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Mass Appeal

In Massachusetts, Realtors report strong buyer interest in prime waterfront markets.

By Samantha Myers

A classic Edgartown home with one of the only sandy beaches on the harbor recently sold for $12 million. (Wallace & Co. Sotheby's International Realty)

A classic Edgartown home with one of the only sandy beaches on the harbor recently sold for $12 million. (Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty)

Martha’s Vineyard
Throughout Martha’s Vineyard, agents are reporting strong sales. “2015 was a record-breaking year as far as total dollar volumes in sales,” says Alyssa Dubin, of Wallace & Co. “It was one of the highest we’ve seen, and 2016 is shaping up to be similar. First quarter sales were similar to 2015, but we’ve seen a steady surge of activity.”
“We have an unusual market here on the Vineyard in that you have our low end around a couple hundred thousand and the high end is around $20 million-plus,” says Deb Hancock of Hancock Real Estate. According to the agents, it’s a buyers market, but the higher end of the market is in favor of the seller. “Buyer’s are savvy. They can wait and find a property that’s priced right,” says Dubin.
Hancock explains how Martha’s Vineyard’s market remains resilient. “We have great diversity. We’re 108 square miles, and the 6 separate island towns are all very unique in their own right. Most buyers have an idea of what area they want to buy in, before they start.”
Although there has been a recent influx of international buyers, U.S. families are predominant, especially ones that have a relationship to the island. “It’s a generational meeting place for a lot of families. We see buyers wanting large homes and compounds to accommodate multiple generations,” says Dubin.
Recently, construction on the island has been surging, and vacant lots are being sold to accommodate building projects. Dubin saw 7.8 acres of land sell for $3.8 million, and Hancock sold a 20-acre parcel in Chilmark with panoramic views of the water for $5.5 million.
“Rentals are very busy, and that’s usually a good sign of sales,” says Dubin. “Those renters turn into
buyers because they fall in love.”
This waterfront Edgartown Harbor mansion sold in 2015 for $22 million. (Hancock Real Estate)

This waterfront Edgartown Harbor mansion sold in 2015 for $22 million. (Hancock Real Estate)

Cape Cod
In Cape Cod, it’s no surprise that waterfront properties dominate the higher spectrum of the luxury price range. “A house on the water, with a beautiful beach or a deep-water dock could be priced at $10 million, and the exact same house across the street could easily be half that price,” says Paul Grover of Robert Paul Properties.
“There’s not a lot of inventory for properties on the lower end of the price point. As for the high-end luxury market, this is our prime time for that,” Grover explains. He says the market quiets down mid-summer, but gets busy again after Labor Day. “Summer houses go on the market after people spend their last summer there, so our inventory is up in September.”
On more than 28 acres, this West Tisbury estate sold for $3.12 million. (Wallace & Co. Sotheby's International Realty)

On more than 28 acres, this West Tisbury estate sold for $3.12 million. (Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty)

As for Nantucket, Gary Winn from Maury People Sotheby’s International Realty explains the market’s growth from previous years. “We are way ahead from last year, and I expect that trend to keep going and, if so, it might be one of our best years yet.” He adds, “Last year’s average price was $2.113 million and the average sale right now is lower at $1.896 million, but that’s because it’s early in the season.”
According to Winn, antique houses in town built in the 1700s and 1800s are protected from the ongoing construction that the island is seeing, whereas newer and more modern homes are replacing the properties built outside town from the 1950s to 1970s. “People buy here because it’s an island, and when you’ve gone to Nantucket, you feel like you’ve actually gone somewhere.”
Listed at $2.395 million, this Main Street home on Nantucket Sound in Cotuit recently sold. (Robert Paul Properties)

Listed at $2.395 million, this Main Street home on Nantucket Sound in Cotuit recently sold. (Robert Paul Properties)

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Riding the Technology Wave

Tech-savvy Erin Alls makes every transaction about the client, earning her a loyal following in L.A.’s dynamic Silicon Beach.

