Blog contributions are provided exclusively from Luxury Real Estate members throughout the world.
On June 20th, the 2012 summer solstice marked the first official day of the summer season. Though we've been enjoying the sunny skies, warm weather, perfect beaches, and great events for weeks now here in Santa Barbara (and of course the year-round luxury homes and real estate), it's not truly summer until the Santa Barbara Solstice Celebration. Nearing its 40th year, this festival has grown into a well loved and highly anticipated event in our coastal paradise.
The solstice brings a very special event to town. The Santa Barbara Solstice Celebration, which draws a crowd of over 100,000 from near and far, is a unique fun-filled festival during which attendees can expect to see downtown Santa Barbara transformed into a world of whimsy and wonder. This year's theme is "Fantasy," which promises a truly out-of-the-ordinary experience. The highlight of the festival is the Santa Barbara Solstice Celebration Parade, occurring on Saturday. This parade features over 1,000 participants who dance, perform acrobatics, play music, tower above the crowd in stilts, and lead incredible hand-made floats down State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.
This festival is yet another demonstration of Santa Barbara's thriving, community-driven art scene. In addition to offering displays of arts, crafts, and performances there are plenty of ways to participate. For months leading up to the main event, the public is invited to take part in the creation of the many floats, costumes, and masks in the parade at the Solstice workshop. Participants are guided and inspired to be creative by local artists and volunteers to make their ideas come to life. This event is yet another impressive display of the combined community effort and dedication that makes art in Santa Barbara so special.
Great events and festivals such as the Santa Barbara Solstice Celebration ensure that there’s never a dull moment in Santa Barbara, contributing to our city’s signature ambiance which seamlessly blends an exciting atmosphere with the intimate, relaxed feel of a closely-knit beach community.
Courtesy of Antonio Ribes Bas, Rimontgó
Situated a few kilometres inland from Jávea and roughly 70 kilometres North of Alicante, the small town of Benissa is one of the Costa Blanca’s oldest, and its medieval centre has been meticulously maintained. Visitors tend to flock to the attractive Palacio de Torres-Orduña, which now acts as the town’s cultural centre and library.
Benissa is a wonderful place to enjoy a holiday or – as some have done over the years – settle permanently, since it is relatively close to both Alicante and Valencia, and all of their attractions, while also offering plenty of peace and tranquillity to those who wish to avoid big city life.
Visitors flock here during the spring, when the area is covered with a blanket of beautiful wild flowers, but amateur historians - particularly those who enjoy a touch of spectacle – would be well advised to arrive in late June. Like many towns in Spain, Benissa’s past was in large part defined by the battles between the local Christian population and invading Moors, and it is this conflict that is colourfully re-enacted in the annual Moors and Christian festivities. Unlike the original bloody clashes, this lively piece of street theatre is an excuse for the locals to don historical costumes and have a thoroughly good time.
Benissa itself lies inland, but the Mediterranean is close at hand. Those in the know enjoy spending the best days of summer at El Baladrar Cove, a beautiful beach protected from the easterly winds by rocky cliffs and natural vegetation.
One excellent way of exploring the coastline nearest Benissa is by sub-aquatic trekking, an activity that allows participants to explore some of the wonderful sea life that thrives in this part of the Costa Blanca. A total of six routes allow snorkelers to visit the underwater world, spotting and identifying en-route the creatures that they encounter, while also enjoying the fantastic scenery of this part of the world.
These sub-aquatic trekking trips take place from the following sites: Les Bassetes, La Fustera, Els Pinets, La Llobella, L’Advocat and El Baladrar Cove.
Courtesy of Frederick Peters, President of Warburg Realty
Twenty years ago the Manhattan real estate sales market slowed to a crawl every summer. Not so today! The red hot rental market is hotter than ever, with inventory remaining at record lows, and the sales market in most areas and price points are steaming as well. Here’s what my agents have told me this week about activity in the current marketplace:
· First, and of greatest importance, it is ALL about the price. Price it right and you are in the game. Price it wrong, even by a little, and you are on the sidelines.
· All over town, from Harlem to the Financial District, new condos are hot for both American and foreign buyers. Inventory is way down, and buyer frustration levels are up. They either think the market is about to go down because of global economic pressures, or they can’t believe they missed the boat after reading so much about excess inventory. Meanwhile, these properties at all price ranges keep moving out the door, often with multiple bids.
