Luxury can mean something different to every person you ask.
“Most people think that luxury means big, expensive and on the water. But that’s not always true,” says Louis Savinetti, listing partner at The Duncan Duo & Associates in Tampa, Fla. He was also named REALTOR® Magazine’s “30 under 30” for 2017.
For those fortunate enough to buy a luxury property, luxury could mean anything from a small apartment in New York City to a $20 million beach house in Malibu, Calif.
“It’s a unique subject and very subjective to one’s taste. Everyone’s perspective can be completely different. In my experience, it usually means the higher price point for the neighborhood, and no other homes in that area are this expensive or that size,” he says.
Location is very important in determining whether or not a home is luxury while the size of the property or home can make others think a home is luxury.
Whatever your personal definition of luxury is, here are some tips and information on buying a luxury home:
What do luxury property buyers look for in a home?
Many luxury home buyers are looking for quality products such as Viking appliances, Italian marble, two dishwashers and a freezer the size of a refrigerator. They look for bowling alleys, movie theaters, tennis courts and lavish outdoor spaces.
“Some of the items are over the top in every possible way,” Savinetti says.
He toured a man’s garage which had underground storage for all his cars. A car lift would bring them from underground, and also a car lift to put them in the air so he could fit more in the space.
“It seems a little obsessive to some. But if you have the money and you are passionate about something, that is your luxury,” he says.
He’s also seen hidden and transformation pools where all the water would drain quickly and the bottom would come up as a patio area.
“Pools are expensive anyways. So, when you start adding on those types of things and adding unique character, that’s just part of the luxury. No one else has it, and it sets it apart from the rest,” Savinetti explains. “That’s what makes it luxury.”
John Travolta put an airstrip on his land. Tiger Woods owns his own 9-hole golf course at his house; and Ricky Carmichael, known for his success in motor racing, built his own motorcross track on his property, he says.
High pricing isn’t necessarily affiliated with luxury
Savinetti’s girlfriend received an internship in Manhattan. She told him she had rented a great apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Actress Halle Berry lived in the same building, and there was a door man.
“The owner had paid $3 million for the building. But it was nothing special, and it was a very little apartment with only 800 square feet,” he says.
Even when buying a luxury property, checking similar properties and comparing your options is a smart idea.
What are some top features usually associated with luxury homes?
One of the big things luxury home buyers look for is privacy; unless, of course, it’s in areas such as New York City.
“People that have a lot of money – the very wealthy – or celebrities don’t want to hear or see their neighbors,” Savinetti says.
Another big incentive to buy a specific home can be the architect or designer of the house. People also want extremely updated homes with all kinds of technological features – something that no one else has makes it something that everyone wants, he adds.
Luxury home buyers might also care who lived in the house before they did. Was this Tom Cruise’s house while married to Nicole Kidman or was that penthouse in Miami the place that an NBA star owned?
“I’m not very star-gazed, and I don’t care who lived in the house. I’m not going to pay extra just because some celebrity lived there,” Savinetti says. “But some people will pay extra just to live on the same street with a celebrity.”
How does one find luxury homes (before hiring a realtor) if many are not listed to protect a seller’s privacy?
The luxury world is very word-of-mouth. Most luxury agents focus only on luxury homes, he says. They all know each other well, and have a small network.
It’s who you know when it comes to luxury properties. If you get a listing, they don’t usually put it on the MLS or Zillow. They call other agents and talk about their properties to see if they have any buyers that could be interested. People with luxury homes don’t want people to know their home is for sale for safety reasons. they also want to avoid people who are only curious to see the house.
Other aspects to consider before deciding on a luxury home:
Savinetti says he has seen many people who could buy their dream luxury home, but adding flood insurance in that area put the cost over the top. Sometimes, the cost can be an extra $500 to $600 a month for a normal sized home. So, the bigger and more expensive the house, the more the insurance will be.
This is why all home buyers need to keep additional costs in mind before signing the paperwork at the closing.
Savinetti’s uncle owns an average-sized home on Long Island, N.Y. He pays over $16,000 a year in taxes. Depending on the county and city that the house sits, taxes can be quite high. The bigger and higher cost property you buy, the more your taxes will be.
If a home is bigger, than the electrical and plumbing systems are bigger. That means it will cost a lot to heat and keep cool.
Also, the condition of all the systems could be in rough shape, especially if it is an older home. You might be putting in a few hundred thousand dollars just to update the roof, replace all the bathrooms or overhaul the electrical wires.
Even if you have endless money, you just might not be able to build your dream house close to work or where you exactly want it. You need to prioritize what is most important to you – a short drive to work or having a home on the water with a long commute.