With Bundles of Joy

Lauren Behfarin saw a need for sophisticated design geared toward growing families.

Arriving home from the hospital with your newborn for the first time, rocking your infant child back to sleep, reading a book with your talkative toddler — a nursery will become the setting for endless, lasting memories as your child grows.

From falling in love with their first smile to cheering along their first steps, parents will inevitability spend many heartwarming hours in their child’s nursery — which means the space should bring joy to both parents and children for years to come.

Designing the perfect nursery may seem intimidating, but luckily this interior designer understands the importance of creating a space filled with love, care and joy.

Five years ago, Lauren Behfarin designed her daughter’s nursery in preparation for her first child’s arrival. She quickly discovered a gap in family-friendly design, and created Lauren Behfarin Design. “Once I had a family, I wanted to do more work geared toward children and younger families,” says Behfarin, who previously worked for Drew McGukin Interiors.

With a growing clientele, the trendy NYC-based interior design firm now designs spaces for new parents and growing families that are vibrant and sophisticated yet comfortable and livable. Understanding the emotion and love that goes into each space created for a child, Behfarin has found that “nurseries and children’s spaces often become an extension of a home.”

Although she designs a range of spaces, Behfarin’s favorite projects are always nurseries for first-time parents. “Nurseries are always so fun, and so full of hope, life and excitement. It is such a special time to watch new mothers experience pregnancy and for parents to experience a baby for the first time. We are always honored when families include us in that time,” says Behfarin, who works alongside her associate, Abby Gruman.

As a parent of two, Behfarin values convenience and function. After designing a nursery, first-time parents may soon realize that a makeover is required less than two years later. In order to keep the transition as simple as possible, Behfarin tries to “anticipate the next steps of a child’s life” with her designs.

Using various patterns, textures and bold colors, the team is sure to incorporate fun elements that feel young while also considering the next five or 10 years of a child’s life. “As I experience these phases with my own children, I am really learning what works and what does not work long-term in a space. We are learning what elements transition with your child and which do not,” Behfarin says.

Born and raised in Manhattan, Behfarin also understands the need for storage in a compact apartment. Utilizing items such as cribs that turn into toddler beds or bunk beds that double as two twins beds, Behfarin “makes sure that clients have the best items for their children to grow.”

Whether it’s furniture that won’t cause injuries to a newborn or toys that won’t grow tiresome, first-time parents often look to Behfarin and her team for more than simple design tips.

“They’re looking for great design, but they are also looking for advice. We take relationships to heart when we have clients who are experiencing this for the first time,” Behfarin says. “I am here to guide, push and challenge clients, but I always deliver something that they love.” 

How to Design the Perfect Nursery

Accent Walls — “There is always an accent wall, whether it’s a really cool decal, cool paint color or interesting wallpaper,” Behfarin says. “There should always be a fun backdrop to one of the walls in a nursery, and it’s usually the one with the crib.”

Minimal Themes — Cautious to not take a theme too far, Behfarin always suggests incorporating components from a theme, such as accent pieces or different colors. “There are ways to bring in a theme that are not too thematic,” she notes.

Neutral Colors — “There has been a shift toward gender neutral colors, such as grays, creams and whites,” Behfarin says. “People are prioritizing style. The standard pink and baby blue are not popular right now, and I think it is because style, form and function are so big in the city right now.”

Acrylics — This year, Behfarin is seeing a lot acrylics. “Homeowners are loving acrylic cribs with acrylic bars, or chairs with acrylic legs,” she explains. “Acrylic accents have shown up a more recently, I think as way to make a nursery modern.”

Organized Spaces — Whether it is a bunk bed with shelves, a coffee table with compartments or an ottoman with storage inside, Behfarin appreciates and understands the fluidity of space. “Homeowners are constantly reimagining how their space is being used,” she explains. “The hustle and bustle of the city has caused us to pay attention to creative and innovate ways to save space.”

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Digital Art Curation

Photo courtesy Niio.

Smart technologies and artificial intelligence are changing the way we consume art.

While many treasured works of art are safely contained in notable museums or in the homes of experienced collectors, a new tide is cresting along the shores of the art curation field with the influx of digital art.

Digital art, more widely known as new media art, is an interesting sector of the art industry to define, even for Beryl Graham, who is a professor in New Media Art at the University of Sunderland. She notes that the roots of this art form have drawn inspiration from a range of movements, from conceptual artwork to video art, which also began in the 1960s.

“It’s broadly digital but [it’s also] the kind of art that works in different ways in different kinds of behaviors,” Graham notes. One fascinating example would be an exhibition of software art in which the software, sometimes even artificial intelligence-based artwork, can learn and grow on its own. Graham explains that an artist might start a piece of software and watch it evolve, perhaps give it a virus and watch, showing to the audience that the “end point isn’t quite under the control of the artist.”

Magdalena “Magda” Sawon, owner of the contemporary art gallery Postmasters Gallery in New York, says that the digital age has only heightened the senses of curators and artists, who are traditionally at the forefront of new developments in culture and technology.

“Technology is a tool,” she notes, “it is also a moving target and changing constantly. The question is to be aware of new developments and adapt it intelligently to one’s needs and benefit.” Fittingly, as artists have been harnessing the power of technology within the art industry, curators and galleries have had to “keep up with the times,” and embrace digital forms of artwork and the systems and methods in which they are displayed.

 

Donna Holford-Lovell, director of The North East of North festival (NEoN), notes how the incorporation of interaction and participation into art displays appeals to today’s technology-savvy audiences that have been gradually reinvigorating focus on the digital art world.

“The idea of ‘curation’ has become ubiquitous and our audience is seen to be curating many aspects of their own lives,” Holford-Lovell says. NEoN is an organized event that aims to advance the understanding and accessibility of digital and technology-driven art forms by having the artist and curator work together to translate “the spectacle of experience,” via digital platforms within physical spaces, like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and even social media.

JONATHAN MONAGHAN (US)

The Phoenix and the Medusa (2018), Video, 7 min 69 sec, Edition of 30, Niio Commission Series.

