What’s New is Old

Reimagining outdated design, architects are constantly predicting the needs and desires of the next generation in an attempt to create trendy, innovative looks. Whether in the hospitality, mixed-use or residential space, here is a peek at what’s trending in design this year.

By Alyssa Gautieri

“In 2018, lines are getting cleaner, spaces are feeling lighter, and everything is designed to be more relaxing.”

— Barry Goralnick, principal of Barry Goralnick.

Photos by Ciro Coelho Photography

The re-emergence of Mid-century Modernism, a preference toward sustainability and the demand for amenitized living are among the many trends taking over 2018.

First and foremost, 2018 is moving away from super modern spaces as consumers increasingly crave a “new twist on traditional” design, according to Barry Goralnick, principal of Barry Goralnick.

“We are evolving out of the uber-modern, all glass, wide open spaces,” he explains. “There is a desire to warm up and add personality to these inherently dehumanized spaces. People are yearning for more privacy, more intimate spaces, and a place to hang their art. Therefore, the pendulum is swinging back toward classic design with richer details.”

Photo courtesy SB Architects

Transitioning back toward classic design, homeowners are yearning for more simple, private and intimate spaces.

Photo by Ciro Coelho Photography

Moving back toward clean lines, consumers are demanding more simplistic and less complicated styles. “In 2018, lines are getting cleaner, spaces are feeling lighter, and everything is designed to be more relaxing,” Goralnick adds.

Troy Dean, the founder and owner of Troy Dean Interiors, says the modern movement was born prior to 2018, but has become more prominent. “Simplifying things and the idea of ‘less is more’ is becoming much more accepted,” he says. “People are beginning to understand the simplicity of architecture.”

Transitioning away from the ultra-modern style, architecture in 2018 has become all about art. In residential development, architects are getting creative with art integration as the lines between art and architecture blur.

“There is no better art than architecture,” Dean says. “A home should be a piece of art when you are finished. Everything that we do definitely revolves around the architecture being the art of the finished project. Once your architecture is done well, everything else is secondary.”

One of the many ways architects are finding art in architecture is through transitional indoor/outdoor spaces. Replacing traditional doors and windows with retractable walls and disappearing glass, architects are finding innovative ways to merge indoor and outdoor spaces. “When you are in a good climate, everyone wants to be outside,” Dean jokes. “No one wants to be stuck inside with no natural light. There has always been a push toward becoming one with nature, and now architecture is making that possible.”

This year has also become all about maximizing views. Across all developments, consumers are shopping for property specifically for the view. One-of-a-kind views can often serve as inspiration when it comes to the architecture and design of a development.

“Your whole experience of modern living is becoming a little more view friendly,” Dean explains. “It is all about taking advantage of the views. From an architecture perspective, when you are planning your floor plan, you really begin to think about views.”

Maximizing views and embracing indoor/outdoor living have become two of 2018’s biggest trends.

Photo courtesy SB Architects

Photo courtesy Troy Dean

In residential development, amenitized living is dominating as luxury homeowners increasingly seek resort-style living. Similar to a boutique hotel, residential spaces are blurring the lines between resort and residential living as designers curate unique amenities for homeowners who want to feel as though they are on vacation year round.

“Today’s luxury real estate marketplace, homebuyers’ lifestyles, hobbies, and collecting habits are defining their home life and shaping the features and amenities within,” Lee says. “Over the next 10 years, we will see changes regarding home layout, features, systems and products.”

Across all developments, one of the biggest trends of 2018 is sustainability. While this trend is not new, eco-consciousness continues to be top-of-mind for homeowners as the possibilities are constantly shifting and adapting with new technology.

Lee acknowledges the overwhelming trend toward sustainability, and the increased desire for energy-efficient homes. “The trend toward architectural sustainability and eco-sensitivity is expanding its reach,” he says. “Through integrated site design, a comprehensive approach to sustainable building and site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture practices can not only improve the environment, but also result in net-zero or even climate positive homes.”

Sticking with the trend of eco-consciousness, prefab homes — homes that are built in sections in a facility then later assembled on a home site — have recently entered the luxury sector. Using a custom design approach, evoDOMUS creates unique, modern prefab homes that minimize ecological impact.

According to Alexander Kolbe, CEO and cofounder of evoDOMUS, the biggest appeal of prefab homes is their positive environmental impact. “Homeowners want more energy-efficient homes,” he says. Whether limiting emissions, fossil fuels or waste, “people are now doing what they can to try to save the planet. It’s a worldwide movement.”

According to Alexander Kolbe, CEO and cofounder of evoDOMUS, the biggest appeal of prefab homes is their positive environmental impact. “Homeowners want more energy-efficient homes,” he says. Whether limiting emissions, fossil fuels or waste, “people are now doing what they can to try to save the planet. It’s a worldwide movement.”

2018 is a big year for design and architecture — which Dean believes has been made possible by many innovative advances in technology and the growing age of digital media.

Forcing cutting-edge ideas and innovative techniques, modern technology and the age of social media continue to change the game for architects and designers. Sharing ideologies with competitors across the globe has rapidly become the norm, and for creative designers it is no longer enough to just top the work of nearby neighbors.

Photo courtesy of evoDOMUS

Prefab homes are entering the luxury market in 2018 as eco-consciousness becomes top-of-mind for homeowners.