By Roger Grody



When the New York firm of Maison International opened an office in Los Angeles, Vice President/Broker Erin Alls brought her considerable expertise to the West Coast. Based in coastal Marina del Rey, the office has emerged as the top resource for luxury buyers in Silicon Beach, where established tech giants and innovative startups are changing the economic landscape.
Alls was born into the real estate industry and spent summer vacations working on her father’s investment properties, even assisting in the physical renovation of rental units. “It’s incredibly tough work, especially for a young woman, but really builds character,” she admits.
After graduating from Concord University with a degree in Communication Arts, Alls attended film school in New York and worked briefly in the entertainment industry before turning her experience in real estate into a career. She joined Maison International in 2003 and quickly became, and remained, the company’s top producer.
“I realized after my first couple of deals how much I loved the practice of real estate, and now I wake up every day feeling blessed to be successful in this industry,” says the accomplished agent. Alls, who has a particular affinity for negotiating deals on behalf of clients, adds, “If you have a passion for what you do, whatever that might be, it puts you on track to be successful.”
In her current practice, especially in the Silicon Beach area, Alls’ clients are naturally tech-savvy, but so is she. Alls received her first Apple computer at age 8, now maintains an active Twitter feed and has branded her practice by securing highly effective URLs such as “They are very educated about the process and know how to research independently,” she says of successful tech entrepreneur buyers. “With advances in technology, brokers are no longer the gatekeepers of listings,” claims Alls. “The way I describe it is that we have become more like shepherds than gatekeepers.”
Alls’ practice extends beyond Silicon Beach to include pricey coastal enclaves like Rolling Hills Estates, Pacific Palisades and Malibu, and naturally involves a celebrity clientele. According to the Los Angeles Times, she represented rapper Ice Cube for the purchase of a waterfront home owned by action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme earlier this year, reputedly setting a record price for a Marina del Rey property. Many of Alls’ high-net-worth clients are celebrities, and she is sought out not only for her expertise, but also her discretion.
Describing her style of building broker-client relationships, Alls reports, “I always try to listen more than I speak, allowing them to tell me what their needs are.” Although welcoming the efficiencies technology has brought to her industry, the broker laments, “The only drawback is that we have less one-on-one time with clients, so I make it a point to schedule some face time at least once a week.”
After living in high-energy New York, the transition to Southern California was initially challenging, but Alls now appreciates the more laid-back lifestyle, superior weather and access to the outdoors. Naturally, the needs of L.A. clients are distinct from those of their New York counterparts, but Alls focuses more on what they have in common. “Their needs may be different, but buying and selling a house is always a huge emotional investment, and I try to be sensitive to that,” she says. “The biggest difference is that in L.A. people return a phone call three days later, while in New York they call you back three hours later,” jokes Maison International’s L.A. chief.
Alls and her husband, a prominent Brazilian broadcast journalist, reside on the beach in Marina del Rey, enjoying traveling and hiking in their spare time.
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Cover Showcase

455 Sunnyside Lane

By Kirsten Niper



Nestled amongst the trees on a picturesque hillside, in the exclusive McLain Flats neighborhood on 4.9 acres of private land, the estate “Sunnyside Ridge” is surrounded by breathtaking panoramic mountain scenery. Designed by leading architect, John Galambos, the house and its unique features enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, while the estate offers modern mountain comfort, incorporating leading- edge technology and unparalleled amenities. Fully furnished and move-in ready, this luxury property is not only the cover of this year’s Ultimate issue, at $36 million it is one of the 10 top offerings in Colorado.
The floor plan is king; the developer spent months refining the layout. The result: Sunnyside Ridge feels intimate, despite its 14,000 square feet of living space. With grand entertaining rooms, including a theater, indoor pool and spa, a full outdoor kitchen, plus another pool and spa, entertaining is made easy and your family and friends will never be bored.
Bob Bowden, whose company, Bowden Properties, has the listing for the “mountain modern” home, highlights the indoor pool/ spa/gym/massage room as his favorite area of the home.
The residence is distinctive in Aspen, according to Bowden, because of its combination of year-round water access, amazing views and “the best floor plan and truly modern finish package. It is irreplaceable in the Aspen market,” he shares.
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$1.514 Billion

That’s how much it would cost to buy each of the 10 most expensive properties. A $100 million home is not even enough to crack this year’s top 10.