With systems and platforms, from artificial intelligence to online-based forums, both artists and curators now are developing larger platforms and databases to contribute toward. As well as an educator, Graham is co-founder and editor of the Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss, or CRUMB, a resource for curators of new media art that aims to help overcome any challenges presented from this rise in digital art, from installations to networks of artists and individuals versed in these practices.

PERRY HOBERMAN

Suspensions (2018), VR and mixed reality installation, Postmasters April 2018.

QUAYOLA (UK)

Camouflage (2018), Moving Image, 6 min 4 sec, Edition of 30, Niio Commission Series

On the luxury spectrum of art curation, Niio is a brand integrating digital art and technology-driven forms of collection and distribution that surges past the limitations of traditional artwork. Niio is an art and tech company aimed to enable the exposure of digital artwork in a time that to the company feels like a fourth industrial revolution.

“Art has always reflected the world we live in,” says Rob Anders, CEO and co-founder of Niio, “and artists will create their art with any tool they can access.” In today’s world, that tool has come to be technology. Anders, who understands the eclectic background of digital art from conceptual and video art, wanted to help designers and architects best fit homes with the art of today, and after speaking with top galleries he found that what’s really needed are new models of both the business and technological side that reach a broader audience — even better: one with a subscription.

 

“We envision a world where in homes people will have more digital canvases with interactive or immersive works, all on a centralized connected system that can very easily change,” Anders says, with access to top artists in the world in this ecosystem of artists, galleries and collections all on the Niio platform. Luckily, the CEO notes, the technology is “already there,” from artificial intelligence in devices like Amazon’s Alexa devices to smart televisions, all devices that can easily work with the Niio platform to display digital artwork.

To those interested in having access to the “world’s finest art accessible on-demand,” Niio is open as a limited edition membership at about $5,000 a month, with access to curated exhibitions and collections, or art “playlists” of over 7,500 art pieces on the platform that can be easily changed and displayed on devices like smart TVs, projectors, screens, et cetera, which can be installed by Niio technicians as well.

“Art curation is telling a particular story,” he says. “In order to give people these digital works, it’s not about just finding the individual works, it’s about giving people the ability to learn about the works they are looking at,” he says.
Rob Anders

CEO, Co-Founder, Niio

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Making a Statement

These bold staircases are making a statement.

In 2019, designers are paying attention to creating staircases that leave a lasting impression — whether the staircase is made of wood or metal, or shaped as a spiral or curve.  

Regardless of style, a staircase can often serve as a home’s focal point. These staircases have been intently designed to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Spiral

The free-standing, white-plaster spiral staircase at luxury condominium 277 Fifth Avenue was designed by famed interior architect Jeffrey Beers with a custom-made, commercial-size chandelier composed of 18 strands of brass-trimmed pendants that suspend down its center.

The staircase was intently crafted to create a visually stunning and dramatic connection between two floors that house 7,000 square feet of amenity spaces, including a game lounge and state-of-the-art fitness facility.

Courtesy of Pentagram

Suspended

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach features a unique multimillion-dollar lobby designed to cater exclusively to art enthusiasts and world travelers boasting a $500,000 Piero Lissoni-designed staircase as its focal point. Leading up to the second floor library, the staircase is designed for both beauty and function.

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Residences

Wood

Skyline Tower’s glistening bronze and wood staircase was crafted to create a dramatic entryway to the condominium’s expansive Residential Lounge, cascading elegantly into the open-air common space, which was designed to feel like an extension of each resident’s home.

Courtesy of Binyan Studios

Floating

The graceful floating stairs that take you from the foyer to the rooftop in the penthouse at Nine on the Hudson. The staircase leads you to a modern glass atrium that captures the sunlight and serene Zen garden, bringing in natural elements into the home.

Courtesy of VDP

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When Worlds Collide

Natural stone unites with modern metals in the new Eccentric Stone collection by Australian kitchen and bathware design manufacturer Rogerseller.

 

A celebration of the beauty in balance when two become one, Eccentric Stone is a new collection sculpted from natural stone and highlighted by hints of metal. In perfect harmony, these signature elements explore the power of duality; the raw and refined, subtle and strong, timeless and modern.

Presented in Carrara marble or Emperador Grey stone, the collection features new round and oval basin designs, a shelf and the acclaimed Eccentric Mixer.

“Curved lines and generous proportions add an understated luxury to the pieces, while the refined shapes and considered details continue to demonstrate the craftsmanship Rogerseller is revered for” says Jo Jackson, group manager of

Designed to be paired with Rogerseller’s signature Natural Elements finishes, each piece incorporates metallic hints, making this stone and metal duo truly unique. The metal finishes drawn from the Natural Elements collection include Chrome, Brushed Chrome, Satin Chrome, Graphite, Brushed Nickel, Bright Nickel, Twilight, Matt Black, Bright Gold and Brushed Gold, creating styles defined by the individual.

Finding inspiration from the Earth’s raw resources and the untouched qualities that come from years of metamorphosis, the Eccentric Stone collection shows the result of a “whole made greater by the sum of its parts,” according to the brand. “While individually, the elements of stone and metals are well-known and loved, brought together they create a new harmony, making for an unstoppable duo.”

All photos courtesy Rogerseller.

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Real Estate Executive Commits to Giving Back

REAL ESTATE EXECUTIVE TAMI HALTON PARDEE IS COMMITTED TO GIVING BACK, EMPOWERING THOSE WHO HAVE NO ROOF AT ALL.

Founder and CEO of Halton Pardee + Partners, Tami Halton Pardee is one of the nation’s premier real estate entrepreneurs, leading her Los Angeles-based firm to sell more than $3.8 billion worth of properties since its inception in 2004. Halton Pardee is also a prominent philanthropist who created the Life Change Warriors foundation in 2017 after years of promoting a culture of giving at her company.

In 2001 Halton Pardee was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a devastating blow to a vibrant young woman just entering her thirties, but she drew inspiration and energy from this adversity. “That call from my doctor taught me I had to start planning my life, not just letting it happen,” recounts Halton Pardee, who adds, “I needed to start living my best life.”

Photo courtesy of Halton Pardee + Partners.