“Technology is the leading reason that 2018 is going to be a great year,” Dean believes. “The smaller our world gets — through the ability to share good ideas — we are moving that much faster. The blending of different ideologies and [the ability to] captivate different audiences [around the world] is impacting not just 2018, but all years in the future.”

Goralnick also acknowledges the increasing impact of social media. Amidst a culture that values instant gratification, architecture and design must offer instantaneous appeal. “In our Instagram world, everything from new products to homes and hotels must have instant curb appeal to gain and retain people’s interest,” Goralnick says. “Good architecture and design address both the need for instantaneous appeal, as well as lasting attraction, functionality, comfort, and emotional wellbeing.”

The following article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of ERA Real Estate Distinctive Properties Magazine.

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World’s First Flying Sports Car Taking Off This Year

For decades, the flying car has been an expectation of the future. Now the Switchblade is turning this vision into a reality. The Italian-inspired, three-wheeled, carbon-fiber flying car is a high-performance vehicle both on the ground and in the air.

By Alyssa Gautieri

Sam Bousfield, the founder and creator of the Switchblade, equivocates the dynamic vehicle with a time machine. “When you have the capability to fly and drive in the same vehicle at any point on your trip, it opens up all kinds of avenues and places that you could go,” he says. “You can get somewhere so much faster and save tremendous amounts of time.”


Bousfield, who first came up with the idea for the Switchblade in 2007, wanted to make flying more useful and to transform flight into an everyday, trouble-free activity. “[The Switchblade] reduces all the worry
involved with travel,” he says. “It makes everything much easier. There are two systems and you can use one or the other, whichever is the best for where you’re going when you’re going.”


The Switchblade is named after its retractable wings, which swing out from beneath the vehicle like the blade of a pocket knife. Designed with convenience in mind, this automated transition from automobile to aircraft takes only 45 seconds.


Samson Motors of Central Oregon, creators of the Switchblade, designed and redesigned the vehicle to ensure a balance between luxurious aesthetics and function. “We have raised the form, the art of the Switchblade, as high as we could in quality but not past the point where it interferes with the function,” Bousfield says of the decade-long process.

Photos courtesy of Samson Motors, Inc.

While many vertical take-off and landing attempts require new infrastructure, the Switchblade combines the use of current road and airport systems. “The system that we are using is very freeing and enabling,” Bousfield says. “I see [the Switchblade] as a transforming element in society because it allows such greater freedom in personal and business travel.”


The dynamic vehicle can travel through the air at over 200 miles per hour because of its aerodynamic shape. On the ground, the vehicle is capable of significant speed as well. “We will have fun investigating just how fast that is,” Bousfield says of the vehicle’s potential speed. “We have already exceeded 100 miles per hour with our full size, full weight ground prototype.”


Designed with speed in mind, a ground prototype out-performed a Jaguar XK8 in head-to-head acceleration testing. The Switchblade, which is expected to make its first public flight in the spring, also has the power-to-weight ratio of a 2017 Corvette.


Bousfield believes the Switchblade will change the way in which people travel. “Flying should become something not to be feared,” he says. “I hope that more and more people begin to visualize themselves being able to fly. I do see that in the future, more people will.”


Samson Motors hopes to begin deliveries of the Switchblade by the end of 2018. The base model will sell for $140,000, while custom-designed versions will begin at $500,000. 


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Out of Orbit: Agents Aim High Pricing Ultra-Luxury Homes

As the numbers climb into uncharted territory, one word emerges characterizing prices and properties at the pinnacle of residential real estate. “It’s a whole new stratosphere,” says Zachery Wright, executive director, Asia Pacific & Western North America for Christie’s International Real Estate.


By Camilla McLaughlin

Not too long ago, the possibility of even a $200 million home seemed outrageous. Today the most expensive home for sale in the U.S., dubbed The One, is more than twice that amount. Also off the charts is a square footage almost double that of the White House.


When the first issue of Ultimate Homes debuted in 2005, the most expensive residential property in the U.S. was $75 million. Today, $100 million doesn’t come close to the top 10 for Ultimate. Five properties are priced at $200 million and above, and anything below $138.8 million doesn’t make the cut. More than 50 are above $60 million. “Because we’ve seen so much wealth creation, these numbers don’t frighten many in the ultra world,” says Wright.


“It’s no surprise we are seeing such stratospheric prices today, because worldwide personal wealth is the highest it has ever been. Consider that the world’s population of $10 million-plus households is growing, and fast,” says Stephanie Anton, president of Luxury Portfolio International. More than 1.6 million households claimed a net worth of more than $10 million in 2016, a 91-percent increase since 2010. “If many of the properties on today’s list had come on the market even five years ago, it’s unlikely they would have been priced where they are today,” says Wright.


For potential buyers, lifestyle often justifies cost. “People will pay any price if it’s a prudent purchase. But getting there is a real shock. It takes a little while to figure out what things are worth,” says Gary Gold, executive director of Beverly Hills brokerage Hilton & Hyland. “There are very few people out there making sucker purchases. I don’t care how rich you are, very few want to be a chump.”


