The Transition

Cover photo © / Evgeny Zhigalov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will it be a virtual world?

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

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

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

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

© / fizkes

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

© / joakimbkk

Dreaming of Home

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

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

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

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

Skills Put to the Test

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

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

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

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

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

Cooldown Ahead

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

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

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

No Bubbles Here

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

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

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

© / sara_winter

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

Lady M Cake Boutique, known for elegant, multi-layered Mille Crêpes cakes, has partnered with  French luxury brand Baccarat to launch its first luxury cake truck in California.

Alongside 3D Artist Kurt Wenner, the five-year partnership will launch the cake truck in New York City at the Baccarat Boutique on Madison Avenue, and travel across the country before commencing operation in California. Set to start serving August 2019 in Northern California, the 28-foot multi-functional luxury cake truck will journey throughout California greeting new and existing clients of both brands with a unique cake experience.

“Baccarat is thrilled to be partnering with Lady M on this new and innovative collaboration,” says Jim Shreve, President and CEO of Baccarat North America. “Our partnership reinforces the Baccarat message of enjoying beautiful things every day. We are excited to share delicious cakes on beautiful Baccarat. Everything tastes better on Baccarat.”

From the sidewalk, pedestrians and guests will experience the Kurt Wenner 3D, life-sized rendering of the cake truck that will be affixed to the boutique’s glass façade. Inside, guests will meander through the boutique surrounded by Lady M cakes, capturing the feel of being in an actual Lady M boutique. Within the boutique, guests will be greeted with a glass of champagne as they approach yet another version of the cake truck, where Lady M Mille Crêpes will be served through a functional service window. 

The Lady M x Baccarat cake truck is a stunning and luxurious feast for the eyes. On the exterior, Baccarat has mounted two large Tuile de Crystal Chandeliers ($29,100 each) and 1 small Tuile de Crystal ($12,600) that will gracefully hang suspended from two long beams that are collapsible when the food truck is not in service. Four Baccarat Mille Nuits Torch sconces ($2,150 each) will mount on either side of the service windows. During the day, Lady M will provide legendary service to clients who pre-order cakes.  During the evening, Lady M and Baccarat will illuminate the night and create an outdoor dining experience for those who want to experience both brands.

“The collaboration with Lady M and Baccarat has allowed me to have an entirely new experience with interactive art. Placing my art on a food truck is a first for me,” says artist Kurt Wenner, who invented 3D Pavement Art in the 1980s. By combining his art with digital printing, Wenner offers stunning, durable, interactive illusions.

This collaboration is the first of its kind, and Lady M Cake Boutique is thrilled and honored to partner with Baccarat. We are excited to expand the concept of the Lady M experience and take our cakes (including a new confection made exclusively for the collaboration), on the road, introducing them to those both new to and familiar with the brand. We look forward to sharing our signature cakes on beautiful crystal, and sharing happiness.

Ken Romaniszyn

CEO, Lady M Cake Boutique

“My 3D illusions are where the language of proportion and innovation meet. I’m so excited about this project as the illusions I have created will be partnered with elegant chandeliers and the world’s finest cakes. The marriage of all three will shift the perception of what is reality,” says Wenner. 

The cake truck will start service starting this month in Northern California, and guests are encouraged to tag and follow along with the hashtag ​#ladymxbaccarat. ​A microsite tracking the cake truck’s journey throughout California will be live at ​​. 

All photos courtesy Samantha Nandez /

TV Producer Rachael Jerahian plans to visit all 50 U.S. states along with every sovereign nation, and that is just the beginning.

Regardless of sex or financial status, Rachael Jerahian wants everyone to overcome their inhibitions and, “embrace exploration:” desire to tour the world and expand horizons without fear of being alone. Being alone is what initially gave Jerahian the strength to begin her travels, and she hasn’t looked back since. “Overcoming tragedy is something everyone faces,” said Jerahian. “Perhaps, it’s because to experience great highs, we have to know how to conquer terrifying lows.”

Acclaimed producer, Jerahian recently announced her intention to complete the first all-inclusive world travel expedition in history. She began her quest in June, and now plans to stop in all 50 U.S. states, travel to each of the 195 sovereign countries of the world, climb each of the seven continents’ highest peaks, and ski the last degree in both the North and South Poles, all while giving back to the many lives she encounters along her way.  

