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Celebrity Estates on Unique Homes

By Jacquelyn Elliott

Did you know that celebrities have owned and lived in many of our Unique Homes? Here are 3 homes formerly owned by famous individuals.

810 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, was formerly called home by two celebrities. The first celebrity to call this New York property home was former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Additionally, William Randolph Hearst, businessman, newspaper publisher, and politician, also lived in this residence. 

In 1926, the architect J.E.R. Carpenter built this property to encompass beautiful aspects of the Renaissance Palazzo style. The home spreads throughout the entire 8th floor of the building with 13 rooms, including four beds, four baths, and one-half bath. Oversized windows give way to views of Central Park, and the Manhattan skyline as this residence sits on the corner of 5th Avenue and 62nd Street. Future residents can be guaranteed celebrity-like privacy and security.

5396 North Bay Road in Miami Beach, Florida, was once owned by Scott Stapp, the lead singer of Creed. The band was formed in Orlando, Florida, in 1994 and made several hits before splitting in 2004. 

This modern-style home inspired by an Italian villa has five beds, five baths, and one-half bath. Step outside to 75 feet of water accompanied by a dock and seawall. Additionally, the With Arms Wide Open vocalist enjoyed views of Downtown Miami. Indoor and outdoor entertaining in this house is without question.

1229 North Wetherly Drive in Los Angeles, California, is an exquisite property with every amenity a resident could need. The home encompasses five spacious bedrooms and two custom-built walk-in closets. The kitchen has chef-grade stainless steel appliances, custom cabinets, and a breakfast bar. Entertainment comes easy when the expansive dining room is ready to fit up to 10 guests. Additionally, outside is a private sanctuary backyard perfect for entertaining. This property succeeds in fulfilling a celebrity lifestyle. 

While there is confirmation that this property was once called home to a celebrity, we do not know who this former owner is. Located in the epicenter of the entertainment industry, can you guess who this Hollywood Star might have been?

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Kim Kardashian purchases $70.4 Million Malibu Mansion formerly owned by Cindy Crawford

By Jacquelyn Elliott

Reality TV star and fashion icon Kim Kardashian recently purchased a Malibu home for $70.4 Million. The Mediterranean-style mansion was formerly owned by supermodel Cindy Crawford before being sold to another owner in June 2018 for $45 Million.  

Sitting on Pacific Coast Highway, a gated entrance opens to 3 acres of cliffside property overlooking the Malibu El Sol Beach. The two-story mansion is 7,450 square feet, with 4 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms.

The home eases from indoor comfort to outdoor entertaining. The kitchen and dining area, with a gourmet island and breakfast bar, has floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors which open to a wrap-around deck with seating around a fire pit. The open floor plan living room and sitting areas along with the space for outdoor entertainment are perfect for hosting the ever-growing Kardashian and Jenner Family. 

The spiral staircase leads the way up to the mansion’s 4 bedrooms, all surrounding an interior courtyard. Kardashian’s master bedroom includes a private entry, sitting area, immaculate closets, 2 spa worth bathrooms, and a fireplace. 

Stepping outside, previous owners carefully crafted landscape surroundings for privacy, making the property visible to none from outside of the gates. Incorporated into the landscaping is a full-sized tennis court and pool. Kardashian and her four children may use their private path to their remote access to Malibu El Sol Beach. 

While the property was originally listed at $99.5 Million, this $70.4 Million sale is the largest residential purchase in Malibu this year and the fourth largest in California, as reported by TheDirt.Com. Kardashian will now call Leonardo DiCaprio and Neil Diamond, among others, neighbors. 

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Storied Historic Homes

By Brigitte Sinoradzki hosts a plethora of grand homes for sale. Ranging from modern and geometric structures to homes on the historic register, there is something for everyone. In this blog, we take a step back in time, highlighting three of the most historically significant – and beautiful – homes that are for sale right now. 

1. The Llangollen Estate – Upperville, VA

Visited by George Washington himself, if the walls had ears, this home would have endless stories to tell. Now a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, The main home sits on over 1000 acres. The prelude to Gettysburg was fought nearby. The Marquis de Lafayette visited here during his grand tour of the United States. Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this home is an absolute treasure. 

Visit the full listing here. 

2. Seaview Terrace – Newport, RI

On nearly 8 acres of seaside property, this stately home overlooks Newport’s famed Cliff Walk. This home was originally built in Washington, DC, and relocated to Newport in 1923. Seaview Terrace features rooms that had been imported intact from France, and it is the largest privately owned estate in Newport that remains privately owned. Seaview boasts many incredible details including “The Flagellation” (circa 1547), an early-Renaissance stained-glass window designed for Milan Cathedral. This estate is an opportunity to preserve a magical piece of history

View the full listing here.