For most, getting to the $100 million level is a process that usually begins with a much less costly goal. Often, Gold says, buyers start in the $20-, $30- or $40 million range and discover those homes won’t meet their requirements. “They all buy what they want, the best thing available for their needs. In one of our big sales, the people were originally looking for an $8- or $9 million home. They ended up paying $85 million.”

2018 TOP 10:

1. $500 million
The One
Bel Air, California

6. $188 million
Bel Air, California

2. $250 Million
Bel Air, California

7. $175 million
Jule Pond
Southampton, New York

3. $250 million
220 Central Park South Penthouse

New York, New York

8. $150 million
Meadow Lane Oceanfront
Southampton, New York

4. $250 million
Mesa Vista Ranch
Pampa, Texas

9. $149 million
West Creek Ranch
Gateway, Colorado

5. $200 million
The Manor
Holmby Hills, California

10. $138.8 million
Manalapan, Florida


Prices might be stratospheric, but what matters is often the same as it is for luxury buyers overall. “When they buy a house, they want to feel like they made a smart purchase, whether it’s a great buy or that they beat out somebody else. They want to make an intelligent purchase,” Gold explains.


The argument most often ventured by developers and brokers to justify heady prices is a comparison to the art world. Bruce Makowsky, developer of Billionaire — which at $188 million is No. 6 on our list — takes the analogy to the next level using mega-yachts as a measure. “If these guys are willing to pay hundreds of millions for a yacht that is a depreciating asset they use for four weeks out of the year, what would they be willing to spend for a land yacht?” he hypothesized.


Rayni Williams, also with Hilton & Hyland, is part of the team listing Billionaire. She says the land yacht comparison is appropriate. New mega spec homes are a complete package, taking the idea of turnkey to a new plane by including almost everything someone could want, and then some.


Billionaire is completely furnished, staffed and decked out with unparalleled amenities and features including more than 100 curated art installations, two stocked wine cellars, and a $30 million collection of cars in a custom display gallery along with a helicopter pad and one of very few residential theaters outfitted with Dolby Atmos.


“Spec homes are no longer developed with the intention of appealing to an entire market. With a specific luxury buyer in mind, developers are taking custom building to new heights with over-the-top features — and they’re in demand,” explains Jeff Hyland, president of Hilton & Hyland.


When owners of these homes come to Los Angeles, Williams says, “They want the ultimate entertaining home. They want to have parties for families and children alike. They want to have enough of the stage setting where they can have live bands…. They want that kind of space. They want a spa. If they want Botox, they don’t want to go to Beverly Hills to their doctor, they want their doctor to come to them.”


Days before this article went to press, a compound on Carbon Beach in Malibu sold for $110 million, setting a record for L.A. residential properties. The property wasn’t on the market — officially or unofficially — which in the ultra-world is not unusual. “When you have a highly qualified buyer, you tend to knock on doors, whether the house is for sale or not,” says Joyce Rey, executive director Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, whose sales over the years have established price benchmarks for the L.A. market. She says this recent sale is “a good indication of the strength of the luxury market in L.A.”


Another descriptor frequently applied to ultra prices is aspirational. Even though these properties do sell, eventual prices are often substantially less than the initial offering. Still, they set new benchmarks. In recent years, transactions shattering price thresholds include a $147 million East Hampton estate and Copper Beech, a $120 million waterfront property in Greenwich that sold in 2014. In L.A., the $100 million threshold was breached in 2016 with the sale of the former Playboy mansion.


“The sky is the limit. Once we hit the $100 million mark, we broke the glass ceiling — and we’re seeing home buyers comfortable with spending more than that,” says Rick Hilton, chairman and cofounder of Hilton & Hyland.


Continuing this year is a subtle geographic tilt toward California and Los Angeles. “People are showing a willingness to spend in the West. We’ve certainly got global wealth in New York. I think we’ve got a stronger market right now than they do in New York. Anyone who is making a lifestyle decision is going to be looking at Southern California,” says Wright.


Ultra properties built on speculation get the most media attention (who can resist writing about a candy wall or jellyfish room, one of the amenities of The One), but what sells depends on availability and the mix of buyers at a given time. “There happens to be a lot of spec homes out there at the moment. People are building these amazing houses, so they happen to be available. And they’re trading. These houses weren’t available in 2016 to the same degree,” says Gold.


Still, land and location convey the most value and the top 10 always reflect a mix of locations and property types. Gemini in Manalapan, Florida, extends from the ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway. Chartwell in Bel Air is a legendary estate with historical ties. Built in 1933 by architect Sumner Spaulding and restored by Henri Samuel, whose work includes estates owned by the Vanderbilts and the Rothschilds, Chartwell occupies 10.3 acres and is often described as the “the crown jewel of Bel Air.”

Views top the list of ultra attributes buyers consider most essential. Chartwell offers sweeping panoramas of the Pacific and downtown L.A., as do others including The One and Billionaire. 

In New York City, dynamic views are part of the value equation for ultra properties. This year, only one Manhattan property finds a place among the top. Occupying four floors in the Robert Stern-designed 220 Central Park South, the residence easily could be considered the Ultimate penthouse. The $250 million price is a record for Manhattan and few other residences have been as large.


