There is no favorite listings!

Life on the Water

By Alyssa Gautieri

Little compares to a luxury yacht charter experience. Cruise around the globe in style — from the uninhabited islets and secluded beaches of Croatia, the dining and nightlife along the Italian Coast, to the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

Built by highly skilled professionals, luxury motor yachts and sailing yachts can typically sleep groups of up to 12 people — depending on the size of the vessel. Some of the most unique features include swimming pools, barbeque grills, wellness spas with professional staff, gyms, and theater rooms.

Owners and guests can lounge on sundecks while enjoying breathtaking sunset views, explore the open sea from a wave runner, or cast a fishing rod. Inside, relax from the master suite or enjoy a meal around the dining room table with family and friends.

Wally Ferretti Group

Speed Meets Sophistication
wallywhy200

With more than 2,000 square feet of indoor living space and 1,500 square feet of exterior decks, the wallywhy200 offers far more space than traditional motor yachts without sacrificing speed. The wide-body design comfortably sleeps eight guests in four separate cabins, including a master suite that overlooks the sea and offers uninterrupted 270-degree views.

From the open-pore teak furniture and modular sun loungers to the laminated carbon staircase, the superyacht’s clean, angular aesthetic came to life with the help of naval architect Laurent Giles and Vallicelli Design Studio.

“The new wallywhy200 expresses all its innovative power through new architectural elements, which represent a break with the past and with the typical clichés of a motor yacht,” says Luca Bassani, founder and chief designer of Wally.

Folding beach club bulwarks provide additional living space by transforming into a terrace over the water, while two garages provide storage space for wave runners, Seabobs, and paddleboards.

Madsummer Main Deck

All About Amenities
Madsummer

Featuring a swimming pool, world-class spa, and 10 spacious staterooms, the Madsummer is a custom-built superyacht that spans more than 300 feet long and provides space for 28 professional crew members.

The expansive sundeck boasts a gym overlooking the sea, space for a dance floor, and a cozy observation area with sun pads, tables, and one of the two jacuzzis on board. Overlooking the bow is a cinema room with deep sofas.

Two garages house a Maori Yacht limo tender, a Ski Nautique, and a rescue tender, as well as personal watercrafts and dive equipment. There’s also space for a helicopter on the foredeck. The motor yacht was custom built by the German shipyard Lüssen, while the exterior was designed by Harrison Eidsgaard and the colorful interior — saturated with bright blues, reds, and whites — was the work of Laura Sessa.

“The owner’s brief was demanding, however, we believe our engineering expertise has surpassed his wishes to own a yacht that many years from now will be timeless and yet still ahead of its time,” says CEO Peter Lürssen.

Sunseeker 90 Ocean

A Penthouse-Style Saloon?
Sunseeker 90 Ocean

Walk out the sliding glass doors of the Sunseeker 90 Ocean to access the spacious, lower-level deck that opens out to the water. It’s complete with a built-in barbecue, an oversized rain shower, and a set of retractable stairs for easy access to the water.

Exit the beach club, located at water-level in the aft area of the yacht, by following the steps to the cockpit. “The incredible new beach club design is already receiving much acclaim, defining the very essence of our new ‘Ocean’ range,” says Andrea Farbetti, CEO of Sunseeker.

The garage plus two lockers provide ample storage space for a Jet Ski, two Seabobs, and a Williams 460 SportJet. Larger than most of its competition, the flybridge can be customized to include an infinity spa pool.

Inside the superyacht, there’s a penthouse-style saloon and luxurious staterooms, and a dedicated dining area that comfortably fits eight people. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a surge of natural light, while textured paneling, curved sofas, and a panoramic skylight create an elegant, modern aesthetic.

Sail in Style Nautor Swan 115 Solleone

Sail in Style
Nautor Swan 115 Solleone

Quiet, calm, and peaceful, this luxury sailing yacht — in comparison to the motor yachts mentioned above — harnesses wind power to reach high speeds. A combination of tradition and innovation, the Swan 115 Solleone was delivered by Nautor Swan and the naval architecture was the work of German Frers.

From the private dining area and large saloon area to the master suite, the elegant Italian interior is designed by Nautor’s Swan in-house styling team and styled by Michele Bònan. With three large guest cabins and space to accommodate a five-person crew, the luxury sailing yacht is ideal for serene blue water or long distance cruises.

Leave a comment

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fawcett Farm in Los Banos, CA

In imagining the ideal setting for living a full, free, and rich life, Frank Lloyd Wright sought architecture where: “We have no longer an outside and an inside as two separate things. Now the outside may come inside, and the inside may and does go outside. They are of each other. Form and function thus become one in design and execution if the nature of materials and method and purpose are all in unison.” That this unity is achieved at Fawcett Farm cannot fully be conveyed by words and pictures, but only by direct experience.

Sited on 76 acres of land in California’s Central Valley that Buck Fawcett characterized to Wright as the most fertile agricultural land in the world, the residence and surrounding gardens afford an island of peace rising from the crops and merging with the distant mountains on the far horizon.

A multi-award winning world-class restoration and enhancements to the landscape, gardens, and security have been completed by the second owners in consultation with Eric Lloyd Wright, and overseen by Taliesin Associate architect Arthur Dyson. An inspiring and unique living environment now awaits your creative use.