3. A Gilded Age Townhome – New York, NY

This stunning 5th avenue townhome is a property for the ages. In New York City, buying a house located directly on Fifth Avenue is like acquiring the Holy Grail because such a limited number remains. This particular home was built during the gilded age and is an extraordinary descendent of that period. Remarkably, most of the original structure  remains intact today. The Real Estate Record and Guide of December 22, 1900 – 120 years ago – describes in full detail the construction of this townhome. Previous residents include Mrs. Mary Augustus King, David Crawford Clark, and William Ellis Corey.

View the full listing here. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feeling the Light

By Camilla McLaughlin

As COVID-19 reset consumer appreciation for all things related to wellness, demand for in-home products from Pelotons to saunas hit record levels.

Lady Gaga is reportedly a sauna fan, along with a raft of celebs, including Jennifer Anniston and Gwyneth Paltrow. Sessions in an infrared sauna, dubbed sauna bathing, are the latest in wellness, and celebrities are not the only ones looking for a boost. Instead of raising the temperature in the air using heated stones or other sources, this modality uses infrared light to create heat within the body and does so at lower temperatures than traditional saunas, which typically are in the 200-degree Fahrenheit range.

While they lack the lore and romanticism associated with their Scandinavian peers, saunas using infrared light instead of thermal heat are gaining advocates and a growing share of wellness dollars. By mid-2021, Sunlighten, a manufacturer with a 20-year track record, reported that overall sales nationwide were up more than 60 percent over 2020’s record. By mid-summer, sales were up 30 percent in California, Texas and Florida. Even industry veterans such as Sunlighten founder Connie Zack were surprised by these increases in warm-weather states.

Anyone who has spent time in the sun has experienced infrared. Approximately 52 to 55 percent of sunlight consists of infrared rays. On the electromagnetic spectrum, a continuum of light waves organized by how they interact with matter, infrared falls just below red, the last visible light on the low end of the spectrum. The term refers to a range of waves — near, mid and far — determined by the wave size, frequency and amount of energy. Near infrared is the shortest wavelength and is credited with skin renewal. Mid is believed to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Far infrared penetrates deeper and even helps burn calories and promotes relaxation.


Although traditional saunas have long been considered restorative, infrared is purported to be more than just a feel-good experience and is credited with a range of effects, including boosting immunity and aiding in muscle recovery, according to the industry. While many infrared saunas just use far infrared, some combine all three waves, which manufacturers say enhances e­fficacy.

“We were the first sauna company to combine carbon and ceramic to create a superior infrared wavelength that deeply penetrates your body. The ceramic/carbon combination is unsurpassed in providing superior detoxification, stress-reduction, immunity boost, relief of joint pain and muscle soreness, relaxation and a host of other health benefits,” says Bruce Weinberg, director of marketing for Clearlight Infrared, manufacturers of Jacuzzi brand saunas.

Clearlight units also cancel out all electromagnetic fields, energy waves with frequencies below 300 hertz per second. Sunlighten, according to Zack, used clinical studies to determine how to combine all three wavelengths to bring the most benefit and also how to incorporate six different wellness benefits into the programs built into the saunas.

A typical 30-minute infrared session raises core body temperature approximately 3 degrees, an effect similar to a cardio workout. Manufacturers tout a number of benefits, and there is some research to back up these claims. In some countries, infrared is seen as therapeutic. “In Japan, infrared sauna is an accepted and standard therapy of heart disease and is even prescribed, because it is shown to improve the function of the cells that line the arteries and their blood flow,” explained Joel Kahn, MD, a cardiologist and clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Residential units are available in a range of sizes and configurations and are typically fabricated using Eucalyptus, Western Red Canadian Cedar or North American Basswood. Placement outside the home is also an option. Sunlighten also makes a portable unit that accommodates a single user, as well as a handheld device that directs rays to a specific place on the body.

The bottom line: It’s hard to discount the feel-good effect users report.

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6.25 Acres of Excellence in Scottsdale

This estate is a beautiful expression of ranch hacienda-style architecture. Designed by acclaimed architect John Sather of Swaback Partners, it was built with the highest quality materials and workmanship, and every room reflects extraordinary attention to detail. Nestled on six acres on the side of the McDowell Mountains – and backing onto a nature preserve – the property is truly a mountainside sanctuary that offers both privacy and an organic connection to the Sonoran Desert.