Halton Pardee founded Life Change Warriors to help people move beyond their own traumas, whatever those may be, and as a real estate professional and mother of four she focused her attention on homeless women and at-risk kids. The real estate executive had always been committed to returning some of her good fortune to the community, and Halton Pardee + Partners maintains a policy of donating a portion of all commissions to local charities, totaling more than $1.3 million over 14 years. But with her newfound sense of purpose, Halton Pardee yearned to be more hands-on in her giving, and those charitable proceeds are now directed primarily to Life Change Warriors.

The foundation translates Halton Pardee’s long-held philosophy of creating one’s best life through human connections, but presents it through a more structured methodology. Life Change Warriors offers six weeks of classes — she teaches them herself along with two life coaches — for people unable to get beyond their respective traumas, often relegated to living on the streets.

“Everybody lives in the past and believes that it dictates their future, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” insists the entrepreneur, who personally overcame her own traumas. “I want them to live their best lives,” reports Halton Pardee, who hosts students at her home for graduation dinners. The graduates receive a monetary gift to use as a deposit for an apartment or to pursue a degree or career goal, finally breaking the cycle of homelessness with a newfound sense of empowerment.

One of Life Change Warriors’ many success stories was a single, homeless mother named Sylvia, who after graduation from her six-week class went on to receive her high school equivalency certificate and was placed by the foundation in a job with a nonprofit affordable housing developer, where she has since been promoted to property manager.

“After selling a $10 million home, how can any agent not think of giving a portion of that commission to people who don’t even have a roof over their heads?” asks Halton Pardee, who notes the real estate industry is ideally suited to this kind of charity. “When you believe in someone, it can really change their life,” she says, noting that until many of her students begin classes, they have never before had anybody truly believe in them. “They need to know they’re worthy and that there’s a way out of homelessness, that they can escape whatever happened in their past,” explains the inspiring philanthropist.

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Realtors Become Agents of Change

FOR YEARS, NEW TECH COMPANIES HAVE BEEN THOUGHT OF AS THE ‘DISRUPTERS’ IN THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY. BUT SAVVY REALTORS ARE POSITIONING THEMSELVES AS THE AGENTS OF CHANGE.

The current market shift from buyers to sellers generates the most attention, but the number of sales and pace of price appreciation are only one swell in the wave of transformation rolling through the real estate industry. Technology is typically hailed as the disrupter, but changing demographics, new lifestyle aspirations and evolving buyer preferences are all at play in today’s real estate landscape.

“If you ask anyone that has been in the business more than 10 years, they say ‘here we go again.’  More paperwork, more platforms, more new companies, more new agents. Yet, ultimately real estate is the same. Our clients require handholding, advice, and moral support, deals get negotiated, and transactions finalize or fall apart. Yes, there are slight shifts in the marketplace, but generally, it still functions the same,” shares Lucio Bernal, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Palm Springs, who is also an expert trainer with the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

What is changing is almost every other aspect of real estate from tools to facilitate broker client relationships to virtual reality apps enabling buyers to envision making a prospective property their own. Increasingly agents are looking to their brokerages to keep pace with technology. “They are leaning on their brokerages, more than ever, to help arm them with tools, from digital marketing to smart, proactive customer relationship management systems (CRMs) that will keep them cutting edge, as well as those they can’t afford to leverage on their own,” says Stephanie Anton, president of Luxury Portfolio International. Additionally, affiliate groups like Luxury Portfolio and major brands have amped up marketing capabilities so agents can easily create a cohesive campaign.

There might be a technology revolution taking place in real estate, but market shifts are reinforcing the importance of the agent. “Technology has always been the present. It’s how you use it that benefits you the most,” shares Bernal. “The perfect example is: If you are dealing with a consumer, they are more likely to use you based on reputation and recognition than whether you know a certain app or technology platform. Technology should be used as a resource and compliment your ability to get face-to-face and maintain contact with a consumer.”

At this time last year, blockchain and the impact of virtual reality and artificial intelligence on real estate were being debated. Today, the chatter is about portals morphing from search engines to places to buy and sell homes, a new classification the industry characterizes as iBuyers. Opendoor, founded in 2013, started the trend, followed by others including Offerpad and Knock. Zillow and Redfin have also introduced iBuying in some markets. iBuyers purchase consumer’s homes outright using analytics that enable them to come up with a price based on the home’s perceived value, usually within days. Unlike homes sought by flippers, these are not troubled properties and offers reportedly are close to the value estimation. Other portals are beefing up offerings for consumers, adding mortgage and title services. Startups such as Purple Bricks offer a new twist on the flat-fee concept.

Investor dollars from venture capital and hedge funds are flowing into real estate, fueling many new ventures, which is another change potentially revamping the industry. “Everyone is investing in technology to disrupt or change real estate,” says Mark Choey, co-founder of Climb Real Estate, a San Francisco brokerage, which was acquired by Realogy’s subsidiary NRT in 2016. The real estate industry is rapidly shifting, and innovation is not just welcome, it’s desperately needed,” said founder Chris Lim, whose background is in marketing. Choey hails from the tech sector. Climb was the first brokerage to work with Matterport and continues to incubate emerging apps and work with new vendors.

ENABLING THE AGENT

Among traditional brokers, Keller Williams and RE/MAX are often noted for new tech initiatives, but almost every brand and national affiliate group is boosting technology offerings and platforms, often through relationships with providers and new tech venders including virtual staging, enhanced CRM and 3D tours and imaging. Technology ultimately benefits consumers, but traditional brands and affiliates say their focus is enabling their agents to do a better job.

“Everything has shifted in many different areas from the brokerage level, the buyer level, who the buyers are, what they are looking for,” says Sally Forster Jones, executive director, Luxury Estates, Compass. “I think there is a shift in the way that brokers are functioning. They are more innovative with more technology and more marketing as opposed to the older traditional real estate firms.

“Consumers care about responsiveness. They care about the fact that if they reach out to an agent, whether it be on their website or mobile app the agents gets back to them instantly, and technology can help with that,” says Marilyn Wilson, founding partner of real estate consultants WAV Group and also a founder of RETechnology.com.

“Technology has always been the present. It’s how you use it that benefits you the most. The perfect example is: If you are dealing with a consumer, they are more likely to use you based on reputation and recognition than whether you know a certain app or technology platform. Technology should be used as a resource and compliment your ability to get face-to-face and maintain contact with a consumer.”

