Jet-set travelers who own homes in multiple places around the globe have high expectations.
So high, in fact, that one Miami condominium building is offering buyers a one-year membership to Jetsmarter, a service that provides rides on private planes between major cities.
Stellar service and valuable amenities are an expected part of the package when you buy a luxury condo in Miami, New York City and Washington, but tastes and needs vary from one city to another. Whereas a doorman greets homeowners and guests at nearly every New York high-rise, and a beach attendant assists Miami condo dwellers, Washingtonians want the staff to handle everyday needs.
Ultra-luxury condos are a newer phenomenon in Washington, where developments such as CityCenter DC in the District and the Lauren, Quarry Springs, Lionsgate, Stonehall and Cheval in Bethesda cater to wealthy residents.
“The D.C. condo crowd has lower expectations than buyers in New York City,” says Larry Goodwin, principal of 1788 Holdings, a real estate development company in Bethesda that built Quarry Springs and the Lauren. Goodwin helped construct high-end condos such as 15 Central Park West and others in New York before coming to Washington in 2010.
“Our goal with our projects is to bring New York-style products and services to this area,” says Goodwin. “We want people to feel like they are living in a six-star hotel where the staff anticipates your needs. People seek out places like that for their vacations, so why not bring that level of quality to their home?”
Camilo Miguel Jr., chief executive of Mast Capital, former owner of the Graham Hotel in Georgetown and developer of numerous luxury condos in Miami, says that some of the push for services and amenities in Miami comes from international buyers who have bought homes there in recent years.
“D.C. condo owners may be a little behind Miami in terms of demanding sophisticated services, but I think eventually the idea of living in the equivalent of a luxury hotel will spill over into this city,” says Miguel.
The amenities provided in condos depend on several factors, including the sales price of the homes, features available in competing buildings and the willingness of buyers to pay condo fees to support the services.
“In a smaller building, the condo fees sometimes have to be much higher because the cost of paying for amenities is spread among fewer homeowners,” says Miguel.
Condo fees in the District and Bethesda range from 70 cents to $1 per square foot per month, while fees in Miami typically are $1 per square foot. In New York City, condo fees hover around $3 to $3.50 per square foot per month.
For many buyers, Miami condos are a second or third home. So Tim Lobanov, managing director of Verzasca Group, a South Florida-based developer of luxury condos, decided to offer the ultimate luxury for buyers at the Aurora, a new Miami Beach development: a membership in Jetsmarter.
“Jetsmarter is kind of like Uber for airlines,” says Lobanov. “A one-year membership costs $9,000, and then you get access to their app, and you can fly for free on a private jet to New York or Los Angeles or Chicago.”
Buyers at the Aurora get one free year of Jetsmarter services with their purchase. Prices at this Miami condo range from the $800,000s to $1.5 million.
“The building is across the street from the ocean and has ocean views but costs about half as much as the condos right on the ocean,” says Lobanov.
In addition to the Jetsmarter membership, amenities include indoor and outdoor yoga lounges, a steam room, valet parking, indoor and outdoor children’s play areas and a teen room with games. A concierge can order beach umbrellas and chairs to be set up on the beach.
Residents at some of Miguel’s Miami condo developments can have one of the building’s private drivers take them to the beach club so they don’t have to wait for a valet to retrieve their own car.
“Sophisticated buyers want high-touch services, so in some of our buildings we have a sommelier on staff to advise residents about their wine purchases for their private wine cellars,” says Miguel.
At 3900 Alton in Miami Beach, one of Miguel’s most recent developments where the homes sell for about $800,000 to more than $2.5 million, winemakers have been flown in from California’s Napa Valley for special wine-tasting events.
“A lot of Miami condo owners aren’t there all the time, so the really important services are to have a doorman for security, housekeeping services and a concierge who can arrange everything for you before you arrive,” says Jacky Teplitzky, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman in Miami and New York. “If you’re only there two or three days, you need someone to take care of your restaurant reservations and other arrangements.”
Teplitzky says resort-style amenities such as two swimming pools — to catch the sun at different times of the day — and pampering beach services are important to Miami luxury buyers. In addition, she says, many of those buyers collect cars and expect several parking spaces and valet services to come with their condo, unlike in New York City, where parking garages are commonly run by outside companies and typically have a waiting list.
New York City condominium and co-op residents expect their home to come with a captivating view, a private entertaining space with a catering kitchen, and a concierge to enable every whim (other than tickets to “Hamilton”). Although wealthy New Yorkers may be thought of as demanding, they really are practical and want amenities that they can use, says Samantha Sax, executive vice president of the Elad Group, a developer of residential properties in New York City and Los Angeles.
“Buyers want to live in condo buildings with spaces that become an extension of their homes, such as a dining room for formal entertaining and a children’s playroom for their kids to enjoy,” says Sax.
For example, at One West End in Manhattan, where the homes are priced from $1.9 million to $21 million, indoor and outdoor entertaining spaces are configured so that residents and their guests can have cocktails in one room, dinner in another and dessert in front of the living area fireplace. The building has a 12,000-square-foot roof terrace with grills and seating areas. The fitness center has a yoga studio and swimming pool and offers spa treatments. The concierge can take care of details from hiring pet groomers to scheduling a personal trainer to planning an elaborate dinner party.