By Camilla McLaughlin


The Playboy Mansion

Asking prices in this uncharted terrain might seem to be simply wishful thinking or a grab for publicity, but when viewed over the span of 11 years, an undeniable progression in both list prices and sale prices is obvious.
When Ultimate Homes debuted in 2005, the most expensive home for sale in the U.S. was $75 million and the prospect of a $200 million home seemed fanciful. Yet, little more than a decade later, the $200 million listing in the U.S. is a reality, and, according to most indicators, the $200 million club is here to stay.
Last year, an opulent Beverly Hills Estate asking $195 million, a price that gave even seasoned brokers pause, flirted with the $200 million ceiling. This year, two properties at or close to this benchmark lead the list of most expensive. The Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills is listed at $200 million while an extensive ocean-to-Intracoastal estate in Manalapan, Florida, is priced at $195 million. More than half of the top 10 are at $150 million or more, and the ante to be among the top group is in excess of $100 million.
“All you need to do is have one property sell at a stratospheric rate and it pushes the ceiling up,” explains Paul Boomsma, president, Luxury Portfolio International and COO, LeadingRE. “When you have some of these uber-wealthy families, and they’re either global dignitaries or oil money or wherever it’s coming from, as soon as they make one purchase, it kind of signals what the new mainstay is for pricing.”
Just as this issue was going to press, a recently constructed estate at 301 Carolwood Drive near Holmby Hills came on the market priced at $150 million. “We are very excited about the opportunity with the new $150 million listing from our California company,” observed Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury, Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “The interest is certainly there for the ultra-high-end. While the numbers remain few at this level, last year gave us a sign of the interest in the $100 million-plus market globally, and the U.S. was in that mix.”
This year the ultra-world and potentially softening demand in Manhattan sparked wide ranging discussions about the implications of stratospheric prices and their impact on the market overall. What is often overlooked is just how gossamer thin this slice of real estate is. The best characterization came from John Tuccillo, former chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, who used the term sui generis, which means “unique” or “of its own kind,” to describe the ultra-market. When prices begin to exceed $50 million, value is difficult to determine. Comparables, sales records, and other object measurements applied to the general market aren’t available.
When research for the first Ultimate Homes began, lists touting the most expensive didn’t exist. No one was really sure what price point would usher in the top 850 homes for sale in the U.S. Seventy-five million dollars ended up being the top price, while $7.8 million, a figure that would not even elicit a blink in a few locales today, was the bottom benchmark. Over the years, we’ve enhanced the process but still meticulously search properties all over the country. Today, you might see similar lists, but most skim the surface, cherry picking the most publicized properties. For Ultimate Homes this year, $20 million continues to be the jumping off point for the ultra-high-end.
Prices spark media interest, but the properties themselves are the stars. Each is remarkable and usually has a story all its own, even new construction. In New York, notable buildings that once made their own statement about the city are being converted into residential towers, setting new standards for urban luxury. Built as the tallest building in the world, the Woolworth Building remains a striking icon. Under the baton of French designer Thierry Despont, the top 30 floors have been reimagined into 34 condominium residences. Original architectural details have been elevated with refined cabinetry and finishes and 15-foot ceilings. Capping the building is a seven-story penthouse reportedly priced at $110 million. Also in Manhattan, according to reputable reports, a $150 million triplex penthouse is being added to the refocused former Sony Building.
This year, legendary estates, some with a provenance that goes back generations, dominate our Ultimate list. Owned by just three families in its 80-year history, Briar Patch, an 11-acre compound on Georgica Pond in East Hampton, is on the National Register of Historic Places, a first for the Ultimate top 10. Two residences, including the Georgian Revival, six-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot main house, were painstakingly restored and renovated over two-and-a-half years by the internationally renowned architect Peter Marino.
Gemini, located in Manalapan, Florida, and our second Ultimate property, was designed by architect Marion Sims Wyeth and built in the 1940s for the Lambert pharmaceutical family. Later it was the winter retreat of Loel and Gloria Guinness. In 2003, architect Edson E. Dailey completed a total transformation of the property, reconstructing and expanding the entire residence, which also was well engineered to withstand the elements. According to Premier Estate Properties — which has the listing — there is nothing like it in southeast Florida.
This year’s top property might be known as the Playboy Mansion, but it was a significant estate long before Hugh Hefner discovered it. “It’s been special since the beginning,” says Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland in Beverly Hills, who has the listing along with Mauricio Umansky of The Agency. “Even if it wasn’t the Playboy Mansion, it still would be one of the most desirable and valuable estate sites anywhere,” he says, noting, The Wall Street Journal described its location as the best street west of the Mississippi.
Rancho San Carlos ©JIM BARTSCH