Lucio Bernal

Broker Associate, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Tapped by Google to create a virtual staging app using augmented reality, Sotheby’s added Curate to agent toolboxes last year. Not only can a homeowner visualize a home before buying, but a partnership with a home furnishings company allows potential buyers to virtually furnish the home as well.

“A depth of understanding of what a property has is really important to consumers. The other thing that consumers are responding to online are floorplans,” says Wilson.

GETTING REAL WITH VIRTUAL

In the last year, GeoVC, a tech start-up offering 3D immersive tours and floorplans that can be created using next generation smartphones, integrated virtual staging, exterior 3D scans, and aerial 360-degree panoramas captured with a drone with interior 3D tours. “Outdoor imagery is captured using a regular drone, automatically processed into a 3D model, and integrated together with interior virtual tour. Such an exclusive experience will differentiate luxury properties with beautiful facades and roofs, and spacious lots,” shares Anton Yakubenko, co-founder and CEO of GeoCV.

“Luxury has really turned into personalization now,” comments Thompson. Tools like Curate, RoOomy and virtual staging apps enhance opportunities for personalization. Thompson explains: “Someone can walk into a home and say, ‘not my style,’ but it doesn’t matter because I have the tools that allow me to make it feel like what I want it to be.”

Even Compass, which touts itself as “The first modern real estate platform, paring the

industry’s top talent with technology,” says technology is there to benefit the agent. “Compass is building for the agent. Every program, tool, and service is (created) with the agent in mind. Many of the other real estate technology companies out there are working to improve the consumer experience and not focusing on the agent. We believe that by empowering the agent, consumer experience will be improved,” says Sarah Vallarino, head of West Region Communications at Compass.

“Talking to agents, the message we consistently heard was ‘give us technology,’” says Thompson. “They didn’t necessarily know what that technology was just that they needed it. They understood that the industry was changing, and consumer behavior was changing. They know because they’re the boots on the ground and so they can feel the shift in consumer behavior.”

As markets shift, agents are retooling, once again looking at how they do business and what skills and knowledge will be required. “It’s always either somewhat of a buyer’s market. It’s somewhat of a seller’s market. You just have to have your tools in your tool shed and the mindset to be nimble enough to adjust as you read the tealeaves, ” is Wilson’s suggestion.

“Luxury has really turned into personalization now,” comments Thompson. Tools like Curate, Ro0my and virtual staging apps enhance opportunities for personalization. Thompson explains: “Someone can walk into a home and say ‘not my style,’ but it doesn’t matter to me because I have the tools that allow me to make it feel like what I want it to be.”

AGENT PIVOTS

“Many long-time successful agents are being the clever, resourceful entrepreneurs that they are and changing with the market as the market shifts,” says Anton. “Agents today talk about how much of their time and value derives from being an educator for their clients. They partner with their clients to keep them armed with as much information, insights and insider activity as they can, so when it comes time, for example, for an agent to recommend a price reduction, the client is completely aware of the statistics, days on market, what is moving and what isn’t. Nobody wants to have an overpriced home that is sitting and not selling even in a hot market.”

“Today, clients will attempt to collect their information on their own, perhaps from incorrect sources, so agents report pivoting, now more than ever, to spend a lot of their time educating their clients,” she says.

Regarding slowing sales or price appreciation, Anton says: “I highly recommend agents tell the truth, focus on educating their following/clients, and in the process, let their own voice be heard and be themselves. If the market is cooling, share the stats and manage expectations. It’s not the time to be overly positive and cheery as you will come off inauthentic and salesy. Focus on the facts, insights and provide professional guidance.”

“Agents have to stay on top of what is available to them and the consumer. It is imperative to be able to explain the data, to have polished negotiation skills, and to know when to assist the consumer in processing that information,” says Bernal.  

“Agents should take full advantage of all the resources that the brands they work with provide. The majority of agents won’t, and that has never changed. Those that want an edge in the industry recognize that there is value in resources and take advantage of some of them. For most agents, resources are overwhelming, and therefore don’t take the time to learn and use them,” says Bernal.

Thompson recalls, “We had to dig in and find out what exactly is it that they (agents) need that will make a difference for them in their day-to-day because they think, you know, there are lots of real estate brands that tout themselves as technology companies, but they really don’t have anything really different.”

“Everything has shifted in many different areas from the brokerage level, the buyer level, who the buyers are, what they are looking for. I think there is a shift in the way that brokers are functioning. They are more innovative with more technology and more marketing as opposed to the older traditional real estate firms.”

Sally Forster Jones

Executive Director, Luxury Estates, Compass

EYE ON THE FUTURE

Mark Choey from Climb says, “I think you’re going to see a lot of change in the next year or two,” most likely from many directions. Choey is head of Climb’s Innovation Lab. Having an innovation lab, particularly for a small company, is in itself an innovation. “You’re going to have some business models that are going to evolve, like Opendoor and Knock, that are really going to change the way people buy and sell homes, but it’s not gonna change everything, right. You’re going to have Redfin, Zillow and others come out with tools and things that are going to attempt to either reduce the commission or to simplify to transaction. On the other hand,” he says, “you’re going to see traditional real estate firms arming themselves with technology.”

And while some tout themselves as technology companies, Thompson doesn’t see traditional and technology as being mutually exclusive terms. “You don’t have to be one or the other. People think of Sotheby’s as a heritage brand because we’re been around for close to 300 years now. But a heritage brand can also be tech savvy. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Looking ahead, Bernal says, “The real estate industry has to take both a broad look and a hyper-local look at where the marketplace is based on data and individual perspectives. We say that real estate is local, yet there are many determining factors that create a web of interconnected behaviors throughout the world of real estate.”

Consider Los Angeles, Manhattan and Miami, where the impact of fewer international buyers extends beyond sales and prices. Post-recession, international buyers became a market force determining  what was being developed, locations and price points. On the West Coast, view properties and contemporary architecture were particularly favored by Asian buyers, and new builds were often geared to these buyers. Now many L.A. buyers, particularly in higher price points, are local or hail from the U.S. and have different expectations of luxury with walkable locations and neighborhoods taking precedence over views. “That’s a shift and it will continue to be a shift because we have a lot of properties coming on the market geared toward that international buyer,” says Jones.