The gated property includes: Main residence with open-plan living, dining and family areas, 7 bedrooms, 6 baths, kitchen, and service room/ laundry, with fi replaces in the living room, family room and master bedroom. Additionally, there is a semi-attached small museum, a large detached workshop, swimming pool, Koi pond and Japanese garden.

This extraordinary property located at 21200 Center Avenue, Los Banos, CA 93635 and is listed exclusively by Crosby Doe Associates. You can find the full listing at fawcettfarm.crosbydoe.com.

Leave a comment

The Arsht Estate, Cover Property from the Summer 2022 Prestige Magazine, Sold!

By Brigitte Sinoradzki

Philanthropist and Businesswoman Adrienne Arsht has sold her waterfront property on Miami’s Biscayne Bay after listing it in January for $150 million with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty

The compound, set on 4 acres featuring spectacular water views and two separate mansions, was sold for $106.875 million. This is the first time in Miami-Dade County’s history that a residential property has sold for an amount exceeding 8 figures.

Arsht Estate Interior

Ashley Cusack, the listing agent of this extraordinary estate, worked closely with Ms. Arsht to find the perfect buyer to reside on the immaculate property. Ms. Cusack says, “It was an honor to work with Ms. Arsht in this endeavor and to have had the opportunity to represent this historic property. Her love and passion for her home was evident  from day one, and resonated strongly throughout our marketing period. I am incredibly grateful for the support of everyone who was involved in connecting the perfect buyer to this breathtaking property.”

The home is incredibly rich in charm, character, and history. It is a storied home with 2 primary dwellings and 2 guest homes, plus a variety of accessory buildings. With over 400 feet of waterfront, the new owner will not only enjoy stunning views of Biscayne Bay, but also of the commanding Miami skyline. In an unparalleled neighborhood of Miami — neighboring the Vizcaya Museum — the Arsht Estate has hosted countless dignitaries, celebrities, and philanthropic leaders. If walls could speak, this estate would have a lot to tell.

Arsht was quoted in a press statement saying, “As the steward of this beautiful property, I am proud to leave its legacy to the next generations of caretakers. May they also enjoy the breathtaking view!” 

This home sale broke the previous Miami-Dade record of $93 million set earlier this year when the founder of Intersystems bought three adjacent oceanfront homes in Golden Beach.

Leave a comment

Featured Property: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

The expansive nine-acre estate includes four homes and boasts a total of 18 bedrooms, 14 baths, two infinity pools and 25,490 square feet of luxury and privacy across 11 parcels.  Tropical walkways bursting with royal palms and native plants connect all four homes. The real treasure among these are the two waterfront villas, both with direct water access.  Stone staircases, as well as two trams with intermediate stops, allow you to descend all the way to the turquoise ocean below.

As you enter the main villa, the tasteful and elegant furnishings will usher you to another era.  Magnificent architecture, enchanting stonework, unique hardwoods, and a prized collection of antiques evokes feelings of nostalgia, grandeur, and adventure.  Each room has a distinct persona and story of its own, from the 800 square foot great hall to the wine grotto, all brought together by the old-world charm of a Caribbean estate aesthetic. The fun truly begins as you step outside and explore the many terraces and verandas overlooking Charlotte Amalie harbor.

Try your hand at shooting one of the two working water cannons straight into the Caribbean Sea.  Relax on the lounge deck or soak in the infinity pool.  Take a stroll along the gorgeous 50-foot white sand beach.  Watch the sunset over Hassel Island on your own private 80-foot dock.  Enjoy the Caribbean’s most spectacular music and light show courtesy of the estate’s terraced waterfall, which features 10 jumping jets, eight fire braziers, 17 falls, a fog machine, more than 100 LED lights and a holographic water screen. 

Whether you’re interested in an exceptional island getaway or the ultimate place to entertain, this captivating property will exceed your expectations. 

Property Details:

 Main Villa –

  • 5 Bedrooms
  • 5 Full Baths / 2 Powder Rooms
  • 6,500 Total Square Feet
  • Infinity Pool (1,630 Cubic Feet)

Guest House Cottage –

  • 4 Bedrooms
  • 2 Full Baths / 1 Powder Room
  • 2,400 Total Square Feet

Second Villa –

  • 6 Bedrooms
  • 5 Full Baths / 1 Powder Room
  • 4,400 Total Square Feet
  • Infinity Pool (2,750 Cubic Feet)
  • Two Car Garage

Third Home –

  • 3 Bedrooms
  • 2 Full Baths

Visit the full listing here

Leave a comment

Aquatic Accomodations

There is no greater magnet for the hospitality industry than the sea, with towering hotels crowding the world’s finest stretches of beach, from the Côte d’Azur to Waikiki. For most travelers, a view of the ocean is the ultimate amenity, but luxury hotels that float or are submerged beneath the surface of the sea provide otherworldly experiences.

Floating is a term of art. There are some hotels that literally float, like The FloatHouse River Kwai in Thailand or the Off Paris Seine that is moored on the banks of the City of Light’s signature river. Others merely provide the illusion of floating, such as tropical overwater bungalows — these are quintessential French Polynesian accommodations but are found in the Maldives, Seychelles and Caribbean as well — where the design is fully integrated with the sea. Yet another category are hotels whose rooms or restaurants are submerged in the sea, providing guests with the underwater experience of coexisting with tropical fish amidst a coral reef.