Property sizes range from just over an acre to 65,000 acres on Mesa Vista ranch in the northeast corner of the Texas panhandles. Like many Ultimate properties over the years, this ranch has been a labor of love, husbanded over most of a lifetime. “When I began assembling the ranch 46 years ago, I initiated a multi-decade program to help the land heal and over time invested millions on wildlife management,” explains owner T. Boone Pickens. Improvements also included 20 lakes over the course of 20 miles. In addition to a 12,000-square-foot main lodge, the property includes a 33,000-square-foot lodge and several other houses, plus housing for staff. The chapel, a site for both weddings and funerals, is stunning, and a 6,000-foot runway and hangar facilitate getting there. The ranch is priced at $250 million and, according to Pickens, much of the proceeds from the sale will be directed to his foundation. The property is offered jointly by Hall and Hall, and Chas. S. Middleton and Son.


A 60-acre estate in Bridgehampton, once placed at the top of the first Ultimate list, and one-of-a-kind properties continue to be a Hamptons’ hallmark. In 2014, an 18-acre property in East Hampton sold for $147 million, setting a record for the U.S. Many of these properties offer what many consider an idyllic mix — classic estate homes and a substantial amount of land, including frontage on the ocean or a pond and the provenance. The setting for Meadow Lane in Southampton, listed by Harald Grant with Sotheby’s International, is considered a trophy location. It offers 360-degree views and extensive frontage on the Atlantic across three lots, as well as an additional bay-front lot.


Commissioned and owned by the Ford family, Jule Pond offers the largest ocean frontage in the Hamptons with nearly a quarter of a mile on the water. Listed at $175 million, it is the most expensive property for sale in the Hamptons and No. 7 on our list. A complete renovation in 2008 preserved many original features, including molded ceilings with traditional chandeliers, Italian marble fireplaces, French parquet floors and antique bathroom fixtures.


Referring to the mix of the top 10, Rey says, “I think it speaks to a variety of interests. Some people are attracted to land. Some people are attracted to architecture. Some are attracted to views.”


As always, the question hovering over the market remains what will sell next and what will be the next stratospheric price?

. . .

Where are they now? 
A look at what happened to the top of last year’s Ultimate Homes list.


$250 million
Bel Air, California

Price decreased
to $188 Million.
Now No. 6. 
$200 million
The Manor
Holmby Hills, California
No change.
Now No. 5.
$195 million
Manalapan, Florida
Price decreased
to $138.8 Million.
Now No. 10.
$175 million
Great Island
Darien, Connecticut
Off the Market.
$145 million
La Dune
Southampton, New York
Off the Market.
$140 million
Briar Patch
East Hampton, New York
Off the Market.
$137 million
Il Palmetto
Palm Beach, Florida
Off the Market.
$129 million
Palazzo di Amore
Beverly Hills, California
No change.
Now No. 12.
$110 million
The Pinnacle Penthouse
New York, New York
No change.
Now No. 13 (tied).
$100 million
Murray Compound Estate
Southampton, New York
No change.
Now No. 15.
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Private French Polynesian Island Listed for $42 Million

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


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


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


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


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


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

Photos courtesy of Hurwitz James Company

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Fabulous Finds: Construction Underway on New Los Angeles Condos

Capturing the charm of Silver Lake, Vica is a unique mixed-use real estate offering that will be the first new condominium development in the Los Angeles neighborhood in 10 years.


Vica, meaning “the life,” was developed to complement the eclectic vibe of the neighborhood and the community, according to Justin Barth, principal of Los-Angeles based developer Barth Partners. Barth, alongside Ireland’s Barry Leddy Developments, aims to fulfill the housing demands of the community and to create a living experience that articulates the style and personality of Silver Lake.


Vica is prominently located close to Hollywood and Downtown, amidst some of the most spirited coffee shops and contemporary eateries in the area. Designed by Killefer Flammang Architects, the development will boast 31 exquisite residences, as well as five penthouses, which will each feature an interior staircase that leads up to a private rooftop terrace.


Designer Laura Derland and the Loraline Design team have also created interiors that strike the perfect balance between masculine and feminine and dark and light within the communal spaces and residences.


The development’s amenities include a meditation garden, state-of-the-art fitness studio, The Lounge at Vica, a pool and spa observation deck, and a 3,000-square-foot, ground-floor retail space with unmatched outdoor dining experiences near Sunset Boulevard. Vica’s versatility makes it a standout development for an assortment of buyers, from entrepreneurs and professionals to young singles or couples.


“People longing for more connectivity with one another and the world around them will find Vica unlike any other available new living opportunity within Los Angeles,” Barth affirms. — Kristen Ordonez


Photo courtesy of Vica

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French Romance: 33-Acre Estate Inspired by France

Few estates can be considered a work of art, but arrive at the property featured on our cover and you find it takes a moment to take it all in. Ducks paddle in front of an antique millhouse next to a quarter-acre pond. Vine-covered bridges and stone paths twine among four cascading ponds. The setting is as idyllic as Monet’s gardens that inspired the landscape.


No matter where you are on this property, you are surrounded by beauty, along with blue skies and rolling mountain panoramas that comprise 360-degree views. Finding an estate so meticulously orchestrated is rare; even the hues of the roofs merge into a larger palette.