Jerahian, though no stranger to traveling, is embarking on this trip knowing it is to be the most significant one of her life thus far. After suffering the loss of both her parents to cancer by age 30, Jerahian now embraces the cliche to, “live life to the fullest,” and vows not to let life pass her by. Her path across the globe is her way of doing so. Yearning to be a reporter, Jerahian’s story begins in New York City, where she tried her hand in broadcast, until she finally fell in love with production behind the scenes. She now works as a prominent TV producer for multiple networks, including CNN, Food Network, Travel, Discovery, Viceland, PBS, Spike and A&E. After losing her mother to cancer in 2014, Jerahian and her sister planned a trip to clear their minds to Mexico. Jerahian caught the travel bug, returning to the states just to plan out a list of where to go next.

Her global expedition begins in the U.S., in which she plans to drive to all 50 U.S. states, and admits on her blog that this was easier planned than executed. “Soas I began the (daunting) process of mapping out the driving route of the lower 48 states, it quickly became apparent just how difficult this trip was going to be. I knew this would be A LOT of driving for one thing!” She will first head to Alaska, then to her hometown of Los Angeles, then the rest of the states starting in July 2018 and ending tentatively in February 2019. Traveling outside the country comes next, with the first stops being the Middle East and Africa for Jerahian. This leg of the journey is to start in early 2019, according to her blog. When Jerahian will tackle the seven summits and the North and South Pole are still to be decided.

From the Upper Peninsula’s Marquette on Lake Superior, to the Lower Peninsula’s Harbor Springs on Lake Michigan, it’s no surprise that much of the Great Lakes State’s luxury real estate features waterfront or water-view properties. Michigan is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, offering a freshwater coastline longer than any political subdivision in the world. Boating and outdoor recreational opportunities abound here.

Granot Loma, 1000 Co Road Ke, Marquette
Granot Loma, a world-class estate located on the shores of Lake Superior, is possibly the largest handcrafted log cabin in the nation. Consisting of 26,000 square feet, the 23-bedroom property was handcrafted by over 400 craftsmen in the 1920s.
• Wild Rivers Realty & Associates, Inc.

2625 W. Top O The Lake Road, Gulliver
With 300 acres of waterfront property and almost 2 miles of shoreline in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this property borders over 2,400 acres of state forest, offering abundant privacy.
• Harbor Sotheby’s International Realty

6028 Trillium Trail, Harbor Springs
Visible only from the lake, this exclusive retreat is expertly constructed with refined details and boasts expansive views of the coastline. Details include 300-year-old chestnut floors, a 13th-century French fireplace and 300-year-old Jerusalem stone flooring.
• Graham Real Estate

590 Dubuar Street, Northville
Castello Montebello, a palatial estate, sits on 3 pristine acres near the historic district of Northville, the most unique property in Southeast Michigan. With over 17,000 square feet of sheer elegance, this home was once the consulate of the Czech
• Max Broock Realtors

2756 Turtle Bluff Drive, Bloomfield Hills
Exquisitely detailed architectural masterpiece with the charm of an Italian villa located in the gated Turtle Lake community. Over 14,500 square feet of living space nestled on almost 2 acres, featuring a 2-story executive library and stunning dining room.
• Signature Sotheby’s International Realty

2670 Turtle Lake Drive, Bloomfield Hills
The most prestigious trophy property in Oakland County is privately set behind the gates of Turtle Lake. The 12.11-acre parcel served as a working farm in the late 1800s and offers original 1920s buildings such as a dairy barn, silo and horse stable.
• Harbor Sotheby’s International Realty

Pine Hollow, 10400 S. Bayshore Drive, Elk Rapids
Pine Hollow, a Northern Michigan waterfront estate located on the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay, is a unique contemporary lakeshore masterpiece with natural pathways, an orchard garden, tennis court and a separate meeting barn.
• Harbor Sotheby’s International Realty

51571 8 Mile Road, Northville
On a 4.55-acre lot with a private driveway and finished walkout basement, this Vistal Homes-built home is where elegance is perfected. Find unmatched quality, supervision and attention to detail.
• Brandt Real Estate

2600 Turtle Lake Drive, Bloomfield Hills
Nestled within a gated community, this 15,000-plus-square-foot estate home is situated on 7-plus acres. The classic waterfront home was redesigned for grand entertaining with a seamlessly blended floor plan.
• Max Broock Realtors

Lockwood Lake Ranch, Atlanta
Lockwood Lake Ranch is a one-of-a-kind dream home. The approximately 2,000 acres and the 118-acre lake gives hunting camp a whole new meaning. The main house is nestled on the lake and amongst mature trees and there are numerous historic buildings.
• Kidd & Leavy Real Estate LLC