· Reasonably priced larger apartments on the Upper West Side are scarce and in demand. A recent open house for a fully renovated 4 bedroom property on West 110th Street brought in 35 buyers, several of whom made on the spot offers. The same story is being heard all over the neighborhood. There is so little in the mid-priced 6 room to 8 room market that these units sell in a week or less.
· Smaller apartments are also hot. The combination of high rents and low interest rates has opened the floodgates for small apartment buyers (many of whom are parents buying for their kids). Here too, well priced units, especially in the better locations, sell in no time with multiple offers.
· Brownstone Brooklyn is the hottest part of town. Many Warburg customers have bid the asking price only to discover two, three or four bidders going higher. At least two of our customers lost four competitive bidding situations before finally snagging a house.
· Condition counts. My agents observe that mint apartments are a much quicker sale. Owners who cannot be realistic about the condition of their properties when pricing tend to see their properties linger on the market.
· In the market above $3 million, it needs to sell fast to sell well. The backlog of pent-up demand makes new listings very popular during their first few weeks on the market. Once that backlog of buyers has seen the property, showings tend to dwindle to one or two a week at best. So it is critical to price to sell during the first crucial weeks. If you lower your price after the first month, the best buyers have already seen and rejected the property. And although they liked it, once they have rejected it they usually don’t come back, even at a lower price. Psychologically, they have already moved on.
July and August may bring some easing from the fast pace of June. But for now, with the weather still cool as July approaches, we are busy and delighted to be so. Summer is not what it used to be, and that is fine with us.
You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.
Santa Barbara is beautiful for many reasons - between the natural beauty of the coastline and the foothills, the historic architecture, the gorgeous luxury real estate, our premier selections of beaches and resorts, and special events such as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, there's never a shortage of events to attend and sights to see. In addition, Santa Barbara is host to a number of excellent museums and a vibrant community-driven arts scene that always strives to encourage education and awareness of the arts and natural history.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a world class museum located in downtown Santa Barbara. In this museum, experience stimulating exhibits from master artists throughout history. Guests can indulge in the rare luxury of enjoying the works of Van Gogh, Munch, Renoir, and other famed European artists up close. While these works are available at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art on an ongoing basis, be sure not miss their limited time engagements. This summer, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art features the "Portrayal/Betrayal" exhibit focusing on the subtleties of portraiture and the "Behind the Wheel" exhibit investigating Southern California's complex cultural attachment to motor vehicles.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History offers an incredible array of over three million artifacts and specimens on two main campuses. The Mission Canyon Campus, which consists of clusters of beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings traditional to Santa Barbara, is just moments away from the Santa Barbara Mission. Here, find nine permanent exhibits, two rotating exhibits, and even four outdoor exhibits offering nature trails, ethnobotanical gardens, and the "Butterflies Alive!" exhibit. Whether indoors or out, the Mission Canyon Campus of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History provides interactive ways to learn about the art, biology, archaeology, plant life, and ecological history of our city while also looking forward to the future and promoting sustainable practices to protect our coastal paradise.
The second campus is the Ty Warner Sea Center, located on Stearns Wharf on the waterfront. Upon entering, visitors are immediately immersed in the world of marine life as overhead, a 39 foot model of a California Grey Whale and her calf floats above as if swimming peacefully through the ocean. This museum features an amazing array of interactive exhibits, including a number of touch tanks and a 1,500 gallon surge tank with tunnels that children can crawl through!
Santa Barbara is not only prized for its beautiful beaches, elegant architecture and luxury real estate, but also for our passionate support of organizations such as The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum on Natural History, and the Ty Warner Sea Center which provide the opportunity to always keep learning about our world and our city. Without a doubt, our museums rival those of larger cities in quality and accessibility, yet they offer the intimate, relaxed, and refined atmosphere unique to Santa Barbara.
After a multi-million dollar facelift, including a new convention center in San Jose del Cabo, we are ready to host the G20 this week for 20 leaders from around the world, including President Obama. In addition, 5 other countries have been invited to attend. Exciting times!
Real estate activity continues to improve, bringing more successful closings. The weather remains beautiful.
Life is good. Come visit!
Courtesy of Amat Immobiliaris
Following the events of this last month the whole country, or nearly everybody, should be feeling indignant. Not a day passes without some bad news! The matter of Bankia tops it all, and yet is at the same time paradigmatic. We are speaking of figures so immense that we cannot reckon their true value, and yet nobody is accepting any responsibility. The rating agencies are continually lowering our rating, and that includes Catalonia, which has been doing its homework more and more. Central government has cut subsidies and aid for the handicapped by half, and we must ask whether that was really necessary. Obviously not! Why don’t they shed civil servants in those ministries that have for years been devoid of content? There are many, many reasons to feel indignant. If we added them up, each of us would have a sackload.