The clubby Off floats on the Seine between the Right and Left Banks of Paris, not far from Gare d’Austerlitz in the up-and-coming 13th arrondissement. While the neighborhood is buzzing with fashionable bistros and nightspots, the barge-like Off provides an onboard restaurant and bar, even a lap pool. Those who splurge can choose between two fashionable suites whose décor was authored by designers Maurizio Galante and Tal Lancman.

Exotic species viewed from an elaborate underwater suite at Atlantis, The Palm. Above image and featured image:  © ATLANTIS, THE PALM; photos by Victor Romero

An underwater guestroom at The Manta Resort off the coast of Tanzania. Photo courtesy of the Manta Resort.

With its recent grand opening, Resorts World’s glitzy new $4.3 billion property is the latest hot spot on the Las Vegas Strip, but the company’s resort on Sentosa Island, Singapore is even more elaborate. It encompasses multiple hotels — among them the elite Crockfords Tower, the postmodern Hotel Michael and Hard Rock — along with several theme parks, a convention center and casino. The property’s Beach Villas hotel offers 11 two-story Ocean Suites that immerse their guests into an exotic ocean habitat. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide an undersea view of more than 70 species of marine animals amidst luxury accommodations enhanced by personalized butler service.

Offering the best of both worlds is The Manta Resort in Tanzania — it is located on Pemba Island amidst some stunning turquoise-hued waters — and its three-level floating suite is anchored to the ocean floor off the coast of Africa. Above water, guests enjoy a gentle rafting effect and panoramic views, but in the bedroom below they are treated to the eyepopping aquatic habitat of this corner of the Indian Ocean. Pemba Island is one of the world’s premier diving areas, but guests at The Manta’s underwater room can experience the same thrills without ever putting on a wetsuit. 

The Manta Resort’s own Kwanini Foundation is actively involved in protecting the rich marine habitat of Pemba Island, whose reefs are among the most diverse in East Africa. Rapidly increasing population is creating an unsustainable demand for fish, and the foundation is fighting to eliminate destructive practices like dynamite fishing near vulnerable reefs, as well as educating people on climate change and plastic pollution. These conservation efforts not only preserve the natural beauty of Pemba Island, but ensure the magic of The Manta Resort’s underwater accommodations as well.

Perhaps the most audacious example of a hotel with an underwater feature is the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland in China. Constructed at an artificial lake created at an abandoned quarry, most of the sleek, curvaceous structure is technically below grade, with 16 stories built into a subterranean cliff. All of the 336 rooms benefit from spectacular views of the lake and the property’s dramatically illuminated waterfalls and fountains.

One spectacular two-level suite at Shanghai Wonderland features an enclosed living room with outdoor terrace hovering just above the water, while its bedrooms are submerged beneath the lake’s surface, encased in a giant underwater aquarium. Lin Wang, chief marketing officer for IHG, Greater China, commented: “We’re delighted to be joining forces with Shimao Group [developer] again to open InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland — an architectural masterpiece that’s a wonder and beauty in the global hospitality industry.”

When it comes to underwater hotel restaurants, New Zealand civil engineer Mike Murphy is a pioneering force responsible for some of the most dramatic designs. His first underwater restaurant project, Ithaa, opened in 2005 and remains a stunning dining space in the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort. A decade later, Murphy completed the design for his largest underwater dining venue, named 5.8 Undersea Restaurant — it sits 5.8 meters beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean — at the Hurawalhi Island Resort in the Maldives. “Many projects must be canceled, as the sites aren’t suitable or the client desires a room size that’s unrealistically large,” explains Murphy of his niche specialty. 

Despite his disciplined training as an engineer, Murphy appreciates the visceral reaction people experience in these underwater spaces. “Their mouths open in awe, they almost gasp in wonder at the beautiful underwater scene in front of them,” he says, and adds, “I, too, always get this feeling when I go down into these undersea rooms.”

The Hurawalhi project benefitted from advancements in fabrication, transportation and the availability of larger crane ships, reports Murphy, who notes these ventures work best in locations protected from severe waves or storm surges, generally inside a coral reef or protected harbor. “The design of the acrylic windows and arches is very important,” says the engineer, who explains, “The deeper you go in the water, the greater the pressure, and hence the thicker you must make the windows … and the more expensive it gets.” 

Murphy designed the largest underwater project to date, a villa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island called The Muraka, a spectacular suite whose room rate begins at $9,999 per night. “Driven by our inspiration to deliver innovative and transformative experiences to our global travelers, the world’s first undersea residence encourages guests to explore the Maldives from an entirely new perspective below the surface of the sea,” said Ahmed Saleem of the Crown Company, which collaborated with the engineer on the
$15 million project. Murphy, who retired a few years ago at age 70, continues to receive proposals for projects and is hoping his design for the world’s first revolving underwater restaurant will be realized.  

Above, the view from an Ocean Suite at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. Photo courtesy of RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA SINGAPORE.

At far left, an underwater suite at the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland. 

Above, the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, constructed at an abandoned quarry. Photos courtesy of InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland.