Inspired by the French Romantic period, the main house was completely reimagined three years ago when additional parcels were also acquired to transform the entire property into an ultra-private, 33-acre compound. Every finish is exquisite, superbly paired with the setting and endowing each space with a vibrant but balanced aesthetic. Even the kitchen, designed to evoke a French bistro and backed by professional chef’s kitchen, reflects the design inspiration, as do the parterre gardens and formal landscaping.


“What is especially remarkable about this property is everything you might not notice initially,” says Jordan Cohen, estate director for RE/MAX Olson and Associates in Westlake Village, who is the No. 1 RE/MAX agent in the U.S. The interplay between buildings and the land is dynamic but subtle. Off to one side lies an organic farm and orchard. From the main house, gardens and one of the two pools stretch out toward distant views. A pool house becomes the setting for an extensive spa including a Himalayan salt room. A second pool is adjacent to the 11,000-square-foot guest house.


Privacy and infrastructure were prime objectives in the creation of this property. The guard-gated entry road is part of the property and completely secure. A sagacious purchase of water rights, almost priceless in California, resulted in two municipal-quality 1,000-foot wells on the property. When viewed from the perspective of art, the $85 million offering price might be considered a bargain for a masterpiece of this magnitude. — Camilla McLaughlin


Photo courtesy of RE/MAX

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On Location: One&Only Mandarina

An hour outside Puerto Vallarta’s International Airport along the western coastal state of Nayarit, Mexico, is the future site of Mandarina, a new, exclusive resort that will feature hotel suites, one of the world’s first collections of One&Only branded residences and other world-class amenities. Unique Homes was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the site of this future resort.

Entering the site of Mandarina is like stepping directly into a tropical jungle, surrounded by the sounds of native creatures and the crashing waves along the Pacific coast. The road leading toward Mandarina is outlined by plots of farmland owned by local farmers from the region. Fields of fruits and vegetables dictate the way, the spikes of the rising pineapple plants standing tall like knights in verdant green armor. Even taller than the pineapples are the amazing mountains that serve as the natural border of the valley, as well as a nature sanctuary for hundreds of jaguars, a nationally protected animal of Mexico.

Up through the mountains, we walk through an almost prehistoric forest with deep-rooted trees that stretch high into the jungle canopy. This area, a soon-to-be Kid’s Club, will host educational programming for children and families to learn about nature, geography and history with the inclusion of tribal markings on stones throughout the mountains. Eventually we make our way to The Point, a high ridge on one of the main mountains and the future site of an adult-only destination on the resort with exquisite indoor-outdoor dining experiences. From here the entire landscape is laid out perfectly in front of us, from the Jetty that will extend in front of the One&Only Majahua Beach Club for residents to harbor and set off on sea-faring endeavors. On the one-mile stretch of beachfront between the One&Only and Rosewood resorts will be the Canalan Beach Club with a beachside swimming pool and casual dining.
“It is very rare to find a landscape with so many unique and diverse ecosystems,” says our host Ricardo Santa Cruz, RSC president and CEO. RSC Development was enlisted by RHL Properties to oversee the sales of the developments on Mandarina, including the collection of One&Only Private Homes and Rosewood Mandarina residences.
“Mandarina was shaped thousands of years ago by a long-dormant volcano, creating dramatic cliffs amongst a dense rainforest, long stretches of sandy, swimmable beaches, flatlands and a natural estuary all in one place.” Juan Bremer, deputy CEO of RHL Properties, notes that one of the resort’s most unique and exceptional offerings is the world-class Polo and Equestrian Club that will sit within the flatlands of the property. “Capturing the equestrian spirit that is deeply rooted in Mexican culture, Mandarina’s facility will be a place where riders of all ages will gather, learn, practice and compete,” says Bremer.

Top photo: Rendering of Majahua Beach Club; Bottom photo: Rendering of The Jetty.

Apart from certain sections of the site that are already under construction, a large part of the property is waiting to be developed, which according to Santa Cruz will be done in stages, coinciding with the sales of the 55 One&Only Private Homes. Santa Cruz has been working and negotiating with citizens and authorities within the region for more than 10 years to acquire the land for Mandarina, an endeavor that has formed a closer relationship between Mandarina and the local towns along the coast. These relationships are a deeper reflection of RHL and RSC’s focus on the land and keeping the resort and residences as authentic to the region as possible.

Authenticity was a main priority to Santa Cruz and the development team, so much so that the resort’s amenities consistently reference the land’s history and natural beauty. For example, the fertile plots of farmland lining the road to the property will offer locally grown produce for a farm-to-table experience at the restaurants at The Point and beach clubs.

“We have set out to create a destination that is at once, respectful of the past and mindful of the future,” Santa Cruz affirms. “Through careful, very low-density land planning, Mandarina will preserve the topography, native flora, wildlife and ecosystems that currently thrive here.”

Rendering of the lounge area of The Plateau.

The architect of Mandarina, Rick Joy of Rick Joy Architects, has had a hand in every meticulous detail throughout the design process to ensure this sense of authenticity, with climate responsibility and landscape sensitivity also in mind. “At Mandarina, the design stems from a detailed site analysis, investigating the geology, climate, views, availability of local materials and ‘the building culture of place.’ The result is architecture that is at one with the site and its heritage,” says Santa Cruz.

Renderings from the One&Only Mandarina villas.