I read by chance in a magazine that during the Second World War the British government printed some posters with the phrase “Keep calm and carry on”. They didn’t actually use the posters, but taking up that phrase again, that is exactly what we have to do: “keep calm and carry on”.
That is just the spirit the General Manager of the Clínic Hospital, Josep M. Piqué, conveyed to us a few days ago at a dinner — to carry right on at a time that is so difficult for the health sector.
And Carles Sumarroca too, at a Chamber of Commerce lunch, spoke about eight strategic ideas for mobilising companies.
Again, Josep M. Galí, at the presentation of a study by Fundació Creafutur, suggested that we reflect on the consumer of the future, in another way of looking ahead.
And today they are broadcasting TV-3 television channel’s Marathon against Poverty. We might view this in a number of ways. One’s initial feeling is of deep concern. It took me back to when I was young, many years ago, when they broadcast charity programmes on the radio conducted by Mr Dalmau and Mr Vinyes. That was the Spain of the 1960s, so where are we now? The second reaction is that we are in a situation of emergency and that we must carry on.
One last reflection: just as well, then, that — albeit with shoving and tumbling — civil society is carrying right on.
Courtesy of Antonio Ribes Bas, Rimontgó
The luxury real estate market is an island in the greater sea of property markets and this is true just as much in Spain as in the rest of the world. However, obviously here we are not speaking about an “isolated territory” in terms of the economic, financial, local or global environmental factors.
Buyers of luxury real estate usually have more than two properties – three, four, five… and, for this reason, they travel around the world, both long and short distances from their workplace or main family home. From this information, we can draw various instant conclusions, which, up to a certain extent, are defining characteristics of this market segment:
- Just as for any purchase of a product that is for our personal use, there are usually more subjective than objective factors involved in the purchasing process, which means that there are more people offering opinions and therefore entering into the decision making process.
- Taking on board the advice of a responsible professional is key in making a “good” purchase.
- These buyers are usually successful professionally and have high purchasing power; they may or may not have a traditional “nuclear” family, but usually have some form of higher education and speak more than one language.
- These buyers have a cosmopolitan profile; they are used to travelling and making informed decisions, and also to making decisions under a certain amount of pressure. They are informed individuals who know what they want in advance of choosing their real estate advisors and representatives. Once having attained a trusting, working relationship with a company or realtor, these buyers usually stay with them for many years; giving word of mouth recommendations to friends and relatives without hesitation.
- These buyers often don’t need external finance to buy, but in some investment cases, such as buy-to-let residential properties, they would not rule out examining different financing options.
Since 2009 we have been noticing a clear redistribution of investments; shifting particularly from stock markets, or more generally, the financial markets, towards more unique, tangible assets, such as the best located properties in city centre and exclusive locations.
Property uses can also vary greatly; from income producing properties which give owners a capital asset that would otherwise be losing value on the listed stock markets, to large rural farms, hunting estates or recreational properties for personal use or corporate retreats and even residential property investments in top cosmopolitan cities such as Madrid, London, Paris, New York, Berlin or Vienna.
The sudden wave of buyers from China, normally via Hong Kong, is striking in its numbers. Some Asian students in European universities pay their tuition and maintenance fees using income they receive from renting local properties bought by their parents; a custom that is on the increase. This simplifies their currency exchange processes and is a good medium and long-term property investment. The buyer is in a better position to gain the desired rate of return on investment if they have both the location and duration of tenancy or occupation of the property in mind when at the buying stage.
There is no use telling people not to buy flats in Spain right now, “because it is better to wait until the prices decrease when banks flood the valley in which we live by releasing the repossessions they hold in their dam”. This may be true in more remote sectors and generally for over-built areas on the outskirts of large cities or in macro coastal complexes, which bear absolutely no relation to luxury products.
Nonetheless, this statement does not help to deal with the excessive stock if there are no liquid assets or facility for finance. The first banks who have already started to put liquidity back into the mortgage market are being able to select both the most solvent debtors and the most profitable real estate transactions.
The demand for housing and the lack of credit are what they are; both on individual and aggregated bases in the economy as a whole. No matter how much property crops up in the market; there is no substitute for the best street in city centres, or for an exclusive plot by the sea in a highly sought after and beautiful location, such as Jávea.