The desire for the ability to walk to shops and restaurants is happening across all price points, according to Jones, and these new preferences are not limited to L.A. Walkability has been associated with urban settings, but increasingly this characteristic is being applied to suburbs, towns and master-planned communities.

Traffic and gridlock also add to new preferences for locations. In the not too distant future, traffic itself may be seen as even more of a disruptor than it is now, changing where people live and property types.

Photo of Lucio Bernal by Cherie Johnson for Moncherie Fotography. Photo of Sally Forster Jones by Lauren Hurt. Photo of Kevin Thompson courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

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400 Years New

Nestled upon a hill in the Tuscan countryside, this centuries-old farmhouse has been meticulously restored — merging 400 years of history with modern-day features.

With an original structure dating back to 1598, Podere Paníco features authentic wood beams, cotto flooring and roof tiles. Restoration architect Fulvio Di Rosa also purposefully hid modern infrastructure — such as plumbing, electrical, and insulation — to maintain a sense of authenticity throughout the home.

Additional, age-old building materials were sourced to maintain an historical presence. When encountering modern elements — such as indoor staircases, indoor lighting, or pools — Fulvio embraced contemporary materials to curate a luxurious touch as well.

“Fulvio has amazing attention to detail and a strict adherence to authenticity in the structural elements of the home,” says listing agent Bob Hurwitz of Hurwitz James Company. “Stonemasons and carpenters were tasked with problem solving using only methods and techniques available during the era of original construction.”

The abandoned property was rediscovered in 2013 with many of its beams and arches still intact. “What separates Paníco from other restorations, in addition to the unparalleled authenticity, is the open concept design that was achieved.… Paníco’s interior is spacious and light, with beautifully large, arched windows opening views in multiple directions from virtually anywhere in the home,” Hurwitz says. With over 7,000 square feet of living space, Paníco is the ideal setting for multiple families, corporate retreats, weddings, or any large gathering. Both homeowners and guests can relax in three distinct living areas — one on the main level, one on the upper level and one in the barn. Meanwhile, the open-concept kitchen with a traditional Tuscan fireplace allows for a range of culinary adventures. When you step outside of this one-of-a-kind home, you are greeted by unrivalled, sweeping vistas. “With its hilltop location, the 360-degree views from the property are amazing, particularly from the infinity pool,” Hurwitz says.

With a row of cypress trees that guide you up to the five-acre property, Paníco offers the utmost privacy, “with your only neighbors being other ruins in the distance and a herd of sheep that sometimes graze nearby,” says Hurwitz.

Located mere minutes from the historic streets of Siena, the location is another key selling point of this luxurious, Tuscan farmhouse. Hurwitz recommends that guests “spend the day exploring the classical and gothic architecture, the afternoon shopping in local markets, or [get] swept away with a romantic Italian dinner.”

“Pedal through the wide-open landscape of Crete Senesi, past ancient hilltop towns, brick farmhouses, iconic cypress trees, and lush vineyards. Then stop to savour delicious Pecorino cheeses, homemade pastas, fruity olive oils, and celebrated Tuscan wines,” adds Hurwitz.

This fantastically located home has more than 400 years of unique history, and once was even “used as a base of operations for the commander of the French army during the Allied campaign in Italy in WW ll,” according to Hurwtiz. More recently, the farmhouse served as home to countless families and animals. As the home is currently on the market, Hurwitz says that Paníco’s casual luxurious style will draw in large families in search of a first or second home. “Paníco also attracts affluent travelers and a high weekly rental rate, making it an ideal investment property,” he adds. “The quality and authenticity of the restoration will allow for maximum capital appreciation in the future.”

Photos by Marco Grillo.

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A Look at Today’s Home Offices

After a period of declining popularity, home offices are back. Sort of.

Ask designers and architects about home offices and chances are the responses will range from “no one wants them” to “we’re including them in every house.”  When it comes to home design headlines, it’s hard to compete with au pair suites and pet rooms, which tend to generate colorful images. Home offices might be humdrum, but they are gaining their share of the spotlight as more individuals spend some time working at home. And the more substantial the work, the more likely they are to look for a private office or work space.

Not too long ago, designers would have told you that home offices were passe as owners preferred to work in various spots around the house. Today, offices are back as a growing number of homeowners and potential buyers tick off a room to work at home, even a private office, on wish lists. The American Institute of Architects’ most recent home design trends survey shows offices as growing in importance, up to 39 percent from 33 percent a year ago. Interestingly, 58 percent of architects say interest in outdoor living, which tops the list of features growing in popularity, is increasing. Au pair/in law suites grew to 41 percent.

“A few years back we had a lot of homeowners requesting desk space in kitchens. We don’t get that as much anymore as people are looking for more private desk spaces that can be closed off from the rest of the house” says Sean Mullin AIA, director of design at Anthony Wilder Design Build in Cabin John, Maryland.“We’re adding office spaces in almost every house these days. I am working with a lot of empty nesters who are keeping additional bedrooms for future resale but converting one of them into a home office. They often want an isolated location for privacy with pocket doors or some other features to close off the room for privacy, while leaving the space otherwise open as a study or formal sitting room,” says Luke Olson, project manager at GTM Architects in Washington, D.C.  

The 20-Hour Work Day

Today many jobs can’t be crammed into a single 8-hour time slot. Traffic and congestion also mean more individuals work at home at some point during the week. “With new technology making it easier than ever before to be in touch with people at any time of the day or night, it’s hardly surprising that workers are demanding that their increased efficiency is offset by great choice of location,” was a conclusion of a recent report from the International Workplace Group, which drew on insights from 18,000 professionals in 96 countries. And for a growing number of affluent individuals, including those opting to make their second homes a full-time residence, their base for work might be the home.

Instead of a completely dedicated individual space, many home offices today might start as a flex space or found space in an alcove, or even under a stairway.

©IStockphoto.com/MonkeyBusinessImages

Tall windows and sunlight make an inviting office in an alcove off a great room.

