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BH&G_Cover_Story_Image_2014Meet the new Joneses. They believe their house is the best one on the block. They seek multiple homes to fit their lifestyle needs and have an affinity for high-tech features. Despite the emergence of new luxury niches, such as the Millennial tech millionaires, the key is to look at the next generation of luxury from a completely age-agnostic perspective. The new Joneses have a priority set that is different from the luxury buyers of yesterday. What do they care about? How do real estate professionals keep up? Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate sought to understand the motivations and characteristics of people who own at least one home valued at $1 million or more, and how the confluence of lifestyle, technology and social factors have combined to create a new and interesting group of Joneses.

“As our lives have become busier, a home that supports a high quality of life has become an increasing driver in purchasing decisions for today’s luxury buyer,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC. “Formal, museum-like spaces have given way to functional, warm gathering places where family and friends get together. Square footage as a status symbol has been replaced by a gravitation toward smart, efficient, amenity-rich homes. Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is thrilled to have captured the essence of what motivates luxury homebuyers with our ground-breaking study, and to have given real estate professionals a behind-the-curtain view into why this demographic prefers to call certain houses ‘home.’”

Luxury Consumer Still Hungry, But Appetite Has Changed

Smart Luxury, Smart Investments
Homeownership has long been part of the American Dream. The caviar dreams of the luxury consumer are consistent with that: 75 percent of luxury homebuyers surveyed believe homeownership is a more sound investment than the stock market. However, lifestyle factors have pushed aside the priority of large-scale specs. Today’s haute-home features have evolved past marble surfaces and gilded accents to state-of-the-art security systems, climate control, lighting and keyless entry systems that can be controlled by mobile devices.

“There is a good amount of buzz around things like Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, refrigerators, door locks, entertainment systems, lighting controls such as HUE lights and security features,” says Scott Lehmann, CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Sonoran Desert Lifestyles. “These days, it seems everyone wants to be able to manage these home features from their phones.”

With the eco trend still on everyone’s mind, you may be surprised to learn that when it comes to their dream home, a majority (66 percent) of luxury homebuyers surveyed says a “smart” home is more important to them than a “green” home. Perhaps this is because smart-home technology continues to innovate at breakneck speed, and the products and materials that help a large home shrink its carbon footprint may be perceived as expensive and challenging to implement. When house hunting, 87 percent of luxury homebuyers surveyed would not consider living in a home that isn’t tech-friendly. This brings forward a new set of considerations for the real estate professional as they serve as advisors to the luxury set.

“The smarter the home, the more time and money a homeowner can save,” says David Cooper, president and CEO, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Kansas City Homes. “Luxury buyers want to be able to entertain more easily, make the most of their family time and have peace of mind about how their home is being managed when their busy schedules take them out of the home. Tech allows all of that to happen.”

Luxury Values
A recent Wealth vs. Worth study by Traditional Home magazine, published by Meredith Corporation, the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, discovered an attitudinal shift among affluent consumers over the past few years. For this consumer, the drive to make more money has become the drive to make more time to enjoy their money. In other words, time is the ultimate luxury. And this consumer considers the impact their purchases will have on those who matter to them the most. They want to spend their money on experiences and creating memories. This echoes the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate findings that show a majority of luxury homeowners surveyed prefer owning multiple “lifestyle” homes to support activities like skiing, beach vacations, or attending cultural events. In fact, more than half (58 percent) of luxury homebuyers already own multiple homes to support their lifestyle activities.

For this consumer, comfort and lifestyle benefits take precedence over square footage. Sixty percent of luxury homebuyers surveyed would rather have as many upgrades as they can afford in their home, rather than more square footage.

For Sally Romo, sales associate at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Bradfield Properties in San Antonio, Texas, the majority of her luxury clients have more than one home.

“My clients tend to look for primary residences in the market I serve and have lake houses or beach properties elsewhere,” says Romo. “But they are looking for vacation-like luxuries surrounding the main residence as well. Many of my clients are willing to give up larger lots and pay more to be in a smaller home within an exclusive gated community. They seek these types of locations where they can take a golf cart to community activities, parties or a round of golf and drive only a few miles to experience great restaurants.”