Rancho San Carlos

The original property was created by the developer of Holmby Hills, who reserved a prime location on the north course of the Beverly Hills Country Club for his own residence. The 5-acre site is one of the largest in Holmby Hills. “At the time Hef and Playboy purchased the home, it was the largest real estate transaction in Los Angeles history,” adds Gold. “Today, we hope to make the same history with the property and its sprawling acreage, neighboring the Los Angeles Country Club.”
“It’s almost shocking that you could buy such a thing. It’s like buying the White House,” Gold says. It’s not uncommon for someone viewing the property to have been a guest at one time, but viewing it as a potential purchase is entirely different. Gold says, “When they go there to look at the real estate, it’s a whole other experience. You realize how large the property is and how epic the house, and then you come across the tennis courts and the pool.” The effect of driving up the long private drive (a rarity in Holmby Hills) and arriving at the massive stone residence is, in Gold’s words, “monumental.” Few other homes in the area share this architectural style, which evokes classic East Coast Beaux-Arts. Spend some time here and you eventually find secret spots like a redwood forest, or meet the rare tropical birds. This is also one of the few properties in Los Angeles County with a zoo license.
Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is Rancho San Carlos, which has been in the same family for nearly 100 years. It is one of the most historic period homes still in private hands, according to Harry Kolb with Sotheby’s International Realty in Montecito, California, who is listing the property with Suzanne Perkins, also with Sotheby’s. And the amount of land, 237 acres that cascades down the foothills of Montecito and offers panoramic vistas across the valley, is considerable. Rancho San Carlos was designed in 1931 by one of the preeminent architects of that era, Reginald Johnson, and stands as one of the most significant estates in California. With more than 30 rooms, the Monterey Colonial manor house is over 25,000 square feet. Johnson made ingenious use of the natural slope and contours of the lot by placing the bedroom wings and the public spaces on different levels and connecting them with a barrel vaulted central gallery. Not all, but many, Ultimate homes have a secret space or asset tucked away. At Rancho San Carlos it is an authentic English pub accessed from a secret hallway.
Just the size of the property alone makes it significant. “It’s an enormous piece of ground where most properties in the $50 million range are anywhere from 5 to 15 acres. It has panoramic views, and it has 30 legal parcels. That is unheard of here,” shares Kolb. Views extend to the ocean and the compound includes 10 residential cottages, extensive horse facilities, and producing orchards.
Land is still the fundamental that determines value, and every home this year is sited on a piece of land in a highly desirable location that would be almost (if not) impossible to acquire today. Owlwood sits on one of the largest parcels in Holmby Hills. Ann Dashiell with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Beverly Hills, who has the listing, compares it to having Central Park in Holmby Hills. The estate is the result of the combination of three storied properties, including the Sony and Cher estate, which set a price record decades ago. The villa, designed by noted Los Angeles architect Robert Farquhar, is surrounded by 10 acres of lawns, giant oaks, magnolias, coral trees, and Moreton’s figs.
The size of this parcel is especially appealing to foreign buyers. Families coming from overseas are looking for a compound and want to build additional homes on the property, according to Dashiell. Also appealing to foreign buyers is privacy, and Owlwood offers the ultimate for privacy with a single guard-gated entry from a privately owned street that is part of the property. Easily, like many Ultimate homes, it could be viewed as a private island.
Private islands long have been viewed as real estate’s ultimate prize. Although none of the properties in the top 10 this year are completely surrounded by water, it’s not an overstatement to say that each of our top properties — whether a penthouse surfing Central Park and the Manhattan skyline or a classic estate encircled by acres of green like Owlwood — could be viewed as an island. Two, however, are waterfront; each occupying a desired stretch of coastline. Gemini is a 15.65-acre walled compound just outside of Palm Beach in Manalapan that is a lush oasis of old Florida. Dune-fringed beachfront along the Atlantic runs 1,200 feet and another 1,300 feet spans along the Intracoastal in a place where it almost forms a natural bay. The coral-clad main residence is elegant yet invitingly informal and surprisingly livable. It is comprised of two large wings on both the ocean and Intracoastal sides connected by a unique and irreproducible 15-foot-wide passageway that begins at ground level on one side and ends in a skylit foyer on the other. The property includes a PGA-standard golf practice area, a freshwater pond that creates a bird sanctuary, a miniature golf course, and a butterfly garden with a large-scale model train. The two large guest houses each have a high level of privacy.
Farther south in Hillsboro Beach is a second waterfront estate that also runs from ocean to Intracoastal. The 4.4-acre site includes 465 feet on the ocean and 492 feet on Intracoastal, with two docks for a 200-foot yacht. Construction was completed, and the property was reintroduced this year as Le Chateau de Versailles and priced at $159 million.
In the last decade, expectations regarding what makes a home worthy of being considered Ultimate have changed, and this property showcases the seamless integration of technology with gorgeous finishes. Extensive amenities include two 200-foot docks, an ice skating rink, and the first residential IMAX theater in the world.
Views fetch top-dollar today, and the ultimate view property might be a $135 million Beverly Hills estate created for the late comedian and actor Danny Thomas. Set on 2.5 acres on a secluded promontory in the coveted Trousdale Estates enclave, it commands 360-degree views of the entire L.A. basin from downtown to the canyons. The John Aaroe Group has this listing.
With several more ultra-properties in the works, it’s quite possible next year could bring a new record high. Even more interesting would be a record-setting sale. But don’t hold your breath. Sales at this level are “usually a lengthy process because you have a limited pool of buyers,” says Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Previews International in Beverly Hills, whose sales have set numerous price records. “Plus, unlike most sellers, owners of these homes have the luxury of waiting for the right price.”


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In Closing

The New First Class

By Roger Grody

Photo courtesy of Sergey Petrossov


Sergey Petrossov is making private jets more accessible through JetSmerter, the Uber for jet-setters.
Long reserved for Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrities, traveling by private jet is suddenly becoming more accessible to the masses, thanks to an innovative blend of technology and aviation called JetSmarter. The tireless energy of 27-year-old Sergey Petrossov, the company’s founder, Chairman and CEO, has fueled remarkable growth of JetSmarter since its initial launch in 2012.
With the JetSmarter application installed on your smartphone, ordering a private jet for a business or leisure flight is as easy as arranging an Uber trip across town. Like Uber, the company’s growth has been astonishing, with 15-20 percent user growth per month since its inception.
Born in Moscow but raised in South Florida, Petrossov was recently recognized in Forbes’ elite “30 Under 30” roster in the consumer technology category. Prior to founding JetSmarter, he created two other IT ventures, one a website customer service chat system, the other a distance-learning platform for Russian-speaking educational institutions. His service as a board advisor to a South Florida private jet operator — at the time it was the largest on-demand charter fleet of Gulfstream aircraft — introduced Petrossov to an industry desperate for innovation. It inspired him to use his technology expertise to improve the current system of booking a private jet, which he knew from personal experience was obsolete.
“JetSmarter is a technology company at heart, not an aviation company, as we don’t own any private jets,” says Petrossov, explaining that his company partners with operators around the world to provide customers access to more than 3,200 aircraft. Through the JetSmarter app, the company offers instant pricing and availability for private jets around the globe, allowing users to book flights themselves, directly through their smartphones. “It’s a unique business model, unlike any other private jet venture,” insists Petrossov, who adds, “JetSmarter is the only private travel service company to operate by way of an innovative app technology.”


