With second homes needing to make sense both as investments and as great places to live, what do the world’s most sought-after locations have to offer?
ASPEN, COLORADO, US
Few places fit the tag “billionaire’s playground” quite like Aspen, Colorado.
Nestled within the Rocky Mountains, it has long been one of the United States’ most exclusive skiing destinations.
“It is the resort in the US where the celebrities go and the wealthy families spend time, so it has got some fantastic restaurants and there are some pretty phenomenal chalets … It does attract an international globe-trotting crowd,” says Knight Frank’s Edward de Mallet Morgan.
Among the many celebrities who enjoy Aspen, a number have put down roots, with the actors Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen, and Robert Wagner all owning properties.
As well as being popular for winter skiing, Aspen is buzzing in the summer with a busy programme of festivals. It is easy to understand why the well-heeled from New York, Texas, Chicago and places further afield—even Australia—are drawn in.
With rentals of as much as $25,000 a night, Aspen is popular with investors, and purchase prices are sky high. On Willoughby Way, described as the town’s most desirable address, a five-bedroom home, surrounded by woods and mountains and with high ceilings, a steam room, exercise room and hot tub, was recently on the market for $36.5 million. Ranches of 500 plus acres with building entitlement are advertised for about $20 million.
No wonder a recent survey found fewer than a dozen Aspen properties on the market for less than $3 million, although further out of town $1 million price tags can be found.
BALEARICS, SPAIN, EUROPE
These Spanish islands—the principle ones are Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza—attract tens of thousands of holidaymakers annually, yet retain unspoilt districts, and all are surrounded by inviting turquoise waters. Even party capital Ibiza, a favourite of Paris Hilton, Shakira, and many other famous names, has plenty of quieter areas.
“The Balearics have performed well over the past few years and we expect them to [continue to] perform well, particularly Mallorca and Ibiza,” says de Mallet Morgan.
Partly this stems from a perception that property in nearby Italy and France is overpriced.
For the ultra-high net worth investor, however, choice can be limited.
“There’s a lot of smaller property … there’s a limit to the price of the most expensive properties. Few properties have sold for more than $20 million in Ibiza,” added de Mallet Morgan.
“In Mallorca you get the much bigger houses round the golf resorts, but still it doesn’t compare to the French Riviera.”
Bay views in the Balearics’ largest city, Palma de Mallorca, can cost a modest €369,000 ($384,450) in the form of a two-bedroom apartment in the old town.
Ultra-premium properties can be found too. A modern four-bedroom villa on Mallorca’s Puig de Ros coast—just a short drive from the airport—was advertised for €5.1 million ($5.37 million). With a pool, Jacuzzi, and wooden terrace with sea views, it makes an idyllic second home.
CARIBBEAN, NORTH AMERICA
With endless sunshine and idyllic palm tree-lined beaches—the Caribbean’s attractions are obvious.
These sun-drenched islands, numbering 13 nations and 17 dependent territories, have for decades drawn in the rich and famous, from the United Kingdom’s Princess Margaret, who had a villa on the ultra-exclusive Mustique (this property was available for rent for a reported $34,000 a week), to modern-day television royalty like Oprah Winfrey, who owns a second home on Antigua.
Buyers can enjoy many financial pluses, such as zero rates of capital gains tax on, for example, Barbados and the Bahamas, the latter being an especially popular destination with Americans. Levies elsewhere, such as Antigua’s 5% land-holding licence and 2.5% transfer tax, might be enough to discourage purchases.
Just as regulations vary widely island to island, so do character, infrastructure, and accessibility.
Many second home buyers spend a few weeks or months a year in their chosen property and rent it out the rest of the time. Such investors are advised to pass up idyllic, isolated properties in favour of those closer to tourist hot-spots and amenities.
Highlights of today’s market include Castillo Caribe, an eight-bedroom waterfront villa in Grand Cayman advertised for almost $40 million, and Lucaya, a four-bedroom waterfront villa in Nassau and Paradise Island, the Bahamas, that comes with its own gatehouse and a $29 million price tag.
While the Caribbean dream can become reality, there are issues to look out for, in particular rainfall, hurricanes, and crime levels, although these are not major problems everywhere.
ITALIAN RIVIERA, ITALY, EUROPE
Other places might see themselves as glamorous, but they struggle to match the sophistication and history of the Italian Riviera, the stretch of Mediterranean coastline centred on Genoa. In the 19th century the poets Byron and Shelley were there, while in the 20th century it was Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo, and, today, singers like Rihanna and Madonna.
“Portofino and the Amalfi coastline—it’s still incredibly glamorous and fashionable and heaving with super yachts in the summer,” says Edward de Mallet Morgan.
Inland there are winter skiing resorts, national parks and hiking trails. After a stagnant few years and price corrections, interest in property is picking up. Waterfront villas that date back hundreds of years and have beautiful frescoes are among the chief attractions.
For well-financed buyers, there are many such to-die-for villas with fine sea views. A four-storey villa in Genoa with seven bedrooms, a beautiful terrace with a swimming pool and a staff apartment was lately on the market for €14 million ($14.7 million), while €16.5 million ($17.4 million) secures a stunning 19th century detached house with two private beaches at Alassio, halfway between Nice and Genoa.