186 S. Division Ave, Holland
This prestigious and exclusive waterfront legacy sits on the banks of Lake Macatawa, stretching over 38 acres of waterfront property. The estate combines luxury with comfortability, spanning from the stabled barn, pastures, and riding trails to the outdoor pool and patio.
• Beacon Sotheby’s International Realty

984 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores
One of the finest builds in Grosse Pointe Shores, complete with more than 13,000 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 baths, 3 powder rooms, a theater, gym, spa, slate roof, elevator, and other luxurious features. The home is being sold fully furnished.
• Capital Real Estate Group, LLC

31500 Bingham Road, Bingham Farms
This 1939 grand estate makes contemporary living and entertaining a dream. The 17,500-square-foot residence is sited on 15.5 park-like acres and features an incredible indoor pool, spa and fitness complex.
• Hall & Hunter-Birmingham

15640 Lakeshore Road, Union Pier
Spectacular beachfront destination set amidst lush landscaping with complete privacy and 100 feet of Littoral Right Lake Michigan Frontage. Features include a custom infinity pool with a cascading waterfall, hot tub, well-appointed outdoor kitchen and lakeside screen pavilion.
• Paradise Properties Harbor Country

297 County Road KB, Marquette
This private property features a restored historic lodge, cedar home that together can sleep 12, a mile of Lake Superior frontage with a fine-sand beach, and a dramatic rock bay with small granite islands reminiscent of California’s Big Sur.
• Huey Real Estate

20-A Peppers Trail, Montague
A modern 8,000-square-foot masterpiece with 360-degree views, this West Michigan home is an architectural masterpiece of stone, wood, copper and glass, crafted in perfect harmony with its environment atop a dune overlooking Lake Michigan.
Andrea Crossman Coldwell Banker Woodland-Schmidt

15860 Lakeshore Road, Union Pier
For more than 50 years, this historic property has been home to the family-operated “Gintaras Resort” and includes 14 vintage, fully equipped rentable units plus a tennis court and game building.
• Cressy & Everett Real Estate

313 and 315 Belvedere Ave, Charlevoix
A boater’s dream waterfront estate for the discerning collector and boating enthusiast on 1.19 acres of land with 158 feet of waterfront. Located on Round Lake in Charlevoix, this unique and rare opportunity allows for world-class boating, yachting and sailing on inland Lake Charlevoix.
• Harbor Sotheby’s International Realty

02503 Mountain Road, East Jordan
Located on the shore of Lake Charlevoix is “Point of View,” a magnificent estate nestled on over 3,000 feet of sandy lake frontage and 60 acres of mature maples, aspens, and pines. The log home, guest home and stables are all tastefully appointed and completed to the highest standards available.
• Kidd & Leavy Real Estate LLC

3950 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills
This magnificent stone French manor sits beautifully on 2.5 acres with immaculate gardens and grounds and spectacular views of Lower Long Lake. Designed by celebrated architect Wallace Frost, the exquisite craftsmanship and intricate details can be seen throughout.
• Hall & Hunter Realtors

16096 Lake Ave, Union Pier
Coastal luxury is redefined in this 11,000-square-foot, 8-bedroom, 6.5-bath lakefront home on 1-plus acres with 100 feet of littoral beach rights in Union Pier. From the nature-
inspired color palette to the rich textures and finishes of the furnishings and fixtures, every detail pays homage to the lake, sand and sky.
• Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

2673 Whitmarsh Road, Vanderbilt
This 1,680-acre piece of paradise, with 3 miles of private Sturgeon River and 2 miles of Moss Back Creek offers 6 homes for a total of 16 bedrooms and 14 full baths. Amenities include a full-size swimming pool and tennis courts.
• Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate

5995 Tamarack Lane, Petoskey
Truly a one-of-a-kind home! Enjoy 1,000 feet of waterfront with panoramic views from every room in the house. The house features 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths, 3,500 square feet, 3 boathouses, extensive docking, a custom kitchen, and an amazing sun porch.
• Kidd & Leavy Real Estate LLC

29 N. Manitou Trail, Lake Leelanau
This Leelanau County coastal property on Good Harbor Bay is large, with about 16 acres and 706 feet of Lake Michigan frontage. This is prime Leelanau Peninsula lakefront living, with privacy and convenience, as well as resort buildings, some dating to the 1920s.
• Huey Real Estate

721 And 723 Dellwood, Harbor Springs
Gorgeous 2-lot Lake Michigan retreat designed to last a lifetime by Marshall Watson Interiors. This exceptional 6,000-square-foot residence is situated strategically on 2 lots and was totally remodeled, with a new kitchen installed, in 2015.
• Harbor Sotheby’s International Realty


photo © / DougLemke



In 2017, Unique Homes is traveling the U.S. to find the dominant stories in each region of the country — This issue covers the South.