The entrance speaks volumes about what’s inside. The imposing arched front door with seeded-glass panels was custom crafted of reclaimed materials by La Puerta of Santa Fe, and the two-story entryway features a commanding chandelier fabricated by the trade-only designer Paul Ferrante. The hardwood floors in the house are made of distressed hickory, and they perfectly compliment the artisanal plasterwork on the walls. Imported from Italy, the Albertini windows and glass-paneled doors, with their rich burnt-pine finish, are another strong design element. Tucson-based Taber & Co. made the bespoke in-wall mesquite cabinets in the living room, and the custom interior doors are also solid mesquite.

Attention to detail is found throughout. The twin custom granite sinks in the kitchen feature integrated drain boards chiseled into the countertop – no dish racks needed. To reduce back strain when rolling dough, chopping vegetables, or doing other prep work, the center island was set at an above-standard 42” height. Electric outlets throughout the house were faux painted to match the surrounding walls and backsplashes. The three decorative panels on each interior door were deliberately sized so that the door lever is perfectly centered on the door rail. And the massive living room fireplace surround was entirely assembled from book-matched marble slabs, to stunning effect.

Many of the rooms are worthy of special mention. Befitting a movie producer who wants to experience films in the best possible way, the 10-seat tiered theater is equipped with state-of-the-art projection and sound systems designed by Shen Milsom & Wilke, a world-class engineering firm. Next to the theater on the lower level is a 2,000-bottle wine cellar, whose rustic stone walls help maintain ideal temperature and humidity levels for long-term storage. Also on the “play” level is a game room that can accommodate all sorts of toys, which currently include a pool table, juke box, Skee-Ball alley, Harley-themed pinball machine and poker table.

The spacious Primary Suite was designed to achieve just the right balance between privacy and togetherness. The suite has a common bedroom but completely separate dual bathrooms and dual closets. The suite also includes a room for luggage storage and a private patio with a fireplace and whirlpool.

Located in a stand-alone structure a little further up the mountain, the Spa is another noteworthy space. On one side is a fully equipped exercise room with wall-to-wall French doors and transom windows that wash the room with light and offer lovely views of a desert garden. On the other side is an intimate massage room with an exquisite domed mosaic ceiling.

How many homes have an ADA-compliant bedroom suite? This one does. All of the light switches are set at ADA height, the bathroom vanity is ADA accessible, and there are grab bars at the commode and in the shower. A commercial-grade elevator serves all three floors and is also ADA-compliant.

The exterior spaces are equally impressive. Berghoff Design Group did the landscaping, which features a virtual arboretum of mature, thriving ironwood, palo verde, mesquite, and Texas ebony trees, all native to the Desert Southwest. These trees form a natural canopy and add to the overall sense of privacy which characterizes this property. The fountains are genuine antiques, and an inviting bougainvillea-lined walkway made from reclaimed stone leads to the main entrance. 

Coming Soon on MLS info:,12,1


Property Website

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Breathtaking in Fort Lauderdale

By Camilla McLaughlin

Designed to make best use of a generous waterfront site in coveted Bay Colony while also ensuring privacy, 10 Compass Road offers optimum views and thoughtful connections with the landscape. The elevation is imposing while also perfectly in sync with the setting. Step inside and it is equally breathtaking.

“Upon walking into this home you are immediately speechless by the grandeur of the 35-foot ceilings and open floor plan, accompanied by the massive glass wall overlooking the pool and water,” says Gilles Rais with Coldwell Banker Realty in Fort Lauderdale.

Extensive amenities include a clubroom with a bar area. Particularly striking is the bar top comprised of a rare onyx that is dramatically backlit.

The ultramodern architecture is stunning, but a well-conceived layout and thoughtful finishes ensure it doesn’t overwhelm. The open design carves out private areas, while a liberal use of natural materials and greenery lend a sense of warmth throughout. Extensive amenities make it exceptional for entertaining, but family was an equally important consideration in the vision.

Extensive amenities include a clubroom with a bar area. Particularly striking is the bar top comprised of a rare onyx that is dramatically backlit. Other amenities include an office, theater, a gym, a glass elevator, outdoor kitchen, pool and outdoor dining. Set on a deepwater basin that connects to the Intracoastal, the property offers an 89-foot-long dock.

Beginning with a location in a much-desired enclave of only 110 homes, privacy is another important characteristic of this property. Bay Colony, according to Rais, is one of the few waterfront communities that is guard gated 24/7. Each home is sited on a basin or canal, and the entire community is surrounded by water.

“In fact,” Rais says “there is really only one road into the development, and finding a waterfront community with this amount of security is a rarity.” Privacy also informed the design of the home, with six bedrooms and baths distributed on multiple levels, including several guest rooms. One, located on the top level of the home, includes a sitting room.

Each bedroom is paired with an en suite and also accesses a terrace or outdoor space.