The FloatHouse River Kwai is a bona fide floating resort in Thailand, a country where floating homes and markets are not particularly unusual. The hotel’s string of thatched roof villas is essentially a lengthy pontoon boat parked along the river made famous by the novel and Oscar-winning movie Bridge on the River Kwai. Each villa provides nearly 1,000 square feet of comfort appointed with teak furniture and features a private terrace with a swing from which to lazily watch the slowly passing riverboats.

The luxurious Taj Lake Palace hotel is not technically floating on India’s Lake Pichola, but most certainly appears to be. The artificial lake, which was created in the 14th century, has several islands, and the white marble-clad structure — it was originally a summer palace for the ruling dynasty of Mewar — was constructed on one of them in 1746. The palace was designed in a manner that makes it look like an ornate floating raft, and while the illusion is convincing, nobody gets seasick. The hotel oozes elegance and romance, and the most extravagant suites, with hand-painted ceilings, crystal chandeliers and panoramic water views, are indeed palatial.

In a city that specializes in over-the-top experiences, Dubai’s 1,500-room Atlantis, The Palm offers a 1,775-square-foot underwater suite with floor-to-ceiling windows for viewing the resort’s signature aquarium, stocked with 65,000 marine animals. A guest lying on the bed or relaxing in the marble bath will be mesmerized by sharks, stingrays and vibrantly hued tropical fish sailing past. A private elevator ascends to the suite’s intimate lounge, offering surface views of a lagoon, and guests’ needs are attended to by a dedicated butler.

Leave a comment

Experts Report: Park City

Utah is known for its top-rated ski slopes, mountain resorts, and vast natural landscape that lends itself to a slew of outdoor activities.

Park City in particular, located east of Salt Lake City, especially optimizes the exhilarating outdoors, housing three of the best ski resorts in the world as well as Utah Olympic Park. However, skiing doesn’t fully encapsulate the essence of Park City. The terrain also allows for mountain biking, horseback riding, golfing, and paddle boarding, just to name a few.

Park City also specializes in luxury resort living, which blends sumptuous indoor facilities with the expansive outdoors. Promontory Club, a private residential community that is the epitome of luxury living, spans over 6,400 acres and offers a myriad of indoor and outdoor amenities. Chris Messick, the director of real estate sales at Promontory Club, describes it as a four-season private club, with relatively less humid summers and lighter winters.

“As people started spending more time here in the summer, people figured out Park City has more of a four-season feeling than some of the other spots. Summer is as important to us as winter,” Messick explained.

Messick credits Promontory’s appeal to its diverse selection of amenities, all of which occupy 190,000 square feet. Among them are a world-class equestrian center, a clubhouse and spa, multiple golf courses, a beach club, an Outfitter’s Cabin, from which members can embark on a number of outdoor adventures, and over 30 miles of trails.

According to Kerry Oman, associate broker at Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, this lifestyle along with the ongoing pandemic has yielded a booming real estate market in Park City.

“Because of COVID-19, we’ve seen an increase in out-of-state buyers coming and spending longer periods of time or even relocating to Park City. The last 12 months in Park City has been phenomenal with unprecedented growth. The demand has
been extremely high and properties sell really fast,” Oman said.

Along with Promontory Club, Oman speaks highly of Glenwild Country Club, which is rated the No. 1 golf course in Utah, and Deer Valley Resort, one of the world’s best with breathtaking mountain views. The opulence of these resorts are juxtaposed with Park City’s small-town charm. Visitors can venture to Main Street for quality shopping, fine dining, and historic attractions. Both Messick and Oman reiterate that Park City surprises people with its beautiful summers and the accessibility of outdoor activities during the season, making it an ideal, year-round retreat.

Photos courtesy of Promontory Club.

This story originally appeared in Unique Homes Fall ’21 issue. Click here to see the digital version.

Leave a comment

Sustainability Without Sacrifice

Featured image: The Weekender Bag by Banda Bags. Photo courtesy of Banda Bags.

Introducing luxury handbags that leave their mark on the fashion industry without damaging the environment.

 

Banda Bags  bandabags.com

“Banda Bags was born out of adventure and discovery,” says founder Brianna Jane. The company came to life when the founder was filming a docu-series on natural medicine in Indonesia. “I found myself in a wild area of Sumatra that is completely off the beaten path, known for its rich coffee and devout Muslim culture,” according to Jane. “I did not create these bags. I discovered them!” The company really took shape when Jane realized that this traditional art was becoming obsolete and that she could create an opportunity to empower female artists and revive traditional techniques, while supporting the environment.

The Weekender Bag

Perfect for a weekend away, a carry on, or when you need a little more space, the Weekender Bag is one example of the fine handcrafted embroidery that is a mainstay among Banda Bags.

From start to finish, Banda Bags considers its impact on the planet. The base of the bags are made from recycled nylon, along with recycled polyester for the thread, and organic cotton for the insert bag. And finally, recycled, corrugated boxes are used for shipping. “Seeing that fashion has the power to influence the masses, there’s a unique opportunity to use it as a platform to educate the masses about sustainability, and how our choices affect the planet,” adds Jane.