By Camilla McLaughlin

Courtesy Arquitectonica

Not too long ago, the siren call of the South was fun in the sun. Miles of coastline might translate into some of the most desirable second home and resort locations in the county, but more than fun in the sun is creating vibrant real estate markets. Instead, catalysts are strong fundamentals, new job opportunities and investments in infrastructure. Cities are reorganizing, and a number, such as Atlanta, Nashville and Charleston, have risen to new prominence, nationally. Fledgling tech hubs are being incubated, and no matter where you look, new neighborhoods and master-planned communities are on the rise.

Ten years ago, a few prognosticators speculated it could possibly take more than a decade, if ever, for Florida properties to recover from the recession. Today, real estate is thriving in cities across the South from Florida to Texas. Coming out of the recession, Dallas, Houston and Austin set the pace with some of the country’s best real estate markets. Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte all number in Urban Land Institute’s top 10 markets to watch and are believed to have excellent overall prospects for real estate in 2017.


Boom times may not quite be back, but Florida markets have racked up an impressive record in recent years. July marked the 68th month of increases in median prices statewide with single-family prices up 7.1 percent and condo and townhouse prices up 6.8 percent. Florida’s economy is expected to grow faster than the national economy with the gross state product reaching $1.074 trillion by 2019, according to a forecast from the Institute for Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. Based on current rankings by the World Bank, that number today would make Florida’s economy the 16th largest in the world.

Seven of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the U.S. are in the Sunshine State. Orlando is booming, ranking at the top of Forbes cities with the highest projected job growth, boosted by a growing technology sector as well as innovative strategies such as Creative Village, which integrates education and high tech in a single setting. It also will be one of the largest transit-oriented developments in central Florida.

Orlando recently placed second in the nation for single-family home sales. “It is definitely Orlando’s time, and it’s a confluence of many different factors,” observes Jessi Blakley, director of communications and public relations for Tavistock Development Company, the developer of Lake Nona, one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S.

New projects in the pipeline for Lake Nona include a $400 million training and innovation center for KPMG and an Amazon high-tech fulfillment center. Also on the drawing board is a mixed-use luxury development that includes an 11-acre Crystal Lagoon, dynamic town center, art installations and a hotel designed by Miami’s Arquitectonica. The location adjacent to Lake Nona’s Medical City, a 650-acre health and life science park comprised of several hospitals, academic institutions and bioscience facilities, underscores a growing emphasis on wellness. “We consider ourselves to be a living lab, so you are going to see innovation across the entire community. And that’s going to be everything from our healthy homes to a partnership with Delos,” says Blakley.

Nowhere is the luxury story quite like that of Miami’s, where a legion of international starchitects have remade the skyline with visionary new towers, including residential projects from luxury brands such as Porsche Design, Armani and Fendi. Condo construction is now a multi-billion-dollar industry. Since 2011, 86 new towers, and 8,749 units have been completed east of I-95 in Miami Dade County.

Mega projects including the Brickell Center, Miami Worldcenter, and City Place Doral are reviving sections of the city and enhancing Miami’s status as a retail hub for the Americas.

This year, Miami’s ultra market moved from sizzle to simmer. “The year of the buyer” is how Ben Brissi, an agent with EWM Realty International in Miami, characterizes 2017. “With the third quarter underway, we are still seeing a high supply of inventory, which provides great opportunities for buyers,” he says.

Sellers are taking notice. They are “becoming more realistic with pricing, especially at the top of the market,” shares Coral Gables Realtor and Chair of the Miami Association of Realtors Christopher Zoller. New construction is excluded from Miami Realtor data, but sales of existing luxury condos surged in July, and overall single-family home prices have increased for 68 consecutive months. Prices for sales of existing condos have increased for 71 of the last 74 months.

