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The 5 features luxury buyers are looking for in a vacation home (part 2 of 2)


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For some vacationers, there’s charm in the traditional rustic cabin nearby. For others, a true retreat is found in an over-water villa in the Maldives or a ski-in/ski-out chalet in St. Moritz. When the world awaits, a vacation can look as unique and dynamic as the person planning it.

Today’s high-end real estate buyers have elevated their expectations of what a holiday property should provide. Along with the markets agents should be tracking close to home, there are international destinations and premium features to keep front of mind when advising clients on a holiday purchase. Here are five elements the luxury buyer is looking for as they shop for their next vacation homes, as recommended by four top agents.

1. A tranquil, outdoor digital detox

luxury home with luxury pool

Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty

Luxury homebuyers are often busy, which means that the perfect vacation is often one where they can turn off their phones and get outside. “I see luxury buyers being drawn to locales that have a lot of privacy and seclusion,” says Rachel Umbreit, REALTOR? and ABR? with Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty. “Vacations are about unplugging, and with today’s ubiquitous technology, getting away from it all is the ultimate luxury.”

Linda Supron

Linda Supron, Broker Associate with Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty in Rhode Island, sees this trend correlating with a shift away from more classic vacation sites in Europe. “I find many luxury buyers in my market taking active vacations in places with great scenic beauty, where they can kayak, hike, or sail,” she explains. “Many have ventured to places such as Costa Rica, Iceland, the Seychelles, and South America — particularly Chile and Argentina. Two surprising spots that seem to be popular with people in my market are Panama and Cuba.”

Given this trend towards the outdoors, it’s no surprise that oceanfront homes are doing well — and you can anticipate your clients’ needs by sourcing fully-furnished options that provide a classic beach house aesthetic. “Turnkey properties that give a buyer an authentically laid-back beach lifestyle are doing the best in our marketplace,” notes Ruthie Ravenel, a Real Estate Professional with Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty in South Carolina.

2. A change of scenery

Dulcy Freeman

Escaping the everyday and experiencing something new has always been a driver of holidays, and the high-end homebuyer has the option to change time zones and climates at their leisure. Being able to advise your buyers on destinations that offer different weather and activities to their current homes allows them a view beyond their existing holdings.

“For warm-weather beach destinations, I recommend Hawaii, Cabo, the Caribbean, and the Hamptons, and Carmel — though only in summer,” says Dulcy Freeman, Sales Associate at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Fiji is a good Hawaii alternative, and there are many other amazing island destinations beyond those — you just need to be willing to take multiple flights.”

For spacious homes with lots of activity options, mountain resorts have so much to offer and make beautiful backdrops for wintering with the family. “The Colorado Rockies, Park City, and Tahoe are my favorite ski resort destinations, while Sun Valley and Aspen are more peaceful mountain locales,” continues Freeman. “Smaller ski resorts in Idaho and Utah — or Whistler, near Vancouver, Canada — are nice alternatives to larger destinations.”

But locations that are close to nature can also experience volatile seasons, so before buyers invest in a vacation property, it’s essential that they take an extended visit in the area. “I always suggest clients spend a full winter wherever they are considering purchasing to ensure that they will enjoy the area, regardless of weather conditions,” says Supron.

3. Enough space for the entire family

luxury living room interior

Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty

Rachel Umbreit

Holidays now tend to be an event for the full family, and luxury buyers are looking for larger vacation homes than in years past. “It used to be that people wanted smaller homes or condos that would be easy to maintain from afar,” says Umbreit. “Now we’re seeing more buyers looking for larger homes that will fit their whole family — parents, children, and grandchildren — or a group of friends. Clients want to share the places they love with the people who matter most, and I think that is a wonderful thing.”

Ravenel has seen multiple markets shifting away from rustic escapes to high-end estates, and cites the example of Sullivan’s Island. “About 15 to 20 years ago, most of Sullivan’s Island was small bungalows and rugged-looking lowcountry cottages, with a few nicer homes that had been renovated,” she says. “Now many of these rustic properties have been either torn down or expanded and rebuilt to cater to the ultra-high-end buyer.”

Supron notes that as vacation properties become gathering places for current and future generations, they need to be easy to get to and provide a wide variety of activities. “Overall, I’m finding that while clients may take vacations to exotic locations alone or with grown children, they are generally looking for a place where their extended family can congregate for holidays.”

4. Community and culture close by

Ruthie Ravenel

The home itself is just the beginning for the luxury buyer: cultural events and convenient community settings rank high on their list of must-haves. Freeman notes that clients aren’t just looking for large vacation homes in idyllic settings. “They’re also looking for destinations that have special events during the year for instant quality entertainment options, such as concerts, film festivals, food and wine events, and sporting competitions,” she says.

Having a high standard of both comfort and convenience is a common ask. “City living is a huge draw and has been for many years, with a number of festivals, arts and culture outings, and attractions,” says Ravenel of her main market around Charleston, SC. “The walkability of downtown and high concentration of restaurants, bars, and shopping all within close proximity of homes and hotels make it an ideal spot for a second or third property.”

5. Branded living

Name-brand homes that provide all-inclusive living are increasingly popular with luxury buyers, whether in remote locales or in the heart of the city.

“Branded communities offer welcoming staff, luxury amenities, community activities, and an instant sense of place and belonging.” notes Freeman. “This trend has been around for a while, but it continues to evolve and get even better. There are many examples of this, such as Martis Camp, Yellowstone Club, Four Seasons Residences, and Rosewood. Prices reflect this trend: branded real estate sells for much more.”

Knowing the branded options in notable vacation markets can set you up to deliver your clients aspirational vacations no matter the location. And whether branded or simply luxurious, a vacation home is an investment not only in your clients’ current wellbeing, but in future generations of their family.

Read part 1 of this story here

About Sotheby’s International Realty

Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit

The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.

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