Each bedroom is paired with an en suite and also accesses a terrace or outdoor space. Some, such as the children’s room, include lofts, just some of the whimsical elements tucked into the home. All of the baths are beautifully appointed and indulgent.

The primary suite occupies a large part of the lower level and includes an indulgent bath with skylights and separate dressing areas. Particularly interesting are the closets, which are showcased as luxury boutiques. A glass-enclosed shower is surrounded by lush greenery on one side. An extensive smart home system automates everything, including lighting, shades, security and audio. Everything can be activated or turned with a single control from any location.

Location is still most important, and this home is minutes from one of the best schools in Florida.

The executive airport is also an easy drive, which means it’s only about a 15-minute journey from the tarmac to your home. The home was recently refurbished, so everything is less than two years old. Rais points out, it is like buying a newly constructed home without waiting years to complete construction.

And it can be purchased furnished, making it turnkey … an even more extraordinary find.


10 Compass Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL

6 bedrooms, 7 full baths



Represented by: Gilles Rais

Coldwell Banker Realty

T. 954.304.1579

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‘Here’s the Story…’ of Unique Homes at 50

By Camilla McLaughlin

The Brady Bunch was in its heyday and Walt Disney World was opening
when Unique Homes debuted 50 years ago.


Tracing the evolution of Unique Homes from small pamphlet to glossy magazine to global publication to multi-faceted luxury media outlet merging print, digital, online and social media — it’s not an overstatement to say it’s been a wild ride. While the intent to open the world of high-end real estate to readers continues, almost every other aspect of the magazine, from circulation and distribution to editorial content to ways to connect with our readership has evolved. What hasn’t changed is the commitment to producing a magazine that merits a luxury appellation and the focus on excellence. “It delivers the essence of quality,” observes Wayne McDonald, owner of Premier Island Properties in South Carolina.

The 25th anniversary tribute was penned almost on the cusp of the new millennium, a time of rising concerns over change and what the future would bring. The end of the decade even elicited a few gloomy predictions over potential snafus as digital clocks switched, or failed to switch, into uncharted territory. Even though time didn’t stop, and electronics never faltered, everything related to technology seemed to accelerate, eventually touching every aspect of life from health to reading to real estate.

In 2000, the Internet era seemed full on; in retrospect, it was still baby steps. An online presence was a given for media, but social media, blogs for magazines, Facebook and Twitter were still in the future. Digital versions of Unique Homes were available, but were rudimentary compared to today’s online presence.

Editorial Shifts

Initially, the focus for the magazine was simply beautiful homes. As the scope and readership expanded nationally, additional editorial was added to give readers a glimpse into varied geographic regions. Eventually, issues were organized around specific topics with a more thorough overview of homes, towns and communities considered meccas for specific interests from golf to waterfront to winter playlands.

Tracy Allen with Coldwell Banker Realty in Honolulu finds the editorial in Unique Homes does a good job of keying readers to other locations, which is especially worthwhile since searches usually begin online. In Hawaii, she says, many buy remotely, and she wants them to understand the emotion of the lifestyle of a specific place. “I like that readers are not only seeing the picture, but the editorial gives me a chance to highlight this area.”

“The magazine has been consistently improving the way it presents properties and the distribution, so it is fully current with the marketplace,” says Shari Chase, founder of Chase International in Lake Tahoe and a longtime advocate of the magazine. Beginning in 2001, around the time of the 30th anniversary, editorial was expanded, a shift to align the magazine with emerging consumer preferences and a desire for greater knowledge, not just about places but also about markets, trends and innovations in the industry. Along with articles about regional lifestyles and luxury pursuits, Unique Homes also began to take an in-depth look at changes in the industry, shifting consumer values, and the evolution of luxury. When Private Residence Clubs and Destination Clubs began to gain traction in the early 2000s, for example, consumers and agents found these new forms of resort ownership confusing. Most wondered if they were just a new twist on timeshare, or something entirely different? To answer this question, Unique Homes explored the topic in a year-long series, examining various models, including private residence clubs and destination clubs, highlighting the benefits and the drawbacks. All of this was long before most real estate media picked up the topic.

Regional features in every issue spotlight properties and pursuits from New England to Hawaii.

In the last decade or so, Unique Homes has accumulated many awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors, including for best magazine in its category and in-depth reports such as this.

Then and now! Like many of our top ELITE agents, Casey Margenau finds Unique Homes’ international perspective allows him to highlight a specific property and also enhance his own global presence.