As already mentioned, the luxury real estate market is an island, though it is not totally cut off from the rest of its economic mainland. For this reason, external forces will influence decisions made by buyers and sellers. As we know, these properties are exclusive, and therefore prices could tend to go upwards. Yes, upwards! But it is also true that these buyers have liquid assets, which, for someone who has taken the important decision to sell, are undoubtedly very attractive; otherwise they would not be selling. But what does this mean? – That a motivated and well advised vendor will be willing to accept a reasonable offer, but only up unto the point whereby the sale is still attractive to him.
If the offer reaches or surpasses this crucial point, the luxury property vendor must then make one of two decisions:
a) not to accept this particular offer (in this context, something which is becoming rarer), or
b) following the advice of his estate agent, the vendor can take the property off of the market – the most common occurrence for high value properties.
So what does remain constant in the luxury real estate market? The answer is the same across the whole of Europe: anything that is truly unique will always have a buyer. But there’s more; at the moment, whilst there is unfortunately a lack of liquid assets in the financial market, there are still many good opportunities everywhere. Where intelligence comes in to play is by knowing how to differentiate your investment criteria and your chosen purpose for the property.
As stated before, for three years now there have been movements of capital being discreetly targeted towards secure, planned property investments that are bought well and come with positive returns on investment, even if they are for the buyer’s personal use. Business is not built purely upon selling properties; the art of being able to “buy well” is learnt. This applies to both reduced price property purchasers and to the vendors; irrespective of the current economic climate, or of that at the time of sale.
The property market in spain, 3Q / 2011- http://www.realitysense.com/property-market-spain-2011/
Courtesy of Frederick Peters, President of Warburg Realty
Why buy real estate? If, as Michael Lewis suggests in “Boomerang”, the Greek government is just a big piñata at which every citizen had the right to a whack, and if Iceland is a land of fishermen turned failed hedge funders who blow up their cars at night for the insurance money, if the Irish built thousands of luxury homes for people who never even existed, much less had the wherewithal to buy them, and if there are no social services left in Vallejo, California because the tax base won’t support them, then why should anyone feel good about plunking down millions of dollars for a place anywhere in the world? If the U.S. debt is crippling the nation, and no one wants to pay higher taxes (though at least most of us do PAY taxes, which seems to put us ahead of an awful lot of Europeans!) what sense does it make to invest in the infrastructure of a financial system which is surely melting down?
In some form or other, my agents at Warburg and our confreres throughout the country face these questions every day. Buyers are jittery. They have been anxious, with some pockets of unexpected exuberance, ever since the middle of 2008. They want to get on with their lives, but…
Here’s what I see, after over 30 years selling real estate and over 60 years on the planet: life goes on. It is not always easy to have faith in the future, but it is certainly the best way to live. And, as I have written before in this blog, buying a home is an act of faith. You are investing not only in your belief that the property will appreciate, at least modestly, over time, but also in your vision of your own future. Is this someplace where you, or you and those you love, will be able to create happy times? Will it be a refuge such that you breathe a sigh as you walk in at the end of a long day and feel embraced by the sense of home? In an uncertain world, and we are certainly living in one today, these are gifts that cannot be quantified.
I certainly have no idea who will win the Presidential election, or when the employment numbers will improve or the euro will stabilize. But I do know that the money I have invested in my homes (one at the top of the market in Connecticut in late 2005) has brought me enormous pleasure and a deep sense of place. In a profound way, owning my homes, filling them with things I love, feels like an affirmation. It says, “In this complicated world, I know this is where I belong.” And to create that feeling in others is really the definition of success for all the great agents I know. For the buyer, it just begins with a deep breath.
You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.
If you're looking for an indulgent day trip this weekend, look no further than the Santa Ynez Valley at the Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival. Just 35 minutes away from Santa Barbara, the little town has a lot of charm and makes for a great escape. With its breathtaking mountain views, historic past, and location in the heart of wine country, Los Olivos is an ideal choice for a day trip or for a lifetime, as the area offers no shortage of luxury real estate opportunities.
The Los Olivos Jazz and Wine Festival is a treasured Santa Ynez Valley event. Visitors are invited to share in the town's rich history of olive production - in fact, Los Olivos was named for a nearby olive ranch containing over 5,000 olive trees in the late 1800s. Today, this wine country town is as charming as ever, featuring many carefully preserved Victorian style buildings and real estate properties. At the festival, guests can look forward to tasting wines from over 25 local wineries (Click here to view a list of participating wineries), listening to world-class jazz artists perform live, and sampling olive and olive oil inspired cuisines made by both professional chefs and locals.