“For wealthy New Yorkers, time is money, so they want everything at their fingertips right now,” says Teplitzky. “A doorman is considered a basic amenity. He can tell you if your kids got home from school and accept your dry cleaning and packages.”
Teplitzky says a large children’s playroom and a teen room with a big-screen TV and game tables are desirable for New Yorkers who want their kids and their kids’ friends safely in the building but don’t always have the space for them in their own condo.
“In the most luxurious buildings, the homeowners have several homes around the world, so housekeeping services and top-notch concierge services are extremely important,” says Teplitzky. “Even more important is to have a private dining room staffed with a chef: That’s the most exclusive restaurant in town, since you have to be a resident to dine there.”
Teplitzky says large party rooms that can be reserved for children’s birthday parties and Thanksgiving gatherings for an extended family are also popular in New York because many of the condo units have less square footage than homes in other cities. She says many New York buildings now have outside companies providing spa services, such as massages and manicures, in the fitness centers, some of which include an indoor basketball court.
At 22 Central Park South, where the homes are priced from $6.3 million to $17 million, Sax says Elad partners with the upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store to provide furnishings and clothes for residents.
“If you’re flying into New York and have a black-tie event to attend, the concierge can put a few dress choices in your closet so they’re waiting for you when you arrive,” she says.
Although residents at CityCenterDC may not have clothes placed in their closets, they do have dozens of designer stores at their doorstep. Expensive stores and restaurants surround the residences, whose owners are issued a special card for services such as catering, reservations and sales in the shops exclusively for residents, says Howard Riker. He is managing director of Hines, the developer of CityCenterDC, where one-bedroom homes sell for about $700,000 and above, and two-bedroom homes sell for about $1.25 million to $1.5 million.
Amenities at CityCenterDC include valet parking, a 24-hour concierge at the front desk and a second attendant in the daytime to open doors and help people with packages, says Riker.
Other amenities there cater to the residents’ needs for space — outside their homes but within the building — where they can entertain, such as the two rooftop terraces, a wine lounge with private wine storage and a community room for personal or condo association events. Riker says the fitness center has separate rooms for people to work with a personal trainer and for yoga classes. There’s a guest suite that residents can reserve for overnight guests.
Even with all that, Riker says, CityCenterDC’s No. 1 amenity is its location downtown, surrounded by shops and restaurants.
Goodwin, developer of the Lauren and Quarry Springs, says most buyers there aren’t “pounding on the door” for specific amenities but are pleasantly surprised by perks such as the ability to order chef-prepared meals at their condo.
They are “mostly empty-nesters who don’t want to cook anymore,” says Goodwin. “At the Lauren, residents can go online and have the concierge take care of getting groceries delivered within the hour or have dinner delivered. Quarry Springs is in less of an urban area, but we can get dinner delivered from high-end restaurants like the Capitol Grille in Tysons Corner within minutes.”
Homes at Quarry Springs range from $1.4 million to $4 million; at the Lauren, homes are priced from $1.8 million to $10.5 million.
Goodwin says many buyers at those two Bethesda condos are “working wealthy” people who own businesses and travel frequently.
“They can ask the concierge to clean out their refrigerator while they’re away and to restock it just before they get home,” says Goodwin. “We encourage a close relationship between homeowners and the general manager and concierge so they feel comfortable having the staff meet contractors or the cable company in their home. We want people to feel they can trust the concierge with their American Express card and to let them take care of the catering for a party.”
Buyers at the Lauren also have the option of purchasing a guest apartment for $500,000 that they can use for overnight guests, their college kids or a home office.
Marc Dubick, president of Duball, developers of high-end condos in Bethesda including Lionsgate, Stonehall and Cheval, says downtown Bethesda is an amenity in itself. Homes in those developments range from about $650,000 to more than $3 million.
“The ability to walk to restaurants, to the theater, to hear live music and even to pick up groceries is the lifestyle amenities our buyers want,” says Dubick. “After that, they want amenities that make them feel secure and that add to the convenience of where they live. So we provide storage units for things like luggage and golf clubs, and plenty of parking.”
Buyers want concierge services and someone at the front desk, says Dubick, to take care of details for busy homeowners and for security. He says having an on-site property manager and engineer in each building is important so owners know that maintenance issues will be taken care of quickly.
“At Lionsgate, we have a valet parking service that also functions as a doorman, but that’s unusual for this area, and we don’t plan to have the service at our new buildings,” says Dubick. “We’ve found that buyers care a lot about spaces that help them with downsizing, since most of our buyers are empty-nesters. So having a club room where they can host dinner parties and where the concierge can arrange catering is very important, along with a rooftop terrace for entertaining in nice weather.”
At the Lauren, residents can entertain in the wine lounge on the lower level or on the roof deck; each has a catering kitchen. At Quarry Springs, residents can entertain in the clubhouse.
“We want these spaces to feel like an extension of people’s homes, so they have been decorated to compete against a $4 million condo and win,” says Goodwin. “At the Lauren, every condo comes with temperature-controlled wine storage, and we have a sommelier-in-residence to assist people with curating their wine collection.”
The goal of high-end condo concierge services is to take care of details so residents can save time, says Goodwin.
“The trend is for all high-end condos to become like a five-star hotel you never have to leave,” says Teplitzky.