The New Definition of Ultra-Luxury Real Estate: Differentiation, Customization and Amenities in Washington, DC & Beyond


Dan Conn, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate, Gives Keynote Speech at Inaugural Luxury Trends Conference

 (Washington, DC—March 15, 2018) Developers of new residential projects must look beyond unit sizes and upscale finishes to deliver a differentiated product that offers unique, personalized and customized experiences, according to leading real estate and design experts assembled in Washington, D.C. for the inaugural Luxury Trends Conference. The event, organized by Urban Pace in partnership with Long & Foster and Christie’s International Real Estate, examined global and national trends in new luxury residential developments and how they will shape the Greater Washington market in the coming months and years.

“We are seeing an increase in demand for luxury throughout DC right now from both national and international buyers,” said Clint Mann, President of Urban Pace. “We are currently selling an ultra-luxury project called The Adele in Downtown DC and have not had a single sale to a person currently living in DC. All sales have either been out of the area or international, with one international sale coming directly through the Christie’s network,” continued Mann.

Conference keynote speaker Dan Conn, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate, noted that Washington, DC, has emerged as an important luxury market in the U.S., capturing the attention of foreign buyers and investors.

Conn also pointed to the global strength of the luxury residential market and that many investors are making real estate a bigger part of their portfolios. While there are certainly fluctuations in the real estate market, “you don’t see the same gut-wrenching volatility as you do in equity markets.”

“The market rewards real estate because it’s real… I don’t believe in bubbles. Bubbles are for children.… Scarcity drives value. A savvy buyer and a savvy seller will find a way to negotiate and get a deal done,” Conn said. The Chinese, in particular, have become incredibly sophisticated luxury real estate buyers.
Internationally renowned designers, Elaine Cecconi, Anna Simone, Morris Adjmi, and Stephen Brockman, all agreed that DC is the next booming luxury market. “This market is primed for luxury development. It is taking DC 10 years to accomplish what took Toronto 20,” said Anna Simone, Partner at Cecconi Simone.

Highlights of the Conference

Washington is a Growing Luxury Market

• There is increased interest among international buyers in Washington.
• Unlike many other major markets, most of Washington’s luxury property is owner-occupied.
• Buyers are out there, but developers have to cast a wider net to find them.

Differentiation and Branding Really Matter

• Developers need to find ways to have their projects stand out by “shooting for the rare” to surprise, delight and add value.
• Projects designed by Star Architects enhance the value of luxury projects
• Views matter: unimpeded views set a project apart

Ultra Luxury is Redefined

• Luxury today is all about experience and less about size and finishes.
• The convergence of hospitality and residential—buyers want the kind of service found at the best hotels at home to make life simpler and easier for busy people.
• Luxury buyers seek personal, one-on-one experience to cater to every perceived need. Says Mann: “What is driving the luxury market is staffing and services—focus on the staff and the high level of service–front desk, onsite management, engineers, vehicle receiving. People in DC are less interested in the pool because they have that at the country club.”
• All demographics are downsizing “Bragging rights are not so much about how many square feet you live in but about how few square feet you can live in,” said Anna Simone, Partner, Cecconi|Simone.

• Amenities are a critical part of the luxury equation. Projects are offering wine and art storage, bigger package rooms with notifications, more personalized spa and workout experiences, and transportation amenities that range from valet to automated onsite parking.
• Owners/occupants are looking for a sense of community and increasingly that community is found in a “vertical village” experience, where shared amenities bring a sense of community.
• Green space, community gardens are also important in luxury projects.
• No longer “white boxing” projects—buyers want product that is move-in ready, which changes the way developers think about types of appliances and features in homes.
• Technology is important as long as it is simple and easy to use. People don’t want to have to program systems.

Future Proofing Luxury Development

• Developers need to imagine what doesn’t yet exist and offer product that can adapt as people’s needs change, i.e. a single person who starts a family; people who are caring for aging parents; people who want to age in place.
• Parking and transportation is being rethought: valet, automated parking, transit access, Uber

In addition to Conn and Mann, other participants in the Luxury Trends Conference included: Matt Dewey of Urban Pace, Joan Docktor of Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach; Ron Shuffield, of EWM Realty International; Jim Gricar of Houlihan Lawrence; Stephen Brockman of Deborah Berke Partners; Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone of Cecconi Simone; and Morris Adjmi of Morris Adjmi Architects.

About Urban Pace

Urban Pace is the Mid-Atlantic leader in development real estate services including marketing, sales, leasing and advisory. As a Christie’s affiliate, we are the only firm with luxury and global reach. Founded in 2001, our team is the experienced authority having worked on more than 200 communities from large master planned sites to urban boutique buildings. We specialize in condominiums, townhomes, apartments and new construction sites across all price points. Combining our strategic approach and proprietary technology, UP Velocity™, we have a track record of driving traffic and revenue with extraordinary results. As part of a billion dollar entity, The Long and Foster Companies, we have unmatched resources with a network of 11,000 agents and a dedicated Asia Pacific team.
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