Petrossov attributes his success to an unrelenting focus on his vision, as well as surrounding himself with exceptional people. JetSmarter boasts a management and advisory team with more than 100 years of experience in private air travel and a record of project development for organizations like Microsoft, NASA, and Mercedes-Benz. JetSmarter also has some high profile investors, including Jay Z and the Saudi Royal Family, but Petrossov maintains it’s the product, not his salesmanship, that closes deals. “All of our investors used our product before they became investors. They saw the value of our business model firsthand, so it was the quality of the product that drew them in,” he says.
Petrossov reports his clientele is diverse, expanding private jet travel beyond the usual stereotypes. “Our typical customer is a self-made entrepreneur, but we have flyers from every walk of life: executives who want to spend more time with their families, people who don’t want to deal with TSA pat-downs, and college students who just want the experience of traveling on a private jet.”
Petrossov is now aggressively pursuing expansion for JetSmarter, stating, “We’re currently focusing on countries where there’s enough supply to satisfy demand.” Given the company’s global expansion, the young CEO reports, “I travel a lot,” and reveals his favorite cities are New York, Singapore, London, and Dubai. While Petrossov’s wanderlust never wanes, he concedes his very best times are spent at home in Boca Raton with his family.
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45 Years of Luxury

Finding the Ultimate Homes

By Camilla McLaughlin



The top luxe locations in the U.S. have evolved quite a bit in Unique Homes’ 45-year history.
Location might be a fundamental that drives value, but in the world of luxury real estate the status of any one place often depends on the moment.
“It’s not location, location, location; it’s timing, timing, timing,” says Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland in Beverly Hills.
When Unique Homes was founded in the early 1970s, the decades-long migration to suburbia was still underway, with affluent homeowners gravitating to traditional upscale enclaves such as Greenwich, Connecticut or Saddle River, New Jersey. West Coast luxury stars included Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, and Bel Air. Fledging resorts like Vail were just gaining recognition and Cabo remained an exclusive domain of Hollywood glitterati.
Today, urban centers account for some of luxury’s most coveted addresses. A new generation of even more indulgent retreats and a growing number of ultra-private communities are rising to replace traditional grande dame resorts that have lost exclusivity. And many more cities have thriving high-end markets, while properties in well-established upscale enclaves are creating new paradigms for size, finish, and amenities.
Geography of luxury
Over the years, the preferred places for the wealthy change and evolve. Some fall out of favor, and then a decade later might be rediscovered. New in-demand locales emerge, while blue-chip mainstays seem to be insulated from the vagaries of the market. “As the market gets better and better, areas on the fringe will be included,” says Hyland of L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods.
One of the biggest catalysts over the years has been new industries and sources of wealth. Apple Computer was founded at the same time as Unique Homes, but the tech revolution that would incubate a new crop of millionaires was in the future. “San Jose was a bit of a sleeper,” recalls Paul Boomsma, president, Luxury Portfolio International and COO, LeadingRE.
“With regard to San Francisco, traditionally there were certainly wineries and some nice estate properties up in the wine country, specifically Pacific Heights — that’s really where the wealth was. Now that’s kind of dwarfed by some of these really large homes in Silicon Valley, which didn’t really exist,” Boomsma explains. In the Bay area, sales of homes priced above $10 million were up 57 percent last year, even though limited inventory put a damper on overall transactions, according to Coldwell Banker Real Estate research.


In 1995, around our 25th anniversary, the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals worldwide was just 84,974. Flash ahead 20 years and the ultra-high-net-worth population (those who have more than $30 million in net assets) hovers at 211,275, a 150-percent increase. More than almost any other factor, this wealth explosion is changing the geography of luxury in the U.S. and worldwide. “Suddenly a $10 million condo isn’t noteworthy,” says Boomsma. Recalling Manhattan of 20 years ago, he says, “The most desirable residential properties were co-ops. The number of really extreme properties in Manhattan was not that great. I am not sure a $10 million co-op existed.”
Still, coops continue to be “very unique, highly sought after,” says Philip White, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty, who compares them to a private club, since a purchase requires board approval.
Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, and Denver are all cities rapidly acquiring high-end neighborhoods. “Those cities were not considered luxury destinations, but look at the market share and the increases in million-dollar homes — in some cases 20 percent — and I think that makes them a new player,” says Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. According to Coldwell Banker Previews’ Spring 2016 Luxury Market Report, Austin, Dallas, and Seattle were among the top 20 markets for $1 million-plus sales. Denver was cited as an up-and-coming million-dollar location, while sales above $5 million are on the rise in Dallas.
For this article, we happened to catch up with Hogan in Bellevue, Washington. “It’s an eye-opening experience,” he says. “The market is off the hook. It’s a hot market with average days on market around 45 days, and people are paying over asking price.”
The explosion of wealth is also upping the ante for what it takes for a home to be deemed upscale, and this is especially true in some traditional locations known for luxury. Historic estates in the Hamptons have been on and off our list of the most expensive, beginning with Three Ponds Farm Estate, our very first Ultimate Home, listed at $75 million, in 2005. Another landmark, Eothen—the Church Estate, at $45 million — was No. 10 in that same issue. The Hamptons might be perennially platinum but “homes there have also become extreme,” says Boomsma, pointing to the boost in incomes from the stock market as well as venture capital and hedge fund money that has pushed the parameters for luxury here (and in other places as well).

