MAN­SION

Bris­bane river­fronts in de­mand

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS REVIEW - AMY GAMERMAN

Want to know what it takes to sell a lux­ury home in a soft­en­ing mar­ket? Ask Anh-Tuan and April Truong.

Re­cently, Dr Truong, a cos­metic sur­geon, and Ms Truong, a stay-at-home mother to their two chil­dren, sold their 300sq m town­home in Chicago’s Gold Coast neigh­bour­hood for $US1.175 mil­lion ($1.64m) af­ter just 40 days on the mar­ket — while sim­i­lar homes in the same con­do­minium de­vel­op­ment lan­guished for months.

What gave the Truongs the edge? New quartzite bench­tops, new hard­wood floors and a neu­tral, un­clut­tered decor, all part of a $US30,000 up­grade in 2014.

“Sales have been slow over the past six months — you re­ally have to stand out. Their place showed like a model unit,” says Lau­ren Schuh-Day­ton, the cou­ple’s real es­tate agent with Jame­son Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty.

With the lux­ury mar­ket cool­ing, home sell­ers may have to in­vest in up­grades to get top dol­lar.

“In­ven­tory starts to pile up be­cause buy­ers don’t see value at that price level,” says Javier Vi­vas, Real­tor.com’s di­rec­tor of eco­nomic re­search. “Buy­ers are be­ing more de­mand­ing.”

To un­cover the se­crets of sell­ing a lux­ury home in a soft­en­ing mar­ket — and find out which ameni­ties are at­tract­ing buy­ers — bro­kers, real es­tate an­a­lysts, de­vel­op­ers and de­sign­ers of­fered their ad­vice.

Re­tractable glass walls

“Light-filled”, “bright”, “south­ern” and “ex­po­sure” are among the most fre­quent key­words used to de­scribe the lux­ury homes priced at $US1m and above that sold most quickly, ac­cord­ing to a Real­tor.com anal­y­sis of more than 45,000 lux­ury list­ings. For bro­kers and de­vel­op­ers, all those words mean just one thing: glass.

“When clients talk about ‘bright’ they are talk­ing about big win­dows and slid­ing glass walls that open to the out­side,” says Billy Rose, founder and pres­i­dent of The Agency in Bev­erly Hills, Cal­i­for­nia.

“One thing I ad­vise my clients to do if they can af­ford it is rip out french doors to an out­door liv­ing space and put in ac­cor­dion glass doors,” says Col­lette Mc­Don­ald, a Re/Max agent in At­lanta’s Buck­head neigh­bour­hood. “They give tra­di­tional floor­plans that con­tem­po­rary, up­dated look.”

Quartzite coun­ter­tops

Quartzite, a lus­trous nat­u­ral stone that’s harder than gran­ite and less prone to stain­ing than mar­ble, is the new star of the chef’s kitchen.

“Light whites and greys are re­plac­ing darker gran­ites. Buy­ers like to see a light, neu­tral coun­ter­top, not some­thing so per­son­alised or so busy that it’s com­pet­ing with the tile on the back­splash,” says Su­san Boss, of Martha Turner Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty in Hous­ton.

But­ler’s pantry

A tricked-out but­ler’s pantry with an ex­tra wine fridge, ice-maker or dish­washer can serve as an ex­ten­sion of the home’s en­ter­tain­ing space or hide the messy prep work. Real­tor.com’s anal­y­sis, says they are very pop­u­lar with home buy­ers. “These homes are spend­ing 40 to 60 fewer days on the mar­ket.”

Spa bath­rooms

To hook a buyer will­ing to spend well over $US1m on a New York City condo, a master bath­room must have a steam shower and a hi-tech Ja­panese toi­let — “two things I will never ever live with­out”, one real es­tate agent says. In San Fran­cisco, the spa bath­room makeover has be­come stan­dard in high-end re­mod­els, ac­cord­ing to de­signer Cindy Bayon. “Steam show­ers, heated floors — you as­sume that’s in the project go­ing in,” she says. Home con­struc­tion com­pany Toll Brothers has gone all-in with tubs. “It’s a big trend for us. Our buy­ers told us they wanted free­stand­ing tubs,” Toll Ar­chi­tec­ture pres­i­dent Jed Gib­son says.

High ceil­ings

Cathe­dral ceil­ings and vaulted ceil­ings are all in de­mand, says Susie O. John­son, a real es­tate agent with Cold­well Banker Gun­daker in St Louis.

Paul Schu­macher, of cus­tom home-builder Schu­macher Homes, says his clients will­ingly pay a premium for loftier master bed­rooms and great rooms. “We al­ways tell clients to put the money in things you can’t change later. I can change the fin­ish on the floors, but I can’t give them ex­tra vol­ume on ceil­ings.”

Smart-home sys­tems

App-based home-au­to­ma­tion sys­tems that can play mu­sic, con­trol light­ing sys­tems and win­dow treat­ments, reg­u­late ther­mostats and ac­cess se­cu­rity cam­eras are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. “It is now ex­pected that a home has an am­ple amount of tech­nol­ogy,” says Gary Gold, ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent at Hilton & Hy­land.

Gen­er­a­tor

More buy­ers are ask­ing about home gen­er­a­tors, par­tic­u­larly in hur­ri­cane-prone ar­eas. “It has be­come much more im­por­tant,” says Su­san Boss, whose clients learned to love gen­er­a­tors in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey in 2017. Adding a small gen­er­a­tor for backup power to pro­tect a valu­able wine col­lec­tion can cost as much as $US50,000, she says, while larger sys­tems for the home can cost $US100,000 or more.

“It’s one of those un­der­val­ued things, but use it once and you’re the hap­pi­est per­son,” says Judy Gib­bons, of Jame­son Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty in Chicago.

Neu­tral decor

“Light greys are re­ally pop­u­lar, whether it’s floor­ing or wall colours,” says Michael Costello of Dou­glas El­li­man Real Es­tate in Palm Beach, Florida. He ad­vises clients to ditch heavy drapes and put an­tique fur­nish­ings in stor­age. “Heavy brown fur­ni­ture is out. It’s not easy telling a client that buy­ers are turned off by that look.” And never un­der­es­ti­mate a good coat of paint. Gold swears by a Dun­nEd­wards hue called Swiss Cof­fee. “When in doubt, white it out.”

PIC­TURES: KA­T­RINA WITTKAMP

Must-haves are vaulted ceil­ings and cur­tain-free win­dows, left; the Truongs’ spa-like master bath­room, above; a re­tractable wall, right glass

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