The Banda Tote Bag

The Banda Tote Bag is a must-have for the summer. Not only is it functional, but it features handmade traditional designs that bring a piece of art made by Sumatran artisans into your everyday wardrobe. Large, comfortable shoulder straps, a roomy interior, and zippered pockets bring function and sustainability within reach

Gemma Backpack Purse by Svala. Photo by Mikel Roberts.

Svala  svala.co

Svala came to fruition when the founder, Helga Douglas, was searching for a bag that was stylish and sustainable, but came up short. “I found it hard to find brands that represented the values that I was looking for, so I decided to create my own,” says Douglas. The company specializes in luxury, vegan handbags that have been handcrafted from innovative PVC-free fabrics, such as Italian vegan leather, Pinatex® — made from pineapple leaf fibers — cork and recycled plastic bottles. “We are also in the process of introducing a new vegan leather into our range that is made with recycled polyester and bio polyols,” according to Douglas.

Didi Clutch

This elegant addition to any outfit is made from vegan leather PU (polyurethane) and lined with recycled polyester that is made from plastic bottles combined with organic cotton. The vegan leather PU is sourced from Italy, “from a family-owned factory that supplies various high-end European luxury designers,” says Douglas.

Gemma Backpack Purse

The Gemma Backpack Purse is elegantly versatile, easily transforming from a convenient backpack to a sophisticated handbag. Handcrafted with high-quality, luxurious Italian vegan leather, and embossed faux snake-skin, or velvety cork, this bag embodies the Svala brand.

Lidia May  lidiamay.com

Lidia May, like several other sustainable brands, has been influenced by the growing industry of fast fashion and trying to combat low prices and the concept that clothing is disposable. “The fast fashion business paradigm is so pervasive that many entrenched players cannot survive outside it … Against this backdrop, Lidia May is proving that fashion can be creative, glamorous, and personal without being exploitative or exclusionary,” says co-founder of Lidia May, Rasheed Khan.

Pema Shopper Rose & Pema Top Handle Rose

The Pema collection is ultra-luxurious, refined, and a favorite among customers. This collection and others aim for natural and biodegradable materials to achieve their goals. “We prefer to use silk and cotton and unbleached linens in our fabrics and embroidery threads,” explains Khan. The company utilizes full and top grain leather that is luxurious, durable and incidentally a by-product of the meat industry, says Khan. There is no sacrifice between beauty and sustainability here.

The Barre Poppy

“Fashion is a beacon. It’s highly visible, it’s aspirational, it can influence society’s values and behavior,” says Khan. If the fashion industry can make sustainable changes, then items such as The Barre Poppy can hopefully inspire others to follow. Agile and sophisticated, The Barre Poppy can be worn around the waist or carried as a mini top handle.

The Barre Poppy by Lidia May. Photo by Emmy Pickett; Courtesy of Lidia May.

Photo courtesy of Mavis by Herrera.

Mavis by Herrera  mavisbyherrera.com

“I started Mavis by Herrera because I needed to be a part of the plastic pollution solution,” says founder, Mavis C. Herrera. “My passion is to encourage change through sustainability and regenerative business practices.” In the process of creating sustainable, ethically elegant handbags, the company also aims to empower indigenous people by first, offering jobs and eventually, by providing business skills, according to Herrera.

Less Pollution Convertible Bag

Mavis by Herrera handbags are waterproof, durable, lightweight, and fashionable. “We aim to revolutionize the fashion industry by proving that it can be done without harming people or the environment,” note the founders. “We take plastics and turn them into recycled, elegant, and sustainable handbags.” Working hand in hand with a local recycling company, each bag is hand woven in Mexico.

Leave a comment

The Transition

Cover photo ©istockphoto.com / Evgeny Zhigalov

Of all the changes brought on by the pandemic, what is here to stay?

From a drone’s eye perspective of 50 years, real estate might resemble a Mobius strip, a never-ending roller coaster of ups and downs with each boom-and-bust cycle sparking small changes and adaptations. But none have had an impact comparable to the pandemic, which ushered in an avalanche of innovation, new ways of doing business and a profound shift in consumer values. Some effects are a temporary response, while many reflect a significant transformation.

“The way that real estate as an industry operates has changed, and I believe it is a microcosm that can be applied to 90 percent of the economy out there. No one is going back, and that means the way we live, work and play changes forever,” observes Marci Rossell, former CNBC chief economist and chief economist for Leading RE. “COVID drop-kicked us into 2030.” 

Ask agents if any prior cycle compares to the experience of the last year and a half, and they will tell you the pandemic boom is unparalleled. “I don’t think any Realtor in the country has had the experience we’ve had this last year! Yes, there have been good upticks in certain years in certain places, but never anything like this!” shares Trinkie Watson with Chase International in Lake Tahoe.

“We’ve certainly seen periods where you had to pivot skill sets and be really aware of the market and things that would impact clients, but we’ve never seen anything like the last year and a half, (and) that’s been compounded by a lack of availability,” shares Tami Simms, with Coastal Properties Group in St. Petersburg, Florida, who is also trainer for the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

“I think that last year was the most significant year of change from a tech perspective,” says David Marine, chief marketing officer at Coldwell Banker Real Estate. The pandemic market accomplished what major brands had been working on for years. “In 90 days,” he says, “every single real estate agent figured out a way to move the transition online. Now it’s commonplace. It’s no longer an issue.”