The Hamptons

In 2015, Beverly Hills saw 37 sales over $20 million, and a majority were to residents of the U.S. “When I moved here from Houston, I wasn’t prepared for the level of housing here,” says Ann Dashiell with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Beverly Hills, who was one of Houston’s top real estate brokers. Currently, she is listing one of the most expensive homes in the U.S.
Nothing has made inaccessible or inconvenient locations more appealing than private aviation. In the last 15 years, fractional jet ownership has carved out a new landscape for resort properties. “Today the private jet has completely changed where people are able to build homes. Hawaii has a much larger contingent of really ultra-wealthy properties, and they’re resort homes. They are for people who are not primary residents. That would not have been available without private jets,” shares Boomsma. In the Ultimate list for 2016, Hawaii has more entries than Connecticut.
Among properties listed in Ultimate Homes, both California and New York outpace other states in terms of the number of homes priced above $20 million. Both areas, along with Florida, also have been beneficiaries of the growing recognition of the U.S. as a safe haven by international buyers. Mention New York or Beverly Hills almost anywhere, and instantly there is a recognition of value and worth. “You can be walking down the street in China, and if you say you are in Beverly Hills, everyone knows it,” says Dashiell. International interest and the growing perception of the U.S. as a safe haven are driving upscale demand in both primary and second home locations, and that is shaping the luxury landscape.


Prime properties reach new heights
The popularity of urban living might seem like a recent craze, but it began decades ago in New York as downsizing boomers happily exchanged large suburban homes for resort-like services and city living. The 1990 census showed the first net migration back to the city in 60 years. “That was the start of the reurbanization of American cities. New York led the way,” says David Michonski, who recalls, “We were in the midst of a mega trend.”
Similar moves were underway in Boston, and soon the trend extended to Philadelphia, Chicago, and other major cities. Even today’s resurgence in Atlanta is an outgrowth. “The trend has continued and now it’s on steroids,” says Michonski.
Although high rises always have been part of the urban experience, the buildings being created today deliver an entirely new vision of city living. Stunning architecture, views, and the latest electronics are only part of the lifestyle, which often includes a huge range of amenities from ice skating rinks to multiple pools, art installations, and — in the case of one building in Midtown Manhattan — a club for dogs. Even a garage outside the door of your home on the 58th floor is possible. It’s all part of the new urban lifestyle, something those early urban “pioneers” in the 1970s could not have envisioned.

Pacific Heights

The Big Apple, more polished than ever
New York continues to be the epicenter of luxury real estate in the U.S., with over 50 percent more $20 million-plus listings than California in 2016. It is notable that the average price of a Manhattan apartment topped $2 million in the first quarter of 2016, a year-over-year increase of 18 percent. The median price increased by roughly 17 percent, and came in at just over $1.1 million. Although the pinnacle of real estate in the Big Apple has been receiving mixed reviews, reports of mega sales continue. Manhattan and New York City make up the bulk of the New York entries on our Ultimate list. Prices in the Hamptons continue to rise, with about 70 priced over $20 million. Hot in the Hamptons are East Hampton, Southhampton, Quogue, Watermill, and Wainscott. Rye, in Westchester County, is one of the few primary home locations on our list.
California consistently vies with New York for having the greatest number of homes priced above $20 million. More places have also become ultra-high-end enclaves. Places with the highest number of listings include Beverly Hills and Bel Air. In recent years, buyers in California have shifted priorities. “In general the luxury buyer wants attractive architecture,” explains Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Previews International in Beverly Hills. “The style has changed, with growing preference for contemporary, but they still want privacy and the prime location change is the gravitation toward views and an emphasis on contemporary architecture.” Holmby Hills is perennially platinum on Ultimate lists. Malibu had the highest sale in the area in 2015 and continues to be an evergreen luxury location as do Montecito, Santa Barbara, La Jolla, and Los Altos.
The Sunshine State was hard hit by the recession. Many suggested it would take decades for the housing industry there to recover. Although some locations are still not back to pre-recession prices, the problem in many cities and resort locations is lack of inventory. Luxury in Miami has been moving at a hyper-fast place. On the west coast, places such as Naples that have always been upscale but not uber luxury are now considered luxury enclaves. “Ten years ago, Naples wasn’t nearly what it is today. For many, it is their favorite place in Florida,” says White. In fact, the number of $20 million properties in Naples is very close to the number in Palm Beach. Delray and Fort Lauderdale are seeing a resurgence of upscale properties. Additionally, a number of other places are experiencing the resurgence of luxury including Hobe Sound, Longboat Key, Vero Beach, and Wellington.


