Brisbane riverfronts in demand
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, 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
Must-haves are vaulted ceilings and curtain-free windows, left; the Truongs’ spa-like master bathroom, above; a retractable wall, right glass