In Mandarina, every terrain you set foot on and every view your eyes capture is different from the next, a variety that is not only unique but engaging. RHL and RSC understand the need for unique experiences and tailored luxury and aim to prove with One&Only Mandarina how to engage not only in luxury, but with the physical world around us.

Top left photo: Rendering of One&Only Mandarina villa ; Bottom left photo: Rendering of the Plateua ; Right photo: Rendering of The Point.

All images courtesy Hayes Davidson and Mandarina.

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Austin Architects embrace eccentricity and dynamism

The Lone Star State’s forward-thinking, artsy capital has its own distinct personality, one that fuels imaginative residential architecture.

By Roger Grody

Photo courtesy of Patrick Wong/Atelierwong.com

Austin is unlike any other city in Texas, and its residents proudly embrace an eccentric, defiant attitude. A vibrant music scene, progressive politics, trendsetting cuisine, and a technology-driven economy make this metro area of two million one of America’s most dynamic. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Austin has developed its own exciting architectural traditions.

Kevin Alter, founding partner of Alterstudio Architecture and the Sid W. Richardson Centennial Professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin, suggests the city is developing a strong tradition of modernism. He reports that 20 years ago there was little interest in the movement, but modern architecture’s ability to connect to the outdoors — it suits the region’s scenic Hill Country nearly year round — has endeared it to Austinites. He also cites attitudes of new residents from other regions of the country (Alter himself is a transplanted New Yorker), the draw of UT and a growing technology industry presence as fueling modern design.

“There are a lot of very good architects in the city, given its relatively small size,” says Alter, asserting there is more interesting residential architecture in Austin than in the giant metropolises of Houston and Dallas. “There’s also a youthful optimism in Austin, so people aren’t looking back in history for inspiration.” Contrasting Austin to more traditional, less architecturally tolerant cities, Alter suggests, “Because of that optimism, there’s not a ‘looking-over-your-shoulder’ mentality here for property owners interested in building modern residences.”   

Photo courtesy of Paul Finkel

Real estate broker Brian Linder is a licensed architect and founder of The Value of Architecture, a multi-city network of real estate professionals specializing in architecturally significant homes.

After establishing that niche in Los Angeles, Linder expanded his practice to Austin, appreciating both its family-friendly lifestyle and wealth of exceptional architecture. “Buyers here are willing to pay a significant premium for homes designed by signature architects,” says Linder.

The specialty broker reports one the most desirable neighborhoods in Austin is the trendy South Congress (SoCo) district, where the original housing stock is being replaced with exciting modern architecture. “The area is popular with urban expats from cities like New York, San Francisco and L.A., and buyers are taking their accrued appreciation from those places and investing in good design,” says Linder.

Representative of the top architectural firms in town are Bercy Chen Studio, Jay Hargrave Architecture, Chioco Design, and Minguell-McQuary Architecture.

Austin architects, according to Linder, soften the sometimes austere modernism found in L.A., noting their work emphasizes texture through incorporation of native materials. “Elements like site-gathered stone and reclaimed lumber or brick add a more human scale defined by those materials,” he says. While modernism is becoming the city’s preferred style, there is also ample demand for contemporary farmhouses, a theme promoted by local developers.

One of the priciest current listings in Austin is a striking modern home encompassing 5,400 square feet of living space, offered at $8.5 million. The design, from prominent local firm Dick Clark + Associates, features panoramic views of the city skyline through 60 feet of retractable floor-to-ceiling glass in a living area that opens onto an infinity-edge pool.

Offering a distinctly different lifestyle is a 558-square-foot penthouse-level condominium at the Seaholm Residences in downtown Austin, listed at $399,000. Built on the site of a former power plant, this project helped energize demand for high-rise living in Austin and The Independent, designed locally by Rhode: Partners, will be the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi when completed. Professor Alter reports that as recently as 2005, investment in downtown condominiums was anemic, but young professionals now arriving in town relish the city center.

“We want to make sure we create spaces that fit our clients, beyond aesthetic or stylistic preferences, beyond basic function,” says Sean Guess, founding principal of the Austin firm Faye and Walker. While he does not view his work as reflecting a particular signature, Guess is among those talented young architects contributing to Austin’s evolution as a city increasingly identified with modern design.

“I tend to focus on the essence of a form, stripping away extraneous information, and carve out spaces from those fundamental forms,” says Guess. Raised in nearby Temple, Texas, Guess suggests that despite Austin’s reputation as the Lone Star State’s least-Texas place, the city’s spirit of risk-taking and independence — certainly reflected in its architecture — is very much the product of the Texas ethos.

“This is a very eclectic community that attracts a great variety of people and backgrounds, which results in creativity and diversity in its architecture,” says Guess of Austin. Among the architect’s acclaimed projects is the home he designed for his own family, dubbed the “Elephant House” because its wrinkled grey corrugated fiber-cement facade is evocative of elephant hide. Some interior walls are clad in clear-coated plywood, making Guess’ novel use of everyday materials reminiscent of Frank Gehry’s early work.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Wong/Atelierwong.com

“I appreciate modern architecture that reflects tasteful, principled design,” says Linder, who is less inspired by facsimiles of Tuscan villas. He is kept increasingly busy in the Texas capital, as Austin’s exceptional architects work overtime to meet demand from buyers with a passion for innovative residential environments.