Resorting to resorts
Second home sales reached their highest level in recent years. Upscale consumers often have more than one vacation home. Locations range all over the country, depending on passions and interests.
Colorado in recent years has had more entries in our Ultimate publication, particularly this year when Colorado properties outnumber those in Connecticut. While this might be a function of inventories, it is also an indication of the growth of luxury. Aspen had one of the highest priced properties in 2015, and it remains a luxury star, as do Vail, Beaver Creek, Crested Butte, and Telluride. Ranch properties add a range of places, including Hesperus and Woody Creek. Park City, Utah is on the verge of offering competition to Colorado luxury.
Hawaii has become another luxury stronghold, and new resorts in Maui and other islands are raising the bar for translating the Aloha spirit. The new language of luxury includes places such as Kilauea, Kailua, Kalaheo, Princeville, and Lahina. And of course Honolulu.
But these few states, along with Florida, are really only the beginning of luxury resort locations, including Flathead Lake and Whitefish, Montana. And Southern stars, including Kiawah Island and Beaufort, South Carolina.


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Nadia Geller — Designer & Pioneer

When celebrity designer Nadia Geller isn’t creating new interiors, she’s welcoming customers into her shop on the urban frontier.

By Roger Grody

Nadia Geller — you may know her from “While You Were Out” and “Trading Spaces” on cable TV — has operated her interior design business from Los Angeles’ burgeoning Arts District since 2013.

That area, a collection of crumbling warehouses and factories, is experiencing an incredible renaissance as celebrity chefs, trendy designers and high-tech startups crowd into distinctive old structures as hip loft residences soar above.

After moving her rapidly growing practice to larger digs around the corner, the designer dedicated her original Arts District space to a home furnishings boutique that combines the charm of a Parisian flea market with the approachability of a friend’s living room. The 39-year-old designer, who favors an eclectic, comfortable approach, is known for creating spaces that reflect the personalities of her clients.

When did you first become interested in interior design?

When I was eight, I was already drawing floor plans, so I felt like I had a pretty good foundation when I made my career choice. I studied graphic design before eventually switching to interior design, but didn’t have the funds to complete my education. At 23, living in New York, I applied for a job at ABC Carpet & Home [the huge Big Apple showroom], and my hand-stitched résumé got me noticed. I ended up getting hired and was quickly promoted to Visual Manager, overseeing four floors of vignettes. I was given almost complete creative control, and began seeing my work on TV and in magazines.

Speaking of TV, tell us how you ended up as a “celebrity designer.”

I got a call from a casting director, back when reality programming was just beginning. Apparently I had exactly what they needed for the show “While You Were Out,” an experience that actually made me a
better designer. On each episode we had just $1,000 to spend in two days, so now when I have a short, pressure-packed deadline or tight budget, I have the confidence to know I’ll get it done. I’m not sure I’d want to do it now, however. The perks of being on-air talent are nice, but you have to expose so much of your personal life and my children wouldn’t have a voice to say “yea” or “nay.”

How would you describe your approach to interior design?

I like rooms that feel comfortable and welcoming, not fussy … places where you can sit and have a glass of wine with friends without worrying about everything being perfect. I also believe everything we put in our environment needs a sense of purpose. The bohemian movement really defines something I’ve been in touch with for a long time. You might call my style “collected and comfortable,” and I’m as happy putting a new fabric on an old chair as an old fabric on a new chair. Craft is important to me … where something is made, how it’s made and knowing how its production affects our world.

What materials or products are you currently obsessed with?

I’m really into natural stone right now, on walls and tabletops. I’m also into old, reclaimed wood and I’ve been on the wallpaper bandwagon for 20 years. There’s something so warm and inviting when there’s a texture on the wall … I’ve always been drawn to adding different textures that the light can play off.

When designing a residential interior, how do you get to know the client?

It entails a lot of hanging out at their house. I need to know how they start their day, how they move through their home and how they entertain. We ask tons of questions. We also want to know what they don’t like, which is just as important as what they do like. A lot of designing, I’ve realized, is knowing what doesn’t work.

Who in the design world do you currently find particularly inspiring?

Milan-based architect/designer Patricia Urquiola has a contemporary vision and eye for color I respect, and I love that she’s a strong woman with a family and her own business. She’s very inspiring to me, and her work always makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

What was the motivation for opening your store, Nadia Geller Designs Market?

Our firm is currently working on 15 large projects, so it’s easy to get lost in paperwork and a showroom helps me keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on. If I buy a sofa for a particular project and it just doesn’t work, I can sell it in my shop, where I’m constantly recycling the merchandise. The Market gets me out of my spreadsheet hell and gives me time to be creative.

