Maximilian Stamm is Managing Director of Engel & Völkers' UK operations and the Head of Engel & Völkers Private Office in EMEA.
Centi-millionaires are some of today's most impactful global citizens, and multinational and high-quality living is one of their key wealth management strategies. They tend to pursue domicile diversification to broaden their investment opportunities and business operations as well as to have location fluidity that safeguards them against risks ranging from geopolitical conflict to climate change to a viral outbreak. In 2023, the property trends among this elite wealth band boasting over USD 100 million in investable assets shows that they are seeking experience-focused lifestyles, exploring new approaches to luxury, and exhibiting a strong sense of purpose along with their ability to give back. Essentially, centi-millionaires aim to create a home that not only lasts a lifetime but also inspires them to build an impactful heritage for future generations.
In the segment of ultra-luxury real estate, utmost discretion is as valuable as the splendid homes themselves. Centi-millionaires prioritize three things: their privacy, bespoke services, and their time — understanding that they (like everyone else) are at its mercy. Thus, the property industry has to keep up with the latest technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI). At the higher end of the housing market, buyers and sellers are used to customized services, but they always strive for the newest digital innovations and smart home technologies such as advanced security systems and virtual home assistance. Since there is now significant focus on an individual’s personal, physical, and mental health, what is particularly in demand for pleasure-seeking and avant-garde homeowners are tailored AI systems that improve, for example, air or water quality. The interplay between modern technologies and convenient living enhances the quality of life.
Photo credit: Engel & Völkers Côte d'Azur Market Center
The ‘quiet luxury’ or ‘stealth wealth’ movement has been emerging not only in the fashion industry but also in the real estate sector over recent years. This trend reflects the shift in luxury preferences, leaning towards more of a subtle sophistication and an introspective approach in contrast to conspicuous displays of luxury and material consumption. With a growing number of centi-millionaires looking for more meaningful living experiences and understated houses in secluded locations, while maintaining top-notch standards, developers and real estate agents are adapting their offerings to meet this evolving definition of luxurious living as a result. In the Hamptons for example, one of the traditional holiday destinations for centi-millionaires on the US East Coast, affluent buyers often prefer their new builds to be in a classical Shingle style architecture with a unique design rather than oversized mansions.
One of the key goals of centi-millionaires is to create a forever home that is meant to be passed down to the next generations, as a heritage as well as an investment. This is why it is crucial for these individuals to invest in high-end properties that not only offer a top-notch location but also architectural excellence, reflected in excellent construction materials and bespoke fittings.
These homes stand out from other properties thanks to their refinement in each and every detail, from the craftsmanship to architectural finesse. It is no wonder then, that the abodes of centi-millionaires are artfully built as well as ‘art-filled’. Art pieces and real estate are strongly connected, as both are tangible assets and (unlike stocks, which may not be tangible) provide a deeper sense of ownership. They also make for aesthetically pleasing surroundings, have a rich heritage, and come in a finite supply — making them a scarcity that appreciates in value over time and holds deeper emotional significance that contributes towards creating a meaningful forever home.
This year at Engel & Völkers, we are seeing a strong trend in the luxury real estate industry towards homeowners seeking self-fulfillment and wishing to create genuine living experiences. Holiday homes are evolving from purely financial investment instruments to assets that highlight the owners’ individual definitions of a private (and sometimes secluded) paradise. For many affluent buyers, this fulfillment is increasingly attributed to a home that provides a comprehensive and holistic approach, such as properties with self-sufficiency options like private cisterns, olive trees, or vineyards. Although the location of a property is still the most decisive criterion, the lifestyle that a property exemplifies is playing an increasingly important role. For this reason, we will be implementing the ‘Lifestyle-Optimised-Property-Search’ in the Americas this autumn, so that interested buyers can directly search for this kind of desired property, whether it's a winery or a ranch — many centi-millionaires find gratification in growing their own vegetables and fruits as well as in keeping animals.
Today’s best agers have more purchasing power and wealth than any other generation. They exhibit a higher willingness and ability to pay for top-quality lifestyles. In the USA, ‘baby boomers’ hold half of the nation's USD 140 trillion in wealth. This older centi-millionaire group seeks luxurious and stylish means of increasing their quality of life and of maintaining their living standards as they retire. This is why luxury developments are moving towards a very refined implementation of ‘age-friendly’ homes and building principles that don’t feel or look like a limitation of living in any sense.
And where do centi-millionaires like to retire? Alongside the classic European hotspots like Greece, Italy, and Spain, we see the UAE — particularly Dubai — as an emerging hotspot for super-rich retirees from around the world. The vibrant Emirati city houses the world’s most affluent buyers and offers them a wide range of recreation and leisure amenities. Dubai's image has undergone a significant transformation in the past decade, and thanks to the recent changes in government regulations, investors have been enabled to secure long-term golden visas and residencies, making it easier for wealthy retirees to settle in the city.
Another trend among centi-millionaire buyers that we have observed is that they find adventures in nature to bring out a more vibrant and purpose-driven life. The advantages of nature and the yearning for quality time with their families and loved ones drives their investment decisions towards homes that not only provide the bare necessities but also the utmost living experiences in natural environments. With the shift to hybrid working and a rekindled love of the great outdoors, we see a high popularity for premium properties that are private, outdoor-focused, and embedded in nature. These homes tend to also be accessible and in close proximity to cycling and mountain biking tracks, ski resorts, golf courses, surf parks, and tennis- or sailing clubs. This is why regions like Aspen and Malibu in the USA, Porto Heli in Greece, St. Moritz in Switzerland, and Sylt in Germany are and will always be among the centi-millionaires’ favorite destinations.