Second-home buyers should consider the tax implications of buying in Italy. As holiday homes are not the main residence (or prima casa), any sale made within five years will be subject to 20% capital gains tax. Secondary dwellings may also face an annual property tax that can be 0.9% of the property’s value.
LONDON, UK, EUROPE
The UK capital is a melting pot of cultures and races, and its popularity with overseas property investors is among the many factors that have helped prices to rise much faster than elsewhere in the UK over most of the past decade.
“It has always been a safe haven for foreign wealth,” says Ken Teoh, of Redfield Capital.
The capital is especially popular with Gulf Arabs looking to escape the summer heat of their homelands, and their upmarket SUVs and sports cars are common sights.
A property in the capital will now typically cost three times as much as a similar dwelling in, for example, the centre of England. The city’s average property price was £581,825 ($713,667) last year. Stamp duty increases and uncertainty over Brexit have, however, cast a shadow over foreign property investment, and 2016 was the first year since 2008 when the capital’s price increases lagged behind the national average.
“For the ultra-high net worth community, there are still properties for them to buy and invest in. There has been a lot of property targeted at the higher end,” says de Mallet Morgan.
Character properties can be found in abundance, albeit with price tags to match their appeal. For example, Oceanic House is an apartment block based in a former White Star Line booking office in London’s West End. A two-bedroom apartment here can cost an eye-watering £4.75 million ($5.83 million). Similar money buys a five-bedroom detached house in north London’s desirable St John’s Wood area.
With a rich culture that blends myriad influences—Malay, Chinese, and Indian chief among them—Malaysia seems an especially suitable place for international property investors.
The country has lived up to this promise in recent years, with the capital in particular acting as a magnet to ultra-high net worth individuals from elsewhere in Asia.
“Kuala Lumpur has become a huge destination, primarily the area around the [Petronas] twin towers. There’s a lot of high-end apartments [purchased by] primarily buyers from Hong Kong and Singapore,” says Teoh.
“I think the main driver when this started was value. Singaporeans were facing a lot of stamp duty increases when the market was overheating. They were looking about for value.”
The country combines its relative affordability with infrastructure far ahead of many other south-east Asian countries.
Kuala Lumpur has many newly built high-end apartment options like the 17-storey Rimbun @ Embassy Row, where the 56 units, some boasting 8-metre-high ceilings and 360° views showing off the Petronas Towers, are listed for as much as MYR20 million ($4.5 million).
Further out from the centre, in districts such as Bangsar, in south-western Kuala Lumpur, premium detached homes, such as the three-storey properties at Enclave Bangsar with lap pools, cost about $3 million. Buyers wanting more garden may look further out still, to gated developments like Jade Hills in the Kajang district south-east of the city.
MIAMI, FLORIDA, US
If sunshine and glamour are priorities for a second-home destination, few places beat Miami. It offers almost 250 days a year that are fully or partly sunny, countless well-known residents and visitors, excellent flight connections, and even some financial pluses.
“It’s a low-tax jurisdiction in America … there are some hedge-fund managers who have moved from New York for that reason,” says de Mallet Morgan.
“It is a place we think is going to be increasingly popular with ultra-high net worth individuals moving out of South America.
Indeed Colombians often topped the list of Miami’s foreign real estate buyers in 2016, with Venezuelans, Brazilians, and Filipinos also high up.
South Beach is a noted celebrity hangout with apartments aplenty, but many of the really big properties—and prices—are found in Miami Beach, where the likes of Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb live. A notable mansion recently on the market was 46 Star Island Drive, a 10-bedroom property with offices, a wine cellar, and staff quarters. On the tip of Star Island, described as the Miami Beach’s most desirable area, it was advertised for a cool $65 million.
Further north, Bay Point is also sought after by the famous, with singer Enrique Iglesias having shelled out $26 million for a waterfront mansion here in 2013. More affordable are the many single-storey villas in Bay Point’s gated communities away from the waterfront. With three, four or five bedrooms, these can be bought for around $1.5 million.
NEW ZEALAND, ASIA-PACIFIC
With its clean air, outdoor lifestyle, and stunning landscapes, New Zealand is the perfect antidote to the urban nightmare.
But those looking for metropolitan excitement are also drawn to the country, with Auckland offering all the sports, entertainment, and arts attractions expected of a 1.5-million person city.
Auckland has been named the “hottest” city worldwide for luxury real estate, with huge increases in the number of properties selling for $1 million or more. Yet property in the country remains much more affordable than it is in Australia or the US, where, for example, equivalent loft properties in popular cities like San Francisco cost well over twice as much.
Despite this, The Economist has described New Zealand property as being significantly overvalued and buyers should beware of the risk of a bubble forming.
There is a regulatory environment that encourages foreign investment, with no stamp duty, land tax, or capital gains tax if certain conditions are fulfilled.
A state-of-the-art three bedroom home south of Auckland city centre with excellent views is likely to cost in the region of $1 million. Further away from the big urban centres similar money can, of course, buy much more.
For example, recently advertised for around the same money was a four-bedroom villa in Whangamata on the north island’s east coast, about 150km by road from Auckland. The lucky buyer will enjoy balconies, water features, sea views