A Global Perspective

By 2011, another anniversary year, Unique Homes had a strong international presence and was already recognized as a premier real estate publication by individuals outside the U.S. Among the affluent, interest in owning properties beyond one’s home country was growing, and major brands were looking beyond the U.S., opening up shop in Europe and Asia. Among media, international real estate coverage centered on these two topics. But not a lot was being written about what was actually happening with residential property markets and luxury in other countries, expectations for the next few years or attitudes toward home ownership. At least, not until Unique Homes took up the mantle with a yearlong series focused on real estate in global regions. One article in this series received top news reporting honors in 2012 from the National Association of Real Estate Editors for Best Residential, Mortgage or Financial Real Estate Report in a Magazine. 

Asia: The Pivotal Puzzle Piece touched on everything from the number of billionaires to the effect of government regulations in the region and property opportunities in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. Judges noted that the piece “was a comprehensive and interesting look at something in the real estate area that most Americans probably know little about.”

Today, a global perspective informs our editorial. And the international reach especially to publicize individual properties is something long-time advertisers say they value. “The reason why I’ve been using Unique Homes for 30 years is because it’s the only true marketing that you can do that’s international. A lot of companies out there talk about being international, but the fact is they do not advertise an individual property internationally,” explains broker Casey Margenau, who works Washington, D.C.’s premier Virginia suburbs.

Following the mid-decade boom-and-bust, when all eyes were on real estate, we reevaluated the magazine’s annual outlook article and markets to watch. Although we had already reached out to experts, we looked to more market experts, for real estate overall and for luxury, for an assessment of the year. Eventually, the outlook feature morphed into the current format, which is a forum with economists and the leaders of luxury for major brands and affiliate groups.

Tech Trends

While technology has revised and remade so many aspects of real estate, homes themselves have been equally transformed. Innovative materials and technologies have sparked a revolution in home building and energy efficiency, continuously creating possibilities unthinkable only a few years prior. Simply the amount of wall space devoted to windows would baffle anyone making predictions in the energy-conscious early years of the 1980s, when visions of in-house fuel cells and mirrored satellites generating electricity in space filled the dreams of the future. In the last 10 years, net-zero homes have become a reality in some regions, and a potential for many more properties in the future.

Even though indoor air quality emerged as a concern as early as 2001, it wasn’t until the last decade that wellness became a hot button in housing. Now, it is becoming an important consideration, and wellness amenities are especially desired in upscale properties. Air quality is only part of this movement, which potentially will bring dramatic changes to interiors. On the leading edge today are systems that sense and correct air quality, lighting keyed to circadian rhythms and many more products to reduce touch points.

Over 50 years, transactions moved from pen, paper and film to digital, online and virtual. We’re always asking “What’s next?”

Why Unique Homes?

In a media landscape becoming ever more congested with newcomers to upscale real estate markets, luxury Unique Homes continues to stand out. Long-term advertisers tell us there’s nothing else quite like it in the marketplace. Tracy Allen discovered Unique Homes in a search for an advertising vehicle to get information about her properties in Hawaii “off the islands onto the continental U.S. and international markets. Unique Homes has always given me an amazing vehicle, really consistent quality, and I am proud to say my properties are in Unique Homes.”

“What is unique is the quality it delivers. It is not cluttered with things that take away from what you [an advertiser] want to convey. It delivers the essence of quality,” says McDonald.

“There are a lot of publications in the luxury end of the business, all the big brokerage houses and the little ones have their magazines, and they all do a nice job. But do they have a presence in the marketplace like Unique Homes? I think in my mind, Unique Homes stands alone, has a terrific presence and offers a wide range of products. When you can qualify to get your property on the cover, it means something,” shares Bob Kinlin, co-founder of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Robert Paul Properties.

For properties with a “wow” factor, a Unique Homes cover is most desired. “If the property is visually striking, the cover shot will lead a buyer almost certainly to the combined two interior pages with additional photos and description as well as the full-page editorial on the property,” says Bob Hurwitz of Hurwitz James Company. “I put on a major marketing campaign for all of the luxury listings I represent and will only use the cover on very specific properties that I feel would benefit. Sellers, of course, would all wish their property would be on the cover, however, it is not available at all times.”

This article is part of
Unique Homes’ special
50th anniversary coverage, and appears in our November/December issue.


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Real Estate’s New Power Players

David Marine, Michael Altneu and Diane Hartley talk about who’s leading luxury in 2021.

Metropolises are staging a comeback. Resort markets continue to be buoyed by affluent individuals buying second homes in record numbers. From urban repatriates and second-home owners to older millennials, boomers and Gen-Zers flush with cash, there is a new group of power players making an impact on high-end buying and selling in 2021.

