MY WORKING LIFE
When the seriously wealthy want to buy property, they call Brigitte Tenbergen. Here, she tells us about private elevators, clients’ pets and how ultra-high net worth individuals like a bargain, too
Brigitte Tenbergen on what the ultra-rich look for in a home.
When ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) buy property, what do they do differently from regular Joes? Usually, a UHNWI does not approach us directly but through their personal assistant, their representative or their lawyer, and they only appear on stage later on when suitable properties have been shortlisted by their rep. Other than that, UHNWIs value their privacy a lot, but are usually very humble and easy to deal with. Most of them have worked very hard to reach where they are today.
What’s a typical day for you? Every day is different. I get up quite early in the morning and go to yoga class, then I go to the office and I follow up on my enquiries and my to-do list. Often I have meetings with a potential seller to look at a new property and discuss their expectations. I also have viewings and follow-ups. I meet with developers, follow up on commission payments, screen the market and stay on top of any real estate news.
Can you tell us about an unusual day at work? This didn’t happen to me, but a colleague of mine was invited to his client’s luxurious penthouse to finalise a deal. After being greeted by the client’s staff and sitting on the living room sofa waiting for his tea, a lion cub ran into the room and jumped with the speed of light right onto his lap.
A lion? Yes! And because it was a wild animal, he had to stop himself from screaming. After a few minutes, his client nonchalantly walked in and asked him to relax as this was her cute little baby lion and would not harm him. The negotiations took over an hour and when he came out, my colleague was sweating all over.
What’s the biggest budget you were ever given by a client? Well, there are many fake clients giving budgets of $60million, for example, but we know right away that they are fake.
Why would someone do that? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. The truth is that so many people love to pretend that they are wealthy. The biggest genuine budget I have worked on is around $10 million, but a colleague of mine has recently sold a penthouse for $16 million and another, a villa on the Palm for about $19 million.
What are the biggest must-haves for the seriously wealthy when it comes to property? They definitely want privacy, security, comfort, space and great amenities that could include a private pool and/or beach access. If they choose to live in a tower, for example in a penthouse, then access with a private elevator to their flat is a must, as well as several maids’ rooms and a driver’s room.
Do they like to strike a bargain or do they typically pay the asking price? Everybody loves a bargain, including an UHNWI. Every client wants to negotiate, whatever the price might be – they will never settle for the asking price unless it is a fixed price from the developer and not negotiable. Otherwise there is always negotiation, and the client likes to feel that he got a discount and a good deal.
What’s ‘in’ right now? We’ve sold many high-end branded properties in exclusive developments, such as the Palazzo Versace or the Kempinski
Residences on the Palm Jumeirah; what are popular are penthouses and beachfront properties that carry a contemporary design. The designer tag is huge for real estate at the moment and these properties carry a significant premium, but clients love them as they come with a certain standard. There’s also a demand for lush new communities with massive villas; clients definitely want contemporary modern right now, oftentimes ready to move in and furnished. The overall quality of many new projects is improving in response to the market.
What was your best day at work? This actually happened a few months back. I had just one viewing with a client in an apartment I had listed for over one-and-ahalf years. The buyer returned to Dubai after a month, put in an offer, did not even want to revisit the property and the offer got accepted. We signed the papers and everything happened very smoothly. Buyer happy, seller happy: What can be more rewarding for a real estate agent?
Have you ever had someone spend tens of millions of dollars without even seeing the property? Not personally, but I have received offers made from clients abroad. In these cases, however, we know right away that they are not serious and it is people pretending to be something they are not. We’ve even had cases where clients almost get to the point of finalising the purchase and pull out – we think it’s a trick to try and gain credit elsewhere, such as: ‘Look, I am buying this $10m property.’ When people really do buy at these prices, they always want to see the property, especially if they want to live in it. Having said that, we had a couple of cases of off-plan properties where the client has bought a bulk amount of apartments without having physically seen the project.
Any jaw-dropping moments where you were invited to visit a property in a helicopter? To be honest, UHNWIs these days are not inclined to showcase their wealth. We can see this even in the latest properties coming to market; they value ‘understated luxury’. Having said that, they might attend the viewings in very luxurious cars and wear the most expensive brands and watches, but there are few other displays of extravagance.
If you were allowed to spend a month living in any property you’d ever had on your
UHNWIs these days are not inclined to SHOWCASE their wealth. We can see this even in the LATEST PROPERTIES coming to market; they value ‘UNDERSTATED LUXURY’
books, what would you have chosen? Probably a villa on the Palm Jumeirah where I could sit outside near the beach and enjoy the silence and the beautiful views of the Marina skyline at night.
Where do you personally think is the best place to live in Dubai? I love to be close to the sea, so definitely either on the Palm Jumeirah or Jumeirah Bay.
Finally, they say that it is the wife that chooses the property – is that true? Ha-ha, yes, to an extent. But the husband also needs to like the property as he’s the main purchaser. Even the children have a say in the purchase. Let me rephrase: If the wife does not like the property, there is no way the family will go for it.
Part of Luxhabitat’s sales specialist Brigitte’s role involves knowing who’s a genuine client – and who’s faking
Secure and private properties – whether a Palm villa or a serviced residence – fit the super-rich’s criteria