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An "Off-Market World": Reflecting on Real Estate Changes since 2008

The practice is not new, but the frequency and acceptance of pocket listings has grown.

By Camilla McLaughlin

Off market … private listing … coming soon. These phrases in high-priced markets characterize properties offered for sale, but not publicly listed in the traditional manner in the MLS. The way these listings are perceived has changed significantly in the last 10 years.

Even after the advent of formalized platforms such as the MLS, the most expensive properties were often closely held, giving rise to the term “hip-pocket” listing. Traditionally, in the industry, pocket listings have evoked concern that unscrupulous agents would keep them in house and pocket the entire commission.

Post recession, the number of pocket listings seemed to increase exponentially; most in the industry remained skeptical. Today, the terms “off-market” or “private” listing are often used instead of pocket, and, in a number of places, it is becoming an acceptable — some would even say savvy — marketing strategy.

“Now I’ve noticed it’s really changed and it’s a lot more accepted,” says Patrick Ryan, senior vice president and managing broker, Related Realty, Chicago.

“It’s certainly become a very big part of our market, and it’s not something we’re necessarily driving. We’re being led by what the sellers want,” says Chris Dyson with The Agency in Beverly Hills.

In a survey of members conducted by the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM) for Unique Homes, an overwhelming majority, 97 percent of agents responding, said private listings were part of their market. A third indicated there were only “a few,” while 17 percent saw it as a growing trend.

“As I travel around the country training agents from a variety of other states, I hear differing opinions,” says Florida agent Tami Simms with Coastal Properties Group International in St. Petersburg, who is also a trainer for the Institute. “In some markets, it works in a positive way, and in some markets, it’s considered to be underhanded.”

In the ILHM survey, 38 percent of respondents agreed that industry professionals looked more
favorably on off-market listings. About a quarter disagreed with this statement, while 35 percent neither agreed or disagreed.

The latest twist in off-market properties are platforms and professional networks, accessible only to licensed agents, designed to facilitate the sharing of information. The Top Agent Network, a national affiliation of agents in the top 10 percent of the market, is a forum for premier agents to exchange information. Additionally, networks formed just to publicize off-market properties are popping up in hot market cities such as Austin.

In August, several agents from The Agency in Beverly Hills launched thepls.com, the Private Listing Network. In little more than six months, the network claims 600 active listings worth $3 billion. Approximately 5,000 agents have signed on to the service. “Information shared on the platform is information they already email to one another on a daily basis,” says Dyson, who founded the network along with James Harris and Mauricio Umansky of The Agency.

“We have always had off-market activity. However, I think it is even greater right now,” says Meghan Bach with Colorado Landmark, Realtors in Boulder. Not only have they become more common, but there is greater acceptance among consumers. “People used to think they were Realtor-driven and that the listing agent was trying to double-end the sale. This is very much not the case today. It is seller-driven,” says Bach.

Ask agents about off-market practices and responses vary by location. In Palm Springs, Lucio Bernal with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage says, “We typically do not see off-market as being common in the valley. Privacy does not seem to be an apparent issue here.”

On the other hand, in Los Angeles’ platinum locales, Bob Hurwitz, founder and president of Hurwitz James Company, says, “Off market, a.k.a. pocket listings, have become so popular that the terms are basically oxymorons. It is frankly ludicrous.”

Technology also plays a role in this trend. “There have always been pocket listings, but it’s a little more evident now because of our electronic world and the fact that information is so immediate and widespread. The truth is if a house is of any substance, it generally doesn’t remain private,” says Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.

Lack of inventory is also boosting interest in private listings. Boulder has seen 10-plus percent appreciation year-over-year since 2013; demand still far exceeds inventory. “Good products fly off the shelf, so having a pocket that brokers chat about, and get under contract fairly hassle-free is ideal for sellers, particularly in the high end,” says Bach.

In Atlanta, Jaime Turner and Heather Armstrong with Engel & Völkers find, “The shortage of inventory is worrisome to both buyers and sellers. Sellers are hesitant to list and sell without an identified home to move to. By using an off-the-market strategy, sellers are able to command a price that gives them the comfort of selling while they look for a home to purchase. Buyers like it because they feel like they are getting ahead of the curve and are able to see a home that has limited showings. It has also been a good tool for us because when we have a seller that is concerned with finding a home, we utilize our agent connections and resources to locate the right home for our seller.”

For properties not in a luxury price bracket, off-market might not be the right route. “In the lower end, anything below $1.5 million in our market, coming to market creates a bidding war and advantageous sales prices for sellers. The higher end, $2.5 million and up, sells word of mouth and pretty close to where initially priced,” says Bach. Even for high-end properties, she says, “I do see huge value in coming to the market and being broadly online. That said, when there are privacy issues — divorce, job transitions, health issues — off market makes so much sense.”

Desire for privacy remains a major incentive for sellers. According to research from Luxury Portfolio International, privacy has never been more important to wealthy consumers who are also concerned about identity theft.

This desire has fueled an increase in requests from high-end sellers asking agents to privately market their homes. “Sellers actually demand it more than a Realtor suggests it to them,” explains Ryan. “They don’t want to be bothered with people just going through the house. They don’t want it to be a museum tour, so they instruct agents to be strategic and not make property information available to the public.”