A forthcoming report from the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program offers insights into these real estate influencers. To get a sneak peek at what’s inside “A Look at Wealth,” we spoke to David Marine, chief marketing officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC; Michael Altneu, vice president of luxury for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC; and Diane Hartley, president of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

Homes & Estates: One of the findings tracked in the report is the unprecedented wealth growth in the U.S. from 2019 to 2021. Where do you see luxury real estate falling into this trajectory?

Diane Hartley: A recent study from Oxford Economics found that American household net worth increased by 16 percent from the end of 2019 through Q1 of 2021. This marked the largest 15-month stretch of gains since 2004. This growth happened in the top two income brackets, which are driving the luxury real estate market today. If you had wealth two years ago, you have even more wealth now. People have more money to spend on a different asset class, and their properties are worth more.

David Marine: Real estate has always been a marquee element in the luxury portfolio. After spending so much time at home, homeowners are now assessing whether they want to enhance their living space or dreaming about where else they can go. The luxury market thrives in this scenario. The opportunity for that ski chalet or beach destination is becoming a reality after a year of pent-up demand.

Michael Altneu: The affluent have always seen real estate as an asset class. The difference now is what kinds of homes they’re buying, how many they’re buying and why. Much of what’s been driving these purchases goes back to lifestyle. There has never before been such an intense shift in purchasing and consumer behavior on a global scale as we experienced in 2020. Space, location and health were viewed through a much different lens by every person in every market at exactly the same time.

H&E: Sales and prices of single-family detached luxury homes have been trending up each year since 2019. What’s driving demand from your point of view? Are the reasons why people are buying different from last year?

DM: There’s some “FOMO meets YOLO” going on. The events of 2020 forced people to realize that they want to make the best of where they reside. Perhaps they’ve been sitting on the sidelines and missing out on that dream place that they just haven’t jumped into yet. Plus, the ability to get greater value for a property gives them peace of mind when spending more on that next home. They’re saying, “Let’s buy that dream home. We only live once.”

MA: Remote-working capabilities allowed people to spread into other markets like never before and will continue to help drive demand in the future. Lifestyle has always been the key driver in the luxury real estate space, but now it’s at the forefront of everything. People sought out secondary homes in 2020 to gain more space and distance. We may see a greater focus on larger primary homes — ones that better encompass all aspects of their lifestyle.

DH: There are three groups of people impacting the current luxury landscape. You have the “FOMO meets YOLO” group, which often happens after tragic events. We saw a similar trend after 9/11. The second group is those greatly impacted by how much money they now have. During the height of the pandemic, people spent less money because they were staying home more, so they had greater savings. I saw a figure that had the U.S. net private savings rate in 2020 as one of our highest in history. The last influential group is the real estate community. I don’t think we talk enough about their vital role in buying decisions. The way real estate professionals bring a home to market today is greatly influencing the seller and the selling price. They’re emphasizing luxury staging, putting better homes on the market and building interest through pre-MLS “sneak peeks.” They’re not forcing anyone in this market to think twice about buying a home. They’re making the decision easy.

MA: I agree. The role of agents has increased tenfold since the pandemic. They aren’t just guiding the real estate purchase; they’re guiding all the important aspects of their clients’ lives. They have become lifestyle advisors and trusted members of their inner circle.

H&E: Who are some of the major influencers dominating the luxury housing marketplace?

MA: We’re going to see a shift toward the younger generations of wealthy in this report. Millennials, specifically “Golden Millennials,” as we’re calling the 35–40 age group, have always been influencers in their own right. They’re going to be leading the next generation of luxury real estate.

DM: We’ve heard for so long about the millennial marketplace and the great wealth shift that would eventually happen to that group. Well, they’re no longer the young, whimsical demo. This Golden Millennial demo (I’ve also heard some people call them “geriatric millennials”) will be the ones looking to drive this real estate market. Baby Boomers are the ones selling to them and are likely the ones benefiting from it. As Michael said, millennials are now part of a virtual workforce who can live anywhere, and their lifestyle demands are changing, which is also a factor in igniting the luxury real estate market as they start looking at second homes or vacation homes or even enhancing their primary residence.

DH: There’s also another demographic that we don’t talk much about: the 40–57 age group, the Gen Xers. I call them the “Buy-ups.” They are impacting the mid-level luxury market.   

DM: We’re seeing this influence bear out in the market, as secondary home markets become long-term burgeoning markets. Idaho has become the new L.A. Parts of Texas and North Carolina are seeing an uptick in affluent out-of-state buyers. Places that weren’t on the luxury radar are suddenly starting to become destinations.

DH: People are taking their money out of high-cost areas like California and bringing it to markets like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which just exploded last year. I call it “discovery.”

H&E: Do you think the consumer mindset has changed enough that the exodus away from cities is going to last?

