“They have difficulty balancing all that they love.”
It was the staggering, and overwhelming message from an miner of insight. The ballroom of the Four Seasons Wailea on Maui, the presenter Michela Abrams founder of Dwell Magazine, addressing 300 or so real estate professionals and other individuals curious as to the future direction of real estate’s high-end. Hawaii Life’s Worthshop is an event that typically curates the best and the brightest from real estate, media, lifestyle and advertising and assembles them for an intimate party to end the year in the middle of the Pacific. This was my introduction: the founder of the magazine that decided “we owe it to our culture to have an architecture for our time” blowing my mind in the first 30 minutes of the two-day event by showing how large the problem of wealth was for a style-impoverished city. Dwell over the years has become 11 different media platforms and the majority of their employees were not even contributing to the flagship magazine or website: they were consultants engaged with BMW and American Express to describe the emerging mega-affluent that would later be badged “the 1%”. Over the last decade, they have become one of the expert sources of why wealth does what wealth does with it’s purchases.
An affluent individual appreciates the gravitas, the Teutonic-styling, perhaps even the testosterone-rich irony of four chrome exhaust pipes that an AMG Mercedes-Benz shows off; AND at the same time, they want to participate and do their part for globalism so when they go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, they unplug their Leaf from inside the garage and silently tool over to the ‘mart.
This is just one easily polarized example from the world of infinite choices. How can one choose? To vacation in St. Kitts or Aspen? After vacationing in St. Kitts in April and Aspen in July, do we visit the home in Yellowstone Club or Kukio for Christmas? And when to see the folks new place in Palm Springs?
This scenario is important for the affluent home-seller in Colorado Springs because while there are buyers that have the affluence and the means to buy more than one home in our market, they not buy in Colorado Springs at all.
An affluent, but conflicted buyer, has so much in the way of means, what locally represents the Leaf? What’s the intelligently-designed architecture of minimalism and proto-conservationist responsibility that also provides ample head and shoulder room while actively addressing the world with “look, I want a cleaner, more prosperous planet for us all just like you. I’m participating and doing my part”
That same affluent, but conflicted buyer wants something with nostalgic throw-back like gull-wing doors and the adrenaline rush of 19″ tires exposing red ceramic brakes inside.
Do they find such passionate landings anywhere in Colorado Springs Architecture?
Where do they find “home” in the sense of a neighborhood that says “it’s okay to wear Hickey Freeman-tailored suits Monday through Friday, Patagonia Saturday, and not give a rip about the Broncos on Sunday?”
I thought it was rude 15 years ago when an extended – family relation that is the 1% through and through mocked my immediate family’s choice for dining as “oh meat. It’s what’s for dinner.” But if meat is all that’s for dinner and you have dined on succulent fresh abalone earlier that week, and in your Bay Area fridge at home are both arugula and fennel bulbs… meat grilled versus thick-meat braised is not much of an option.
Creating engagement when infinite options exist is difficult. I recently showed my listing to a buyer that took a long look at a fantastic property in the mountains. At the conclusion of the home tour, the body language of his much-younger wife indicated that she was quite smitten with the house and she looked longingly in his direction to confirm his intent to purchase. He wasn’t moved. Throwing an ice bath on everything, he asked “Where am I gonna put the Marshalls?”
“Oh. Yes. Those”, she replied.
I asked “The Marshalls?”
“Yeah. They’re six-foot, plus. From ’67. The Doors used them on tour that year. There’s nothing quite like listening to Zappa or Billie Holiday or ____ (some obscure band from Austin I had never heard of) while you’re putting around on a weekend afternoon.” This was his reply AFTER we had figured out where to place the barn for their two horses…. AFTER we had confirmed that the Butler’s Pantry was the perfect accompaniment to the just-right-sized round dining room… AFTER the interior stone and woodwork complimented by the hand-troweled walls had been described as precisely the kind of aesthetic they were looking for in a mountain home. He could even reload shells in the basement hobby room, loving the fact that it walked out into the forested backyard. But at the end of this particular day, the tipping point for decision rested on the almost impossible task of finding a home that would ALSO accommodate the wall of sound from Jim Morrison’s psychedelic heyday. Because within their scope of work, the architect ten years prior was supposed to consider that?
The same thought extends beyond the boundaries of Colorado Springs. For the high-end home seller, the 2016 sales year represents the highest number of Million-Plus Home Sales since 2007. Forty-seven $1 million+ home closed in 2016 via the resale market of the MLS. But consider that in the Denver Metrolist MLS, over 100 $1 million+ units sell each month. Consider that in Boulder the average home price is over $1 million. Just as it is in San Francisco and several other Bay Area towns. The 2017 sales year started with 90 listings over $1 million in the MLS and only 3 closed in the previous month. That’s a 30-month sell-through (2.5 years of inventory). While Colorado Springs has some of the most scenic and lovely dirt in the state at a somewhat affordable price compared to areas north, the houses that sit on that dirt may not model the same level of sophistication, status, legacy or symbology that say, a $140,000 AMG might offer. Or for that matter, a $32,000 Leaf. These are powerful examples of consumer-culture that have resonance and currency in the mind of today’s buyer.
Sellers only sell if a buyer buys. While the neighborhood, view and privacy may sell themselves, granite counters, alder trim, hand-troweled ceilings, Pella doors, they only go so far in describing the permanence of place the affluent consumer desires.