“Agents basically skyrocketed 10 years into the future, and they did it in a two-month period,” says Rossell. Rather than an abrupt switch, industry experts see real estate’s seemingly overnight embrace of new technology as acceptance of tools already available. Think of it as “escalating trends that were already underway that would have happened, but they are going to happen almost a decade faster than anyone expected,” explains Rossell.

Will it be a virtual world?

Prior to what Simms dubs “the Zoom age,” she says, there wasn’t a widespread understanding or trust or proficiency with virtual apps. “Now,” she says, “we know how to use it. We’re reasonably proficient at it, and there’s a level of trust. So, we’re able to embrace this technology. You know I don’t ever want to go back to having to communicate with out-of-state buyers purely by telephone.”

Virtual Sales are touted as the main advancement sparked by the pandemic, but an even greater benefit has been an industry-wide recognition and adaptation of virtual apps to enhance and expedite the process from initial views of a property to consumer education. “FaceTime is an effective tool, but really more to give a prospect a better idea of the home, not to induce an offer … though it could,” says Watson. 

Looking ahead, agents don’t expect virtual sales to disappear, but they will continue to be a rarity. “I don’t think we’ll see many escrows where the buyer hasn’t physically seen the property. Yes, Zoom and similar will continue to be a part of our lives. Also, more defined photography for our listings … the importance of a comprehensive ‘walk through’ so prospects can get a good feeling for how the house flows,” says Watson.

Detailed virtual walk-throughs became more important than ever, with platforms such as Matterport leading the way. 

©istockphoto.com / fizkes

“In-person viewings have been very limited. No one wants to go to open houses. No one is walking about a house just for fun. People are looking online. They are viewing the pictures of a listing maybe 10 times before they see a house. So, a showing is more like a fourth showing, and agents need in-depth knowledge of a property,” says Joanne Nemerovski, with Compass in Chicago.

©istockphoto.com / joakimbkk

Dreaming of Home

The ability to work remotely is often cited as the main driver for the surge in sales, but even more fundamental are new consumer values regarding home and lifestyle. Citing millennials, who now comprise a substantial portion of buyers, Nemerovski says many were starting careers and literally were never home, so home basically was a shoebox they visited. “I think that sentiment has changed. Home is where the heart is. It has become the center of people’s lives. People are also more respectful of their homes.”

Everybody wants their dream home,” says Frank Aazami with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale, Arizona, “because they just cashed out of another home that maybe they inherited or maybe were there for 20, 30 or 40 years.”

Buyers’ expectations of quality are high and will continue to be so. “People understand the level of finishes better than ever before. We’ve gotten so much better with respecting architects, good architects’ work, good designers’ work,” he says.

“All of a sudden, consumers are finding that now it’s not all about a commute. It’s about ‘does the place that I live offer me the things that I want to do when I have a little extra time, both inside and outside.’ Outside spaces have always been a luxury item, but more so now than ever,” says Simms. Topping wish lists are beautiful recreational facilities, inside and out. Also becoming more desirable is access to nearby outdoor venues such as parks and trails. Before COVID-19, outdoor living was a growing trend; now a connection with nature has become almost an essential for homes, particularly new construction.

Skills Put to the Test

With properties selling days or hours after going on the market and multiple platforms broadcasting new listings, it would seem agents’ skills are not essential. However, the pandemic market has proved the opposite. “It’s been a really intense time for real estate professionals in terms of making sure that their communication skills are absolutely the most important thing that they have, setting expectations, both on the seller side and the buyer side,” says Simms.

“There’s more attention to vetting prospective buyers, making sure they are qualified to buy before showing them property,” adds Watson.

Price is only part of an offer’s appeal to sellers, and crafting a winning offer has been an important skill for agents and buyers in the current market. Even when multiple offers become less of the norm, this aspect of buying will continue to be important.

An intense market tempts buyers to forgo contingencies. “It has been definitely challenging to counsel people on strategies to be successful in acquiring properties, but also in making sure that they truly understand the ramifications of releasing contingencies and know the risks they are taking on,” shares Simms.

“A downside of the intensity has been buyer’s remorse, cancellations before closing, some attempted lawsuits … a result of no inspections, jumping too fast without thorough exploration, et cetera. This would be a small percentage of the purchasers, but certainly a reflection of ‘herd mentality’ going the wrong way!” says Watson, referring to the pressure buyers felt to make a decision.

Cooldown Ahead

With days on market hovering just over 14 in July, prices rising in 99 percent of all metro areas, and double-digit price increases in 94 percent of metros (according to NAR), the current pace might seem no less fevered. Still, indications of a transition are beginning to filter out from a number of locations. Days on market are increasing ever so slightly, and overblown prices are being reduced. Or, as Katie Treem at Keller Williams Realty in Portland, Maine, explains, it might be that a property receives 20 offers instead of 40. “We’re still seeing people moving from New York, Boston, Connecticut and D.C.,” she says.

Also, agents like Treem are just beginning to see a few who bought in 2020 reselling. Sometimes they improved the property, but in others, decided the lifestyle was not what they desire or the commute, even for occasional days in the office, was too difficult.

In Tahoe, Watson says, “I believe the intensity has certainly calmed down, and I suspect very few listing agents will accept an offer from a buyer who hasn’t physically viewed the property. That goes for waived inspections … I’d be surprised if many are doing that any longer.”

No Bubbles Here

Bubble talk has become almost a perennial for real estate, but experts such as Rossell do not subscribe to this characterization of the market. Rossell says, “It’s not a bubble. It’s simply real demand bumping up against severe supply constraints. But this doesn’t mean house prices continue to go up. But what it does mean is you’re very unlikely to see the bottom fall out of the market, the way that you did in 2007, 2008.

“September 11 forever changed the way that we thought about terrorism. And I think in the same way, the first round of COVID in March of 2020 forever changed the way that we thought about public health, and pandemics. I think we’re all going to be living with the reality that at any given time something like this could happen, just like terrorism.”

Days on market are increasing, and overblown prices are being reduced. It might be a property receives 20 offers instead of 40, says Katie Treem at Keller Williams Realty in Portland, Maine.
 

©istockphoto.com / sara_winter

This story originally appeared in Unique Homes Fall ’21. Click here to see the digital version.

Leave a comment

Mindful Drinking

Featured image courtesy Camille Vidal.

 

A movement started across the pond is reshaping the relationship people have with alcohol, and starting new conversations about the topic.

When Laura Willoughby sought to change her relationship with alcohol, she found that there weren’t many options to turn to in the United Kingdom that suited her well. So she created her own. What started out as a Facebook group grew into what is now a movement that swept across the UK and eventually parts of the globe. Club Soda, the mindful drinking community Willoughby co-founded, was just the start of a conversation about how people can drink mindfully.

Camille Vidal, founder of La Maison Wellness, describes what a mindful drinker is best. For her, there are many different types of mindful drinkers, but there is not just one label. “Often, because the movement is expanding and there are more and more people becoming vocal about their sobriety, about cutting alcohol out of their life, very often people assume that if you are a mindful drinker, it means that you’re sober,” Vidal says. “But actually, mindful drinking, and being a mindful drinker, is being mindful, being aware, being conscious of how much, how often and what you drink.

For Willoughby, she identifies as being alcohol-free, and has been for eight and a half years. Club Soda was born from Willoughby’s realization that seeking a change in a relationship with alcohol was met with the disease model of addiction, which may help some people, but not all. “Alcohol is an identity, not a medical condition,” Willoughby says. “I’m alcohol-free because that suits me best and alcohol doesn’t have anything left for me; I definitely took everything that was possible from alcohol.”

Eventually the mindful drinking conversation began to shift to the beverage industry. According to Vidal, today there are about 90 different alcohol-free spirits available around the world, but one company was the catalyst for this category. “Five years ago there was one brand that launched the world’s first alcohol-free spirit — that’s called Seedlip.

Seedlip is a botanical spirit,” Vidal says. “And they really paved the way for rethinking how we drink.” Seedlip’s roots were planted in London in 2015 by the brand’s founder, Ben Branson. Starting with one spirit, the company grew to include three choices, each with an individual flavor profile. One interesting spirit Vidal notes is its Garden 108 spirit that is made with traditional herbs and its signature, peas, giving it a refreshing, gin-like flavor.

Vidal uses Seedlip and other brands — another one she recommends is a company called Lyres that is based in Australia — to create her mindful cocktails that she features on her company’s website. When the pandemic lockdown began in London, where she currently resides, she started “happy hours” on her social media where she showed people how to make her cocktails. Vidal also collaborates with companies and people, such as Willoughby, to spread the awareness of drinking mindfully.

Another category of alcohol-free spirits that has taken to the market are alternatives that are inspired to bring a new way of drinking and a new overall experience, explains Vidal. Three Spirit, another brand Vidal enjoys, specializes in spirits — they call elixirs — that are powered by plants. The elixirs not only taste good, but make the drinker feel good. “They’ve all been built to recreate the experience you have when you drink alcohol and the very reason why people drink alcohol,” explains Vidal. “For example, they have one that is called the Night Cap that helps you to relax, to ease stress, to calm you down, to help you with sleep — because it contains valerian, which helps with sleeping.”

Above: Camille Vidal; Below: Laura Willoughby

Willoughby herself enjoys drinking Three Spirit as one of her non-alcoholic options along with kombucha, which is something that Vidal says is a great addition to any non-alcoholic or low ABV cocktail. According to Vidal and Willoughby, choosing to become a mindful drinker doesn’t really have any setbacks, as it opens the door to a new lifestyle and way to enjoy nights out or time spent with good company. “People believe they have to give up their social life if they change their drinking, but what happens is your social life changes,” Willoughby says. “And guess what? Your social life changes anyway as you go through life.” On Club Soda’s website, the organization offers courses that help guide people down a mindful drinking journey that works for their lifestyle. “If somebody’s desire is to try and drink moderately,” says Willoughby. “Then that’s absolutely fine by us as well.” She goes on to say that there is a binary view of alcohol, which in actuality, there isn’t.”

Whether someone is choosing to phase alcohol out of their lives or is looking to start a new relationship with it, there are plenty of options that are just as delicious as their alcoholic counterparts. “I always say ‘tasty doesn’t have to be boozy,’” says Vidal. “For me, there’s something magical about having a low-alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktail, and it’s not about the alcohol content, it’s about the moment, the celebration and appreciating the experience we’re having.”

Café Soirée
Strawberry Fields
Leave a comment

Q&A with Chris Goddard of HGTV’s Design Star

Photos by Mark Jackson/CHROMA Photography.

Designer Chris Goddard grew up in Arkansas in a house full of built-in furniture. As his love for design started early in life, he says this situation “drove me nuts.” Now, as the principal founder of Goddard Design Group, he credits these hurdles, as well as the creative nurturing of his family, for his love of change, which continues to inspire every facet of his work.

It was the need to produce something new every time, and the drive to push himself past his own creative limits, that helped Goddard become a finalist on the most recent season of HGTV’s Design Star: Next Gen.

We spoke with Goddard about his whirlwind experience of creating interior design for TV, and how his reality TV appearance inspired an even deeper love for design than he’d had in 30-plus years.

For those who haven’t watched the latest season of Design Star, can you relay to audiences your method of design?

I’m a big proponent of change, if you’re doing the same thing you did 3 years ago you’re doing something wrong. I never do the same thing twice, so in 30 years we’ve never used the same fabric twice, the same piece of furniture twice — it’s kind of my trademark. I don’t want anybody to have something somebody else has.

What has been your biggest inspiration, since you were young, to work in such a creative field?

I grew up in a very creative family, always surrounded by creativity and the arts. My family, especially my mother and my grandmother, were big on travel and exposing me to as much as possible. So I traveled a lot and spent a lot of time in museums. They would always take me out of school for weeks at a time; they always said ‘the best education was travel and experiencing things.’ I grew up a little globe-trotting kid, seeing the world, which was wonderful and super inspiring.

You received both design and business degrees in college. Have you found this type of structured education helpful as well?

I’ve found that having a business degree really makes a huge difference. Most designers are creative but can’t always run a business, and I’ve been able to strike a good balance. That’s not to say I haven’t ever screwed up — we all have — but those are called learning experiences.

You mentioned loving to travel, what’s one of your favorite places to visit?

One of my favorite places is Morocco. I try and go once a year. I’m super inspired by the colors and textures, anything that’s handmade. When you have something that’s made by hand, at least one thing in your house, it gives your house a soul and gives the room a sense of place, like it’s always been there. That’s my whole deal, creating timeless rooms. I don’t want anything to look like it was stuck in time, and the key to doing that is layering in parts of the past, present and modern so you get something that never really goes out of style.

A traditional Southern estate with hints of modern elegance in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

What is your primary focus when you’re designing a space?

I’m designing for the client, or if it’s commercial, for the space. You want to create an experience that is singular to them. I think the death of most design is becoming a trend or doing anything trendy, so I always try to be very specific in what I’m doing and make sure it’s uber-tailored to the space or the client.

I think as a designer the biggest compliment I can ever get is when someone comes in and says “Oh this looks like the homeowner,” instead of “this looks like a Chris Goddard house.” The biggest compliment is that it’s a reflection of the homeowner or the space.

What was it like to be on an HGTV show? Did you enjoy your time on set?

When I started my business I taught myself how to do everything, how to put on wallpaper, how to paint — to be a good designer you have to have an understanding of all the people that work for you. I haven’t done that [in person] in over 25 years, but [on the show] it all came back to me like riding a bike. … Each episode was like a day and a half, so cranking everything out and then being judged on it was a little tricky. In our career, our clients are the judges and you kind of have an idea of what they want, but when you go into things blind, you don’t know.

For me it was more fun because I got to push myself out of my comfort zone, which I really needed. I kind of looked at the whole experience as an opportunity to reignite my passion for design. It’s easy when I get to the level I am at and get comfortable — and I think I was feeling a little comfortable — which was the reason I wanted to compete. Doing it, I came back and I couldn’t have been more excited about design than I had in my whole life. It was the best experience I could have ever had.

What lessons have you taken away from the experience?

It’s best to go with your first thoughts. If you get too much in your head, it throws off the creative process. Don’t be afraid to try anything new. The main thing [I learned], though, was to trust my gut, be authentic and keep pushing myself. And to learn something new. I learned so many new design tips, technology tips — everyone had so many things to share. It was nice to just be able to soak it all in.

How have things progressed since going back to the firm? Any big plans for the future?

I’m excited to see what happens in the next few years, as design is having a Renaissance. Right now we’re busier than ever, since people have been stuck in their homes and they see things they want to change. They want multifunctional spaces, beautiful spaces, there’s been this huge resurgence in an interest in design. The whole world is once again interested in how they live.

The design style of this home evolved from Spanish Mission into an eclectic mixture of modernism and neoclassical, created through thoughtfully curated collections, from vintage Chinese rugs to contemporary art.
A key component to the design of this Fayetteville penthouse was the incorporation of pieces from the client’s extensive modern art collection, seen above and below. “It was a lot of fun to pull modern furniture and art together to create a new space that still resonates our client’s unique, eclectic personality,” according to Goddard Design Group.
Top photo by Rett Peek Photography.
Leave a comment
Style Selector
Select the layout
Choose the theme
Preset colors
No Preset
Select the pattern