MA: The year-to-date sales numbers for attached homes are already trending up — which we’re interpreting as a positive sign that people are returning to dense marketplaces like New York, San Francisco and L.A. Cities have always been a magnet and global hub for high-net-worth individuals.

DH: We’re seeing a boomerang effect. The exodus we saw from cities in 2020 was more about acting on impulse than a long-lasting statement about how people feel about cities. The wealth effect is also a huge aspect. Luxury consumers always have a choice in what they do and where they live.

DM: We’ve seen this trend before in other markets, where an inciting incident forces a temporary exodus from metropolitan areas. The thing is, whether it’s New York, Miami or L.A., cities always bounce back. There’s an innate attraction to being at the epicenter of these cities. The prestige that comes with that won’t be lost for long, even when market conditions trend down.

MA: Cities will never disappear. They are the cultural hubs that power surrounding communities. People will always want to be in a place that embraces change and connectivity, to feel like they’re engaging something authentic and meaningful, something bigger than themselves.

DM: This also plays into our DNA as a company. Coldwell Banker was started in San Francisco, after the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. We have always been a part of our local community’s fabric, and our agents have built and rebuilt the cities where people most desire to be connected. Cities bring people together.

H&E: Final thoughts?

DH: We have to look at the change in the climate of taxation. We are seeing a continuation of the trend of moving from high-tax states to low- or no-tax states. We’ll also look hard at the impact of the 2022 federal tax proposal on capital gains taxation.

DM: We’re seeing a positive climate change. Smaller markets previously not on the luxury radar are now coming into existence. It will be interesting to see which markets will be the new Aspen or Naples, Florida.

MA: In 2020, we were operating from a place of fear and uncertainty – but now we’re operating from a place of strength.

We’re seeing a positive climate change. Smaller markets previously not on the luxury radar are now coming into existence. It will be interesting to see which markets will be the new Aspen or Naples, Florida.

David Marine

Cities will never disappear. They are the cultural hubs that power surrounding communities. People will always want to be in a place that
embraces change and connectivity, to feel like they’re engaging something authentic and meaningful, something bigger than themselves.

Michael Altneu

We have to look at the change in the climate of taxation. We are seeing a continuation of the trend of moving from high-tax states to low- or no-tax states. We’ll also look hard at the impact of the 2022 federal tax proposal on capital gains taxation.

Diane Hartley

Homes & Estates

This article appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury’s Homes & Estates magazine.

Watch for the upcoming release of the 2021 A Look at Wealth Report by visiting

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Trade Secrets

Two prominent Keller Williams luxury agents, one on each coast, share their secrets to success and views on the industry.

By Roger Grody

With reality shows like Million Dollar Listing and Selling Sunset, one would think there are no secrets remaining in the real estate business. But

America’s top-producing agents understand that building successful practices requires tremendous commitment, especially when there are no cameras rolling. Two Keller Williams luxury agents provide their insights.

East Coast Success Story

The primary territory of Keller Williams luxury agent Seth Levin — his sales team ranks among the top one percent of agents nationwide — is the uber-competitive island of Manhattan. After more than a decade with another company, the LevinKong Team joined Keller Williams five years ago, impressed by its culture of collaboration and global reach. Since then, the group has earned Sales Team of the Year honors multiple times.

A former Pinnacle Award winner and member of the International Associate Leadership Council, Levin is a frequent panelist and often-quoted real estate expert. A renowned negotiator, he is an active real estate investor and when not working — which can be rare for agents of this caliber — Levin enjoys architecture, golf and exploring new cultures around the globe.

Building Relationships

Early in his career, Levin entertained frequently with prospective clients, dining out and hitting clubs with Wall Street money managers and entrepreneurs. As a family man, those relationship-building efforts have morphed into fine dining — Levin stays current with the Big Apple’s world-renowned restaurant scene — or golfing in the Hamptons. A lover of fine art, Levin concedes, “You’re more likely to see me at a gallery opening than at a party.”

When mentoring young agents, Levin advises, “Your social life has to be genuine, so you can build natural, organic relationships,” adding, “It’s about establishing relationships with the right people, rather than trying to connect with everybody.” Observing that much of his own success can be traced to a handful of key relationships, the agent states, “Treat every opportunity as if it was the most important in the world, and when clients see
you genuinely care about them, they’ll advocate for you.”

Loving New York

It never hurts for a real estate agent to be emotionally invested in his or her territory, and native New Yorker Levin expresses a passion for his hometown. “I’m proud of what we do to contribute to the city, keeping the torch of New York alive,” says the agent, who suggests the narrative of an exodus from Manhattan is overblown. “The market for trophy properties and funding for ambitious new developments demonstrate the enduring allure of this aspirational city, and my international clients continue to view New York as a primary place to invest,” says Levin.