Los Olivos and the Santa Ynez Valley as a whole offer an exceptional mingling of relaxed countryside living and an exclusive luxury lifestyle . Its many wineries, luxury real estate properties, fine equestrian trails and facilities, and dedication to its rich history make the Santa Ynez Valley a one-of-a-kind destination.
Courtesy of Elyse Schneiderman of Leibowitz Realty Group
Lots of great news for those in Palm Beach Gardens. Home sales are up in this part of the county. Buyers have returned. The Palm Beach Post and other real estate magazines claim that home prices have stabilized. Nobody can say that the prices will be higher in a few years, but I do not feel they will be lower. Rentals are very scarce, and the rental market seems to be doing quite well. Also, there are new homes being built again. Mirasol is built out and there will be no new homes to choose from in this area if a buyer wants a country club, except at Old Palm.
Boat sales are the highest that they have been in 10 years after hitting record lows. Boat sales, translated, means more disposable income. Shopping centers are finding new tenants. In the LA Fitness Plaza at PGA National (where the old Walgreens used to be) a Health Food and Grocery Store has leased the space that has been empty for a few years. Next door a new restaurant, Brooklyn Water Pizza and Pasta has taken over several spots. They are a relative of Brooklyn Water Bagel which is also booming with customers in Palm Beach Gardens and other new locations. Downtown at the Gardens is busier than the new owners projected. The attractions geared towards children have been a huge success and filling all the restaurants (because of the average prices and family geared eating).
Restaurants are busy, demonstrating that people are eating out again, and the economy in Florida is growing.
The two magnet high schools in Palm Beach County, Suncoast and Dreyfus School of the Arts were rated in the top 50 high schools Nationally (Suncoast #14). The new JCC to be located on Hood Road will be completed in a year and will offer more events to the community. The live telecast events that they sponsored through the 92nd Street Y were hugely attended. I attended their “evening with Madeline Albright” and found it amazingly interesting. I was also told the interview with Sandra Day O'Connor was fabulous, too. Take advantage of all the things going on around us.
CONTRACTS SINCE JANUARY 1, 2012
The numbers below demonstrate that buyers are back and sales are remarkably different than the past couple of seasons:
· BallenIsles - 29 sales, 12 under contract
· Mirasol and Mirabella - 36 sales, 50 under contract
· PGA - 107 sales - 52 under contract
· Admirals Cove - 24 sales - 9 under contract
· Frenchman's Creek - 12 sales 3 under contract
· Old Palm - is booming. The luxury buyers are back. The maximum for this community is 310 homes. As of two weeks ago they had sold 160 homes, most in the past year. There are now 29 children living in Old Palm. Old Palm is unique in that it really has people of all ages; and if you want to be catered to, it is the place to go. Edmund James Hair Salon has opened another location in Old Palm for their residents. Old Palm is very private and intimate, with touches that larger clubs cannot offer their members. The starting range at Old Palm is about $1,300,000 and goes up to $10,000,000. Many of their expensive 1 acre lots are already sold.
As I have repeatedly said, there is something for everyone in this area, ranging from as little as $150,000, in PGA or Ibis, to the very expensive.
PGA is booming again, too. I listed and sold a small home in less than a week. If a home is priced to sell, it sells. For those who might be interested in PGA, I need to warn of one issue if you join their club (which is a wonderful club for the price), but it now seems almost impossible to get any return of your membership money if you leave. I have several clients who bought homes years ago and were told they would have their membership deposit returned when they sold. (I, myself, lived in PGA and had my initiation fee returned nine months after we sold in 1999). Today, however, they are not returning the money, but PGA still remains a very nice place to live.
New Activity for kids:
The Black Sparrow Pirate Ship, just written about in the Palm Beach Post, is a boat ride around Peanut Island (with Pirates, Treasure Hunts, Face Painting and various other activities for kids). It is a 75 minute boat ride - three times a day.
The JCC will relocate to a new facility on Hood Road, and the new location will open its doors for the public (activities, bridge, lectures, events, etc, etc, for all age groups) in one year. The Pre-School will likewise move to Hood Road.
The Meyer Academy (first grade through eighth grade), presently located in West Palm Beach, will be moving to the new JCC grounds on Hood Road one year after the new JCC opens.
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