and universities,” she says. Buying for a student, present or future, is important for a percentage of Chinese buyers.

Boston also has new ultra-luxury buildings offering a high level of security and an international design aesthetic that appeals to foreign buyers and Chinese buyers in particular. Boston, along with San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego were the U.S. markets most popular with Chinese shoppers. As a group, these buyers also typically target higher price points than domestic buyers.

For high-end properties, Bob Hurwitz, founder and CEO of the Hurwitz James Company in Beverly Hills, says Chinese buyers are shifting their focus toward lower prices. “The tightening of restrictions on capital leaving mainland China and buyers wishing to avoid scrutiny caused a pullback in purchases of high-profile property,” he says, noting that he is getting more requests for the $1.5 million to $4 million range.

Canadians as Catalysts

This year, Canadians were the wild card in the international mix. After dipping in the 2016 survey to $8.9 billion, transactions by Canadians hit a new high — $19 billion. The Canadian influence extends as far as Hawaii, but Florida is the epicenter. Twenty-two percent of all purchases by foreign buyers occurred in the Sunshine State, with the highest number to Canadians. South Florida ranks with Los Angeles as the U.S. markets eliciting the most international interest with inquiries on coming from Brazil, Columbia, Germany and the U.K., in addition to Canada.

Although geopolitical factors have slowed demand from some South American countries, Miami’s cachet as a global luxury hub is not tarnished. Value-conscious buyers, particularly Canadians, also look to Fort Lauderdale, according to Zach Joslin of the Brissi Group of EWM Realty International.

Park Shore Beach, Naples Florida

Photo courtesy The Bua Bell Group

Venezuelan buyers are drawn to nearby Weston. Indian buyers are newcomers in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. An ongoing expansion of the Fort Lauderdale airport is expected to enhance international connections.

Nationally, those from outside the U.S. spend more on real estate than domestic buyers, and in Miami, they spend more on average than in anywhere else in Florida or nationally. About 70 percent of Miami Realtors work with international buyers, more than double NAR’s national figure.

Palm Beach continues to be recognized globally for luxury, and the area appeals to a diverse group hailing from countries including Germany, Argentina, Ireland and Russia, but agents say Canadians and buyers from the U.K. still comprise the largest contingent. Also casting a wide net globally is the equestrian season in nearby Wellington.

Orlando is the second location preferred by Florida’s international home buyers with 12 percent opting for the region, up from 8 percent in 2015. Like foreign buyers nationally, they tend to spend more on a purchase, usually with cash. Top countries of origin: Brazil, U.K. and Canada. Argentines and Venezuelans tend to buy rental properties with the intent of cashing in on the region’s steady stream of tourists. A recent market shift has 40 percent of purchases happening in central Orlando.

Perhaps the best testimony to changes in locations preferred by foreign buyers is Naples, Florida, where one is likely to encounter multiple languages on a stroll through downtown. “We’ve always had buyers from Canada, Germany and the U.K. But we are now seeing the Asian market consumers,” says Tade Bua Bell with John R. Wood Properties. Other newcomers are from Spain, France, Russia and Sweden. Top preference: turnkey residences near the beach and ocean. An exchange program between a local private school and a school in China also elicits international interest.

Casa Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs Valley California

Photo courtesy Hurwitz James Company

California Dreaming

California and Texas vie for second place in the race for international buyers with each accounting for 12 percent. Los Angeles, both the city and prime Westside enclaves such as Beverly Hills, continue to be a magnet for foreign buyers. In the ultra high end, Rey says, foreign buyers “typically dominate from 20 to 35 percent of the market, a number that varies from year to year.”

“They place great emphasis on views, and these types of properties are escalating in value as a result of the influence of foreign buyers,” she says. Middle Eastern buyers tend to go to Bel Air because of the views; Europeans look to Sunset Strip and Bel Air locations, also for views.

Traditionally, Asian buyers gravitated to the Pasadena/Arcadia area, and now Rey says she is seeing more coming to her market. Other hot locations for Chinese buyers include Bradbury and Irvine. Hurwitz says Russians and Ukrainians are diverse in what they look for, but tend to own in the same area they bought previously, whether that be Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Cheviot Hills or wherever.

Along with prices, foreign buyers also influence design and architecture, here and in a number of other locations. “Developers definitely build for an international taste level,” says Rey.

In Texas, international sales surged from April 2016 to May 2017, with the number of dollars doubling. In Dallas and Houston, both centers of international businesses including finance and energy, purchases from buyers out of the country are often related to work. One in 10 Indian buyers and 43 percent of Mexican buyers purchase in Texas. Also, 11 percent of Chinese buyers purchased in the Lone Star State. Brokers in a number of other states and locations including New Jersey and Connecticut are seeing a similar trend, particularly with buyers from India. Greenwich and Darien, Connecticut are also seeing more foreign buyers, many of whom might move from other U.S. locations.

What those buyers want is quite different than someone looking for a place to spend a few weeks a year, explains Diane Ramirez, chairman and CEO of Halstead Real Estate. Space for extended family or multiple generations or even really good staff quarters might be important to these buyers.

It is important to note, NAR’s data includes recent immigrants as well as non-resident buyers and it covers all price brackets.

Ramirez also points out that although influential, foreign buyers still comprise a small percentage of overall sales. “We always have interest from foreign buyers, but it is never the percentage most people think it is,” she explains.

After a sharp decline in 2015, the ranks of the ultra-wealthy globally grew by 3.5 percent in 2016, with North America and Asia registering the greatest increase. New York City, home to the largest concentration of ultra-wealthy, continues to vie with London for the top position in rankings such as the Alpha Cities Index, compliled by Wealth-X, Warburb Realty and Barnes International Realty, which ranks 50 of the world’s top cities based on their potential for a purchase and interest to ultra-wealthy individuals. A number of U.S. cities ranked among the top 20, with Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in the top 10, along with New York. Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Houston and Dallas rounding out the list. While San Francisco is a top market for foreign buyers, Chicago, Dallas and a few other cities have a larger ultra-high-net worth population.

Cedric Choi, Choi International, Honolulu

Craig Denton, Managing Broker and Director of Business Development, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, Vail, Colorado

John Engle, Halstead Property, New Canaan, Connecticut

Karen Rodriguez, Group Kora and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties

Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director, Ideal Properties Group

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