Follow the Data

“Because I’m very data-driven, I’m not an order taker, but an idea presenter,” says Levin. “There’s an infinite number of micro-markets throughout New York City, based on geography, pricing and lifestyle, and I study them all,” says the agent, constantly converting data into productive client contacts. “I love being an investigator and coming up with ideas to pitch to my clients, which represent a genuine, purposeful reason to call, and they appreciate that,” he says.

Business Begets Business

Levin, who personally hosts the first open house for every property, cites an occasion when he attended one for a modest $400,000 listing despite an event for an $18 million property occurring simultaneously. “Not only did I sell it, but got another listing in the building and met the father of a prospective buyer who gave me an $8 million listing on Central Park West,” recounts Levin. “You have to treat every client like gold — they should all receive the same luxury treatment — and you need to understand their motivations and ambitions,” advises the agent. Levin, whose mantra is “business begets business,” genuinely enjoys coaching and mentoring colleagues, but also recognizes that more than 35 percent of his business is based on referrals from other agents.

West Coast Success Story

On the opposite coast, Caroline Huo specializes in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Mid-Peninsula territory. A loyal clientele depends on the Caroline K. Huo Group in the communities from Burlingame down to Atherton (the priciest market in the nation), as well as the northern Silicon Valley communities of Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

Since joining Keller Williams as an individual agent in 2015, Huo and her team continually rank in RealTrends’ Top Agents in California. A 17-year veteran in the industry, she has earned numerous Keller Williams production awards, serves on her region’s International Associate Leadership Council, supports Keller Williams Realty International’s R2G2 Growth Guide Program, and is a proud recipient of her region’s Eagle Award.

Overcoming Challenges

Noting the business can be challenging for women with children, Huo recalls, “I’d literally be painting a door in preparation for a photo shoot before running out to catch my daughter’s game, then I’d be posting open house signs before getting home to cook dinner.” She explains, “You really have to be Wonder Woman and The Flash, serving your clients and still being there for your family…I missed out on a lot.”

Huo reports many women burn out, leaving the industry just when they are entering the prime of their careers, unsure how to juggle family obligations and demanding clients. She learned, “You must find leverage.” Deeply appreciative of her husband, Huo suggests, “Partners have to be super supportive because our world is so crazy and all-consuming.”

Building a Team

The staffing at the Caroline K. Huo Group is heavily weighted toward service, with two agents supported by six professionals dedicated to operations and marketing. While every position requires a different skillset, Huo insists on specific qualities for all team members. She explains, “They need to be smart and driven, must have a sense of anticipatory service — knowing what clients need before they even ask — and should be fearless. Above all, I insist on integrity.” Huo adds, “We live our MVVBP [Mission Vision Values Beliefs and Perspective].”

Perpetual Audition

Huo believes that an agent’s work is never completed, explaining, “Just because you’ve closed a transaction doesn’t mean you’ve earned the next one…You’re constantly interviewing or auditioning to stay in their world.” Her office maintains long-term relationships with clients, keeping track of milestone events in their lives. “We have a relationship-oriented database, not a transactional database, and we want to be there for all of their real estate needs and beyond,” says Huo.

“As agents, we’re assisting people with some of their biggest financial decisions, helping them to build wealth and realize their dreams,” says Huo, who notes some transactions occur during difficult times, such as following the death of a loved one or divorce. “It’s important to meet people where they are, understand their vision and not only get them to the finish line, but through the finish line.” These principles are transferable to any market, insists Huo, who states, “The concepts of client care and service are universal, and everybody appreciates them.”

Colleagues Matter

“It’s important to apply those same principles when working with fellow real estate agents in the community, even though they may be competitors,” suggests Huo. “We have to work together in the industry to elevate one another, which is why I speak at professional events, even though it’s out of my comfort zone, sharing learnings with peers.”

Huo reports she frequently refers listings for San Francisco properties to local agents better able to navigate a client through that city’s unique market nuances, and thanks to ongoing relationships she is the beneficiary of similar referrals. “By building relationships with other agents, they become more than just colleagues, but friends as well,” says the accomplished professional.


“You really have to be Wonder Woman and The Flash, serving your clients and still being there for your family.”

Caroline Huo

When mentoring young agents, Levin advises, “Your social life has to be genuine, so you can build natural, organic relationships,” adding, “It’s about establishing relationships with the right people, rather than trying to connect with everybody.”

Seth Levin

Keller Williams Luxury

Find this article and much more in the latest edition of Keller Williams Luxury magazine.

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