Some contend not being available to the general market potentially enhances a home’s cachet. “A lot of buyers want something that they officially can’t have. Anyone that can essentially offer something that not everyone else can have, has a unique value in itself,” says James Harris. “The reality is the less you can tell people, the more exclusive it becomes, and the more people want it.”

But restricting information about a property to a limited audience is not without risk. “It’s a two-edged sword for sellers,” says Rey. “Is privacy worth getting less money for their home? If they do not get wide exposure, they may not be getting the best price.” “It also defies logic,” says Hurwitz. “The more qualified buyers who can find a property, the more likely a sale. If a property is not visible to agents with a qualified buyer, they aren’t going to know about it and will sell something else they can find.”

“I also hear a variety of opinions. Some sellers like the idea of avoiding showings, open houses, etc. (for privacy and convenience) if they can get a price they’re happy with without listing on the open market. The opposing argument tends to be that not offering it on the open market isn’t working in the best interest of the customer if there could be better terms/conditions in a wider pool of prospective buyers,” says Simms.

Even those who express concern about this approach recognize there are situations in which not being on public platforms is a strategic move. Hurwitz has used pocked listings on rare occasions for celebrity clients who wish to remain as anonymous as possible.

“Sometimes certain types of clients are not really comfortable having lots of people come see a property,” says agent Jennifer Ames with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago. In instances like this, Ames says she will do a marketing campaign directly to agents who work in this price bracket. Invitation-only previews of big, exclusive properties are a traditional avenue to publicize properties.   

Luxury properties often take significantly longer to sell than those priced close to the median.
According to research from Concierge Auctions, average days on market for the highest-priced properties in top markets hovers around 522 days, ranging from 55 days in San Francisco to 1,062 in Nashville.

Once a home is listed on the MLS the clock begins ticking on the number of days on market. “The way the market works in the U.S., if you go on the market everything has to become public. Not just the price and the address, but the days on market. The longer a property is on the market, the more detrimental it becomes for the property,” explains Harris.

Being on the MLS opens the door to inclusion on public platforms including Zillow, Trulia and many others. Along with days on market, changes in photography, prices, and broker representation are all tracked. “We’ve started to realize more and more with the Internet, you want to have all your ducks in a row before going on the MLS,” says Ryan.

“Coming soon” has become an official category incorporated into a growing number of MLS systems. “We see a lot of Coming Soon strategy as opposed to off market in Florida,” says Simms. “I believe that the off-market approach is more appropriate for properties that are particularly expensive and/or unique, which would likely end up having a tremendous number of days on the market if listed traditionally.

Initially offering a property off market is considered an effective method to test a price. “If you are trying to get a very aggressive number for your house, you may want to start off market to test the price,” says Harris. Agents also use this strategy when an owner has a much higher price in mind than the market will likely accept.

“It’s a way to test the market without going on record,” says Ames. Another circumstance that could call for an interval of off-market strategy, she says, is a situation where owners don’t actually plan to move for months, but still want to give the property exposure.

In the pre-Internet era, agents relied on phone calls to agents who worked in similar price brackets. But, “you could only call so many people and network so much,” shares Ryan. Today, robust CRM systems give agents a laser focus on most-likely buyers. Additionally, national brands and affiliate groups promote networking among agents both nationally and internationally.

More formalized networks and platforms such as thepls.com are a way for agents to keep track of what’s available. For example, in Los Angeles, agents might receive hundreds of emails a week regarding off-market properties. “The PLS is essentially a place where agents can put information, so it can be searched when another agent needs it. That was really the motivation behind it,” says Dyson.

Tried and true methods to ensure those who work in luxury are aware of new listings, both off-market and publicly listed, remain the most important marketing tools, particularly for well connected agents.

Will the penchant for private listings continue if markets cool? While blockchain reduce reliance on the MLS? Both questions point to variables that could affect the off-market trend in the future.

The “Market Maker”

“Market maker” is the way Robert Dankner characterizes what he does. Dankner, president of Prime Manhattan Residential, takes off-market to the next level by finding and creating opportunities for buyers and sellers in tight markets in New York City. “There are a lot of people looking for the same thing that doesn’t exist, which is why they’re all creating things for themselves,” he says referring to the boom in renovations.

Dankner sees market potential others often overlook and is equally skilled at bringing clients —buyers and/or sellers — together, crafting a deal advantageous to both. “In my world, off-market is something that not everybody can do. In addition to obviously being extremely well connected, you have to have a memory like a computer because as things arise on both sides of the equation, you have to be able to mix and match very quickly to see what can be put together. It’s just a matter of having the resources and tools to know where and how to hunt. There’s no algorithm, no smoking gun. It’s just a matter of understanding every nook and cranny from the standpoint of things that used to be on the market or understanding through connections who, what, why and where somebody might be willing to part with something under the right conditions.”

Photos courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

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This is the 14th year the editors of Unique Homes have published Ultimate Homes. Our comprehensive list of every property for sale in the U.S. for at least $25 million starts on page 48 of our recent Ultimate edition, and remains the only of its kind. Below, you will find a list of the top 10 most expensive properties featured on this year’s list — starting with a $500 million estate in Bel Air, California and ending with a $138.8 million in Manalapan, Florida.

Explore the 2018 Ultimate list here!


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