Although “the season” still holds sway in enclaves like Palm Beach, Manalapan, Miami Beach and Naples, many brokers see fundamental shifts underway. Summer is usually quiet, but this year Florida Realtors say they have been busy. “There was a definite pickup this summer. From a purchase standpoint, I am seeing a shift from a seasonal to year-round. People look in the early season, but they come back in the summer to buy,” says Tade Bua-Bell, a broker associate at John R. Wood Properties in Naples. “More people are lengthening their stay, often to eight months. We’re also finding lots of kids coming in the summer.”

Courtesy The Fite Group Luxury Homes ERA Powered and ©

“The season is elongating. Now it’s starting out in October, and many are not leaving until late spring or early June. It is much busier in the summer,” says David Fite, principal of The Fite Group Luxury Homes ERA Powered in Palm Beach. 

“We really don’t have a season anymore,” says Brenda Donnelly, a Luxury Collection specialist with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Knight & Gardner Realty in Key West. “Every month we have a festival of some sort; we are really a year-round vacation resort.” Donnelly, who also owns Historic Key West Vacation Rentals, says the market is booming, with a limited inventory and so many renovations that it can take six to eight months to get a builder. The potential for long-term rentals, here and in other resort settings, is becoming an added incentive to purchase.

Bua-Bell says, “We had a lot of big sales this summer over $10 million. People are purchasing a little more.” The reason, she says, is simple: “People just want to live their lives. People aren’t just buying real estate, they are buying lifestyle. There are only so many warm places where people can go.”

Another shift in the Sunshine State is toward year-round communities. “Our impression is there are many people now moving to Palm Beach County full time, who 10 to 15 years ago would have been snowbirds,” says Fite. More than $2 billion in development and 1,000 residential units downtown are expected to come online in West Palm Beach.

Most Expensive Listings

Palm Beach area: $195 million compound in Manalapan.
Miami: $150 million for 4 waterfront lots on exclusive Indian Creek Island; a $65 million estate on Star Island is available for the first time in 30 years.
Orlando: $7.588 million in Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort, with access to the Four Seasons Resort Orlando.
Naples: $65 million estate on 4.08 beachfront acres.
Also notable: $26.5 million estate on Longboat Key. 

Design Miami

“Right now, the condo market in Miami has really taken a swing; it is much more modern. Lobbies are sparser,” with many more amenities, says Kevin Gray, owner of Kevin Gray Design. Hotel services are popular although Gray finds clients often see that as an invasion of privacy.   

“Architecture is becoming cleaner,” he observes. The preference for kitchens is white lacquer cabinets that open upwards. Additionally, in both New York and Miami, homeowners want ecofriendly materials. “For a while everyone loved the white marble floors or terra cotta. Today, people are doing composite materials, and you can hardly tell the difference,” says Gray.

Lighting has become important in the upscale market, and instead of the fixture the focus is on the lighting itself. “People are more aware of the quality of the lighting and of good lights, he says, pointing to new LEDs. Also “taking off like wildfire” are square recessed lights. “No one wants round anymore,” he says. On the horizon, look for more casings lined with black instead of white. 

Courtesy The Fite Group Luxury Homes ERA Powered


The story here is population growth as existing companies add new jobs and the promise of top talent from Georgia Tech and Emory University lure new enterprises to the area. Recently, Atlanta was celebrated as the top city for making movies, and the film business adds to both state coffers and the city’s luxury cachet.

An old nickname for Atlanta was “The City of Love,” and newcomers here are finding a lot more to love thanks to infrastructure enhancements and an urban revitalization that promises to roll from midtown to downtown. Buckhead remains the city’s prime luxury enclave, but many other areas are acquiring a luxury persona. “Midtown is on fire,” says Christa Huffstickler, owner of Engel & Völkers Atlanta, pointing to new luxury towers, sidewalk cafes and restaurants, even a food and wine festive. “Finally, it feels like a real city. We are going to see a shift, and, in the next 10 to 15 years, downtown will be as vibrant as midtown is now.”

Another big transformation is the development of the Beltline, which is similar to New York’s High Line. Even though only several miles are complete, residents can already see how it will change the city. “We are seeing developers gravitating to the Beltline. It’s going to become as important of a draw for consumers as Buckhead. And our city has been starving for that connectivity.”

Atlanta has been a city of suburbs and those markets are still in demand, but new condo offerings beckon people back to town. “When our real estate cycle came back, we saw a shift in the condo market and a transition in what that product offered. There was more thoughtful design, smaller boutique-sized buildings, and more square footage. Rather than first-time buyers, they were oriented toward a move-up market as well as downsizers.”

Most expensive listing in Atlanta: $15.8 million Mediterranean estate in Buckhead.