How did you end up being a pioneer in the Arts District, and what kind of shopping experience do you offer your customers?

Because downtown L.A. is centrally located, it’s convenient for clients, but it’s also good for my soul. I feel creative in the Arts District and love the energy it brings me. It reminds me of Williamsburg [Brooklyn], the beacon of hipster gentrification, where I used to live. I see us as kind of that secret shop people might discover after having brunch in the neighborhood, a hidden treasure box around the corner. As a community gathering place, we host book signings, seminars and workshops on everything from planting succulents to building holiday gingerbread houses. Some customers want to chat while others don’t want to be bothered, and my staff accommodates them all.

Does your own home reflect what you suggest for your commercial clients?

We live in a classic 1930s cottage and, like my professional work, it’s interior is eclectic and comfortable. My husband likes Danish modern, so there are some of those pieces around, but usually when we discuss design decisions, he just nods … he’s learned!

To learn more about Nadia Geller Designs Studio & Market, visit

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Delisle Celebrates 120 Years of Restoring Historical Monuments

Celebrating 120 years in business, Delisle has garnered accolades from its work on royal commissions to restoring historical monuments. Known for its wrought iron and bronze works, the company celebrates its storied past, and looks to the future by staying true to its roots.

By Kirsten Niper

Delisle has been a family business specializing in bronze and wrought iron for five generations. From designing pieces for the Blue Bloods of Europe to American millionaires to restoring historical monuments, Jean-Michel Delisle, director of Delisle, credits the company’s staying power to keeping the strategy consistent.

“For the last 120 years, we have kept the same strategy, always making high-fashion lighting and furniture. We have always wanted to remain classical with high quality, with no question to the cost of the product. We have never wanted to be fashionable,” explains Delisle.

Every project begins with the drawing, of which Delisle has over 15,000 watercolors and drawings in its archives. “It all begins in the hands of the designer, then it’s sculpted with a wood plaster resin,” shares Delisle. Next, the mold is sent to the foundry to be casted. “Our job is to make reproductions from the model, and it can be made in many pieces and then reassembled and gold plated. Later, it is wired for electricity and crystals are selected to
install,” explains Delisle.

The company’s history constantly guides its future path. “We don’t want to be old, and the classical style, it’s in our look, it’s in our blood,” states Delisle. “We are like an antique dealer and a curator of past designs.” Delisle’s great grandfather loved 18th-century bronze, and by the end of the 19th century, everyone was dedicated to Art Noveau, so the elder Delisle gathered up more bronzes, leading to one of the wealthiest collections. “There is no interruption [of the design aesthetic]. We are proud of our past, and want to be proud of our future.”

Delisle was founded in 1895 by Henry Delisle, an alumnus of École Boulle and winner of the grand prize at the Brussels World Fair in 1897, and his brother Gaston. Delisle’s past works include designing pieces for the royalty of Europe including Tsar Nicholas II, Albert I of Belgium and Peter I of Serbia, to doing work for well-known American families, including the Vanderbilts and Henry Phipps.

The family company also credits being in France for its staying power and design aesthetic. “The company itself is our wealth and we want to preserve it, and our goal is to give a wealthy position to our sons,” explains
Delisle. According to Delisle, Paris is a dream and France is known for taste. “A very long time ago, I was studying and traveled across the 
United States for four months and I learned that everyone knows Paris and France.”

As a reflection of the company’s standing, the French government requested Delisle to help restore monuments after the destruction of World War II. “Between 1950 and 1980, the public’s historical monuments needed to be restored, and it was 20 to 30 percent of my father’s activity,” explains Delisle.

The architects of Château de Versailles called on the company’s services, and Delisle was also involved in the first restoration of the Opéra Royal in 1962 by designing chandeliers and demi-chandeliers based on the writings of 18th-century artisans, which are still in place today. Delisle also designed Louis XIV chandeliers for the Institut de France and the 18th-century-style crystal chandeliers of the Salon de la Légion d’Honneur at the Hôtel des Invalides, which garnered Delisle a contract for the decoration of the Louis XIV Château at Louveciennes, the largest private mansion built in France since the 19th century.

It also was involved in the reproduction of 16th- and 17th-century royal bedrooms at the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum and the Shangri La, where the company had to mind feng shui while reproducing the 19th-century style of the historical building.

Delisle is sought after for its French style. It recently was involved in a house in Beverly Hills for a television producer, and not long ago it completed a project for the Ritz Paris.

Delisle is a member of the Comité Colbert, an association of 78 French luxury brands whose goal is to promote French art. The
Comité is also expanding into other European countries to celebrate their art. It is also a peek into the next 120 years for Delisle. “The Comité Colbert is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and we asked the younger people in our companies what the Comité will be in 60 years,” shares Delisle. One of the suggestions was chandeliers on the moon. No matter what the next 120 years bring, Delisle’s goal will remain the same — “Bronze can last a hundred years, but style has to remain pure.”

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