©IStockphoto.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Among those who are not self-employed, the number of people who regularly work from home has grown by 140 percent since 2005, nearly 10-times faster than the rest of the workforce, according to The American Community Survey and GlobalWorkpalceAnlytics.com. The number of home-based self-employed grew by 7.3 percent from 2015 to 2016, with the number of home-based incorporated businesses increasing by 43 percent since 2005.  The population that telecommutes at least one day a week grew by 11.7 percent from 2015 to 2016, the largest year-over-year growth since 2008.

Even though mega-companies such as Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard have moved away from telecommuting for some employees, approximately 40 percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. Still many companies reserve the option for higher-echelon management. Only 7 percent make it available for most of their employees. The globalization of business is an additional catalyst. A number of the Fortune 1000 around the globe are revamping their space requirements, because many of their employees are already mobile. According to Global Workplace Analytics, they are not at their desk 50 percent to 60 percent of the time.

Home Office Demand

Spans All Price Points

While an office or study might be expected in high-end homes, even production builders are carving space for work at home into their plans across most, but not all price brackets. John Burns Consulting’s recent consumer insights survey shows that 16 percent of new-home shoppers work from home full time, and the number goes up to 53 percent for those who work from home one day a week. Shoppers with higher incomes and at higher purchase prices are more likely to work from home at least one day a week.

“This shift to working from home has shifted demand for floor plans and in-home office needs,” observes Jenni Lantz, manager of Design Lens for John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

“While some workers are comfortable just working from their laptop on their kitchen island or couch, many want something more significant. There is demand for formal offices (or at least informal) at all price points, says Lantz, noting only those with a very low purchase price are willing to negotiate on this space.

 

A high percentage of John Burns’ employees work from home, and everyone has the flexibility to work at home if the need arises, Lanz says, pointing to her own experience to illustrate how requirements for office space can change. “When I first started working from home, I had a desk located to the side of my family room. It was miserable. I had no privacy when the family was home, and it was hard to leave work behind for the day. When I bought my house back in 2014, I got a formal office, which made things so much easier. I have a separate formal office just off my foyer with French doors. This allows me to close the doors if needed, but I like the glass since it allows me to be still connected to the world outside if my daughter is home.”

Flex Spaces, Libraries and Niches

Instead of a completely dedicated individual space, many home offices today might start as a flex room or found space in an alcove, or even under a stairway. Home offices also might take the form of a space that can be configured as a workspace but also be repurposed to another function. Michigan architect Wayne Visbeen says he includes flex spaces in many of his designs, which can then be used as an office.

“People need to think about how they are going to use the space over the day and over the course of a lifetime. You want to make sure that space has the ability to morph over time,” shares Ann Thompson, senior vice president of architecture and design at Related Midwest.  

In other instances, architects say they might include a private study that could be a set up as a formal office or a relaxed, but private, refuge. “In many instances we might make the dining room into a library, so it functions as a multiple purpose space,” explains Jim Rill, principal of an eponymous Washington, D.C. architectural firm. Dining rooms converted to a library might showcase a custom table that gives a place to spread out and play games while still available to host that once- or twice-a-year celebration.

“They are home management spaces, which are little niches that can be very charming, very functional, outfitted ergonomically with counters around and space for a printer.”

Photo by Morgan Howarth, Courtesy Anthony Wilder.

A small desk and a daybed ready a secondary bedroom for work or guests.

© Dustin Peck Photography Inc., Courtesy Mary Cook

The size and location of offices in the house may vary by potential use. “It does depend on the stage of life that you are in and it depends on the level of position that you have and the kind of job. But for sure, almost everybody is working from home in some capacity,” says Mary Cook, a principal of Mary Cook Associates, a Chicago-based design firm, noting the appeal spans generations and life stages from busy young moms to empty nesters. “So, I still say that you need a dedicated place, but that place is smaller, and it can now be flexible and adaptable.”

Many are more functional than in the past and often occupy less square footage. “They are smaller, usually 10-by-10, or 12-by-12, or they are home management spaces, which are little niches that can be very charming, very functional, outfitted ergonomically with counters around and space for a printer. We do a lot of those in back halls or off the kitchen,” explains Visbeen.

 

Putting the Home in Home Office

Other owners, say designers, want to make offices welcoming and warm. “Homeowners want the spaces to feel cozy. Incorporating a small gas fireplace or TV in the room will bring out the home in the home offices. Built-ins for books and plenty of windows for views will make it a space in which the homeowner will feel very comfortable working at home,” says Mullin, who explains some owners want a very simple space with just a desk while others might want a full set up with sofas, coffee tables and ottomans.

“Built-ins for books and plenty of windows for views will make it a space in which the homeowner will feel very comfortable working at home.”

Photos courtesy of GTM Architects.

Developers of new towers, whether for condo residences or luxury rentals, also take the desire for home offices into consideration for individual residences and for amenity spaces. Rather than traditional business centers, work areas may be found throughout amenity levels in some new buildings. And depending on the target demographic, they might take the form of community tables, booths, lofts, reading nooks, individual work stations and huddle rooms.

High-end condominium residences might include a library or study near the main gathering spaces as well as one in a secondary bedroom positioned away from distractions. And luxe work spaces such as these in new super towers might even offer panoramic vistas that surpass those in office buildings, giving new meaning to the phrase, view from the corner office.  

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Real Estate Developers and Philanthropists Host Benefit

At a skyscraper in Times Square recently, real estate developers and philanthropists Douglas and Susanne Durst and The Durst Organization hosted a benefit to support The Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting and restoring the Everglades through science, education and advocacy. 

The Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg and the Dursts were joined by renowned nature photographer Mac Stone, author of the award-winning book Everglades: America’s Wetland. Stone provided the event’s 150 guests — celebrities, politicians and business leaders among them — with a visual journey through the storied ecosystem. Guests were also treated to light fare from chef Claus Meyer (co-founder of Copenhagen’s renowned Noma restaurant), whose Michelin-starred cuisine is inspired by nature.

© Patrick McMullan

The images captured by Mac Stone helped encourage attendees to become involved in the protection of the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in North America and home to 78 threatened or endangered species. Diking, damming and development have shrunk the wetlands to nearly a third of its original size and contributed to toxic algae blooms. Stone suggests diverse perspectives — including water policy, wildlife protection and urban planning — animate any conversation on the Everglades.

“The Everglades may not have the dramatic vistas of treasured national parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but is equally deserving of our adoration,” insists Stone. “Although the Everglades lives in Florida, it’s a national treasure — one of the most unique, and imperiled, places in the world,” he says, adding, “We all have a mutual stake in these wetlands, which are part of our natural heritage.”

“Florida is being ravaged by a perennial algae crisis that’s destroying our beaches, fisheries, tourism and real estate industries,” says Eikenberg, who explained to the guests in Manhattan that New York State faces similar algae blooms. “Our two states share so many important cultural and economic connections, so it’s only natural that we should come together in the interest of protecting one of the last truly unique wildernesses,” says Eikenberg.

© istockphoto.com/Vogariver

He notes that the Everglades, which is the source of fresh water for more than 8 million Floridians, is critical to the state’s economy and that new legislation for protection and restoration is required. “The Everglades is the only place where crocodiles and alligators coexist,” notes the Foundation CEO, who quips, “Members of Congress could learn from that!”

The Dursts are best known for building skyscrapers — projects like One World Trade Center and One Bryant Park practically define the Manhattan skyline — but they are passionate about preserving Florida’s endangered wilderness. “We have a home in Florida and have experienced first-hand the devastation that toxic algae blooms can have, not only on our environment, but on the local economy of communities connected to the ocean or waterways,” reports Douglas Durst.  

Viewing the Everglades as a canary-in-a-coal mine, Durst states, “They, unfortunately, are previewing what will befall all of our nation’s waterways if we don’t act quickly to combat this problem.” The environmentally conscious Durst adds, “We’re proud to join The Everglades Foundation in raising awareness of this vital issue and helping to tap new streams of support for their work.” Eikenberg responds, “The Durst family and Durst Organization demonstrate that development and environmental preservation are not mutually exclusive, and we were honored to be hosted by them.”

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Global Evolution: What’s Changed In Luxury Real Estate Since The 2008 Recession

In the 10 years since the recession, residential real estate, especially in the realm of higher-priced properties, has morphed into a worldwide enterprise.

“There is no question; people have more of a global mindset. They are looking for real estate in places they love,” says Stephanie Anton, president, Luxury Portfolio International, which several years ago adopted the tagline, “We’re global. We’re local.” The phrase aptly characterizes the status of luxury today.

“The saying goes that all real estate is local, but that does not mean that all buyers are,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty in Columbia, Missouri.

Congeliano, Italy

Photo courtesy of Atlante Properties Luxury Portfolio International®

For the industry, the ramifications of globalization extend beyond merely who buys what, where. “Historically, real estate market dynamics were considered a local phenomenon. In the luxury sector, this is no longer the case, as the value drivers for prime property in one corner of the globe increasingly originate from a completely different region of the world,” explained Christie’s International Real Estate in its 2018 report Luxury Defined, noting this trend is most evident in secondary markets — second home and resort lifestyle destinations. In 2017, sales of resort and vacation homes grew by 19 percent compared to 7 percent in 2016.

Buying property outside of one’s home country is nothing new, but, until the 1980s, sales across borders were generally limited to resort enclaves or a pied à terre in Paris, London or New York, along with the occasional trophy property.

Today, rather than a specific location, high-end buyers are likely to search for a particular property type. “Buyers these days are looking in multiple markets. They’re not as geographically contained. So, if they’re looking for a ski chalet, they could be looking at a number of different countries and throughout the Rocky Mountains in the United States,” shares Laura Brady, president and founder of Concierge Auctions, who says her company initially saw indications of this trend with ranch properties, which are very unique. “Clients don’t care specifically which market they’re in; instead, they want the right property.” Founded 10 years ago, Concierge Auctions has a team in Europe and activity in 18 countries.

Perhaps it’s geography, but Americans typically first look within their own borders. On the other hand, Bob Hurwitz, founder and CEO of the Hurwitz James Company, says, “Wealthy foreign buyers are far more likely to be open minded about locations outside their country as their first choice, in my experience. It’s not difficult to understand if you travel a great deal. In many of the countries I visit on business, you will not find many Americans, but you will meet a wide variety of citizens of other countries.”

More than property and search preferences drive the shift toward a global perspective. “There are several factors contributing to the increased globalization of luxury real estate,” shares Anthony Hitt, president and CEO, Engel & Völkers Americas, who cites the rise of digital, social and mobile technologies. “Real estate is not immune to the changing patterns of consumption enabled by technology; clients have more visibility, and therefore interest, into international homes and listings.”

Experts also point to an increasingly global economy, changing work/life balance and how commonplace travel, for both work and pleasure, has become. Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, plans to exchange his primary residence in Chicago for two small condos, one on Michigan Avenue and another in Puerto Vallarta. “Fifteen years ago, my partner and I never would have considered that. Today, we are mobile. Our careers take us all over the world.”

Falmouth, Massachussetts

Photo courtesy of Robert Paul Properties/Luxury Portfolio International®

“With the world that we live in now, it’s less important that you live where your business is or where you do business. So, you’ve got a lot of people just making lifestyle choices. They’re just picking the city that they enjoy the most, and they’re moving there,” shares Mike Leipart, managing partner of The Agency Development Group in Beverly Hills.

Post-Recession Roots

The foundation for today’s international dynamic lies in the early post-recession years. In 2007 and 2008, prices on average fell by approximately 17 percent across the globe. By 2009, 73 percent of the prime property locations surveyed by Knight Frank had experienced declines, and savvy buyers scoured high-end markets worldwide for bargains. At the same time, a growing uptick in wealth and wealth creation brought more buyers to the international market.

Wealth creation continues at the post recession pace, with the number of millionaires worldwide tallying at 22.3 million, according to Wealth X. Those with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million hold 40 percent of the global millionaire wealth, while the remainder is held by the ultra wealthy, those with a net worth in excess of $30 million (Knight Frank pegs the benchmark for ultra wealth at $50 million). From 2012 to 2017, Knight Frank says the number of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW)  individuals increased by 18 percent, followed by another 10 percent gain in 2017.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury estimates 32 million millionaires reside in the U.S. The U.S. remained the dominant nation for wealth in 2017, both among millionaires and the ultra-wealthy, according to Wealth X, although growth of this population and net worth in the U.S. was the lowest among the seven top-ranked countries. Japan was second with an 11-percent rise in the UHNW population, followed by China, Germany, the U.K. and Hong Kong.