South Carolina   

Stop in any small-town coffee shop along coastal South Carolina, and there is a good chance you will encounter newcomers meeting with real estate agents, and there is no better testimony to vibrancy of real estate in coastal resort locales as well as farther inland. Home values in South Carolina increased by 5.5 percent over the last year, and predictions call for an additional 3.5-percent rise next year. New resort developments such as Palmetto Bluff and classics like Hilton Head bring vacation buyers and full-time residents. Master-planned communities are in the works statewide, but the biggest news for upscale real estate has got to be how much Charleston’s star has risen in the luxury firmament.

Charleston has always been a top southern destination, but the city’s ascendancy to the luxury elite this year is undeniable. From Top Chef to Travel + Leisure, it seems to be on everyone’s list of top markets, including Unique Homes’ annual “Markets to Watch.” Christie’s ranks Charleston fifth, ahead of Paris; Portland, Oregon; and Sydney on its Luxury Thermometer, a gauge based on demand and growth. Austin and San Francisco outpaced Charleston at fourth and third.

“Charleston has always stayed ahead of most areas just because of how desirable it is. When other areas are depressed, Charleston comes along at a decent pace, because of the draw of history, beaches and the overall charm of the Lowcountry,” says Michael Robert Smith with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolina Sun Real Estate. Lower taxes are another incentive for businesses to relocate here, and a growing tech section is bringing more millennials to the area. From antique residences along The Battery to oceanfront at Kiawah Island, the range of luxury housing here is amazing.

There is a lot of new construction, particularly away from the water. But the big news for some perspective residents, according to Smith, is “the Low Country is still affordable. West of Charleston you might be able to get a mansion for $500,000.”

Charlotte, North Carolina

Although Raleigh-Durham has been the epicenter for growth in the Carolinas, the push now is to revitalize uptown Charlotte with new cultural venues, educational institutions, parks, walkable streets, new housing, and retail.

The light rail added in 2007 led to a boom of apartments and retail in the South End that is expected to be replicated in NoDa and the University area as the rail expands north of Uptown. Charlotte also aligns with a national trend in developing cities, in which luxury rentals are offering a huge range of amenities, pet perks and a high level of design within individual units.

Also included in the remake of city center Charlotte are a number of parks, including Romare Beardon Park, adjacent to a new minor league baseball park and the Carolina Panthers football stadium. Jump starting the refurbishment of nearby Stonewall Street is Crescent Communities’ new mixed-use development, Stonewall Station. Plans call for two hotels, a Whole Foods Market and upscale apartments.

Most expensive listing in Charlotte: $6.3 million set on 20 acres in South Charlotte.

Cinnamon Shore, Texas

New resorts are a rarity these days, but a well-established vacation community for Texans along the gulf holds the promise of rivaling those in Florida and the Carolinas. Located on Port Aransas and Mustang Island, an 18-mile island near Corpus Christi, Cinnamon Shore is slated for a $1.3 billion, two-phase expansion, which in the next decade will include new two-to-five-bedroom vacation homes, an upscale boutique hotel and a 10-acre lake ringed by a mile-long boardwalk.

Plans call for approximately 3,300 of beachfront, triple the size of the current beach at Cinnamon Shore, as well as a town center with retail, dining and entertainment. Organized around the concept of New Urbanism, the community will be the kind of place where front porches energize connections and kids can be kids.

Courtesy of Toll Brothers

New Home Designs in Texas

For Texas homeowners, particularly downsizers, collected interiors that include items with a personal meaning or story are important. “We do see a yearning from people wanting that authenticity,” says Kate Brennan, director of accounts at Mary Cook Associates, a Chicago architecture and design firm that works with homebuilders nationally. For empty nesters, it might be something acquired on a trip or a collection. “It is often something that has a story that relates to them,” says Brennan. In the Lone Star State, rustic elements are also desired, but, Brennan adds, with clean lines so the end result is “sophisticated and collected.” The indoor-outdoor connection is important in Texas and it continues to be refined. Look for more seamless applications of finishes to connect the two spaces.

Both downsizers and Millennials like single-level floor plans. “People downsizing are looking for a place that will promote health and wellness,” she says. Boomers are looking ahead and they want homes that will support future transitions. Millennials also like single-level floor plans because they are easy to maintain. But they want flexible open plans that can be adapted to their individual lifestyle.

Style Selector
Select the layout
Choose the theme
Preset colors
No Preset
Select the pattern