Mexico

Photo courtesy of REMexico Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International®

Globally, wealth in 2017 increased in all regions, with both Latin America and Europe showing a resurgence over 2016. “The confidence of foreign buyers is back,” says David Scheffler, president, Engel & Völkers France. “The Parisian luxury market has always attracted wealthy Middle Eastern buyers and continues to do so. Qatari, Kuwaiti, Saudi and Omani clients are looking for outstanding apartments and townhouses, the so called hôtel particulier. The trend to buy luxury properties in Paris is not just reserved for the ultra-wealthy, but applies instead to a wider range of affluent buyers. Some might look for a small 50- or 60-square-meter pied-à-terre, while others look for ‘representative’ apartments in the Haussmann style, up to 12 million euro.”

Over the course of the last 8 to 10 years, cross-boarder buying surged, ramped back, and picked up again. In 2016, global sales of luxury properties retrenched, partially in response to Brexit, government restrictions on wealth and the transfer of money. Markets bounced back in 2017, with sales of $1 million-plus properties up substantially.

Christie’s reports an 11-percent increase in sales, the best annual increase since 2014. Luxury properties sold in 190 days, indicating more realistic pricing in some markets and lack of inventory in others. Exceptions included New York and Miami, which saw an influx of new inventory and a shift in buyer interest. In Toronto and Vancouver, newly introduced cooling measures from the government slowed sales.

“I don’t think there is any indication that they [international buyers] are NOT looking in Manhattan. The indication is that they are either interested in the properties at lower numbers or they prefer to wait the market out and hope to buy when things are at a bottom (I have seen this many times before. It never works!). Nobody is moving to Detroit because they can’t find what they want in New York City,” shares Frederick Warburg Peters, CEO of Warburg Realty. “Russians and Europeans are far scarcer than they were in 2010 or 2011.”

Still, both for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, New York follows Hong Kong as the best city for prime properties.  

Nassau, Bahamas

Photo courtesy of Bahamas Realty/Luxury Portfolio International®

Toronto, Canada

Photo courtesy of Harvey Kalles/Luxury Portfolio International®

Following the recession, a growing body of research focused on wealth and global cities publish multiple rankings. A city’s position may shift slightly, depending on the research, but all reports include the same top locations for luxury properties. Hong Kong places ahead of New York in Christie’s 2017 index, with New York moving up to second, followed by London, Singapore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sydney, Paris, Toronto and Vancouver.

Lower prices pushed Miami just out of the top 10, but the city remains a good example of the change international activity can spark. “The international market has arguably impacted Miami as much or more than any other U.S. market. The influx of capital from Europe, South America, Russia, China and Asia has permanently changed our community. The easiest example is by simply looking at our booming skyline,” says Irving Padron, president and managing broker, Engel & Völkers, Miami.

The highest-priced sale globally was $360 million in Hong Kong, and despite government efforts to curb rising prices, there are no indications of slowing demand for luxury residences here. Also, adding to this market, according to Anton, is continued interest from mainland Chinese buyers.

Numbers Tell the Story

Rather than sales and prices, the best indication of just how global real estate has become can be seen in the expansion of major brands, affiliate groups, and even boutique firms worldwide. “All brands are connected globally,” Hogan observes, adding that even independents need some kind of a global connection. “It’s part of the dynamic,” he says.

Coldwell Banker is in 49 countries. Sotheby’s International Realty network has offices in 72 countries and territories. Luxury Portfolio International and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World lists properties in over 70 countries. Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate’s network includes 130,000 professionals in over 70 countries. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices recently opened franchises in Germany and in London. Bob Hurwitz had already positioned his boutique firm as an international player before the recession. Today, he has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, Shanghai and Singapore.   

A global orientation can also be seen in members of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. There is “an increased focus and intentional approach as they target international buyers through affiliations with brands, networks and associations,” says general manager Diane Hartley. “In fact,” she says, “we have members in many countries outside of North America who are building relationships and sharing business with our members in the U.S. and Canada.”

Whistler, Canada

Photo courtesy of The Whistler Real Estate Co./Luxury Portfolio International

Firms based in Europe also continue to increase their footprint. Founded as a boutique firm in Hamburg, Germany, Engel & Völkers is now in 800 locations in Europe, Asia and the Americas, establishing its first offices in the U.S. in 2007. “We have experienced firsthand the globalization of luxury real estate,” says Hitt.

“For luxury and coastal markets, real estate has absolutely become more global,” shares Leipart. Like a growing number of independent firms, The Agency partners with an international real estate advisory company, Savills, which allows them to sell through 700 offices around the world. Still, he adds, “we are focused on international, kind of connecting the dots around the world as opposed to other cities in the U.S.”

In the luxury world, L.A.’s star continues to rise, and the city in recent years has figured into lists for top global markets. According to the National Association of Realtors, Florida, California and Texas remain the top three destinations for purchases from foreign buyers, followed by Arizona and New York. Still, just under half of all residential transactions for foreign buyers took place in other states. Among buyers, China, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom account for the most purchases.  

Also, Hogan points out, international buyers in the U.S. aren’t always in luxury markets. For example, Asians love to buy real estate close to a university. Another group looks for locations with smaller downtowns. Still others want a large home with a big yard near a lake or river, something hard to find in their home country.

As Much As Things Change

Even though foreign buying in the U.S. slowed in 2017 compared to prior years and to overall activity worldwide, international buyers still have their sights on the U.S. “It’s all about consumer confidence. As long as people feel that the U.S. economy is in good shape and it’s going in the right direction, they’ll buy real estate,” says Brian Losh, chairman of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate.

Connections to local markets remain essential.  “I will say a lot of it still happens in a very traditional way. People are either coming to L.A. a lot, either they have a child in school here, or they love the area and they decide to buy a home, and they do that through a local Realtor, regardless of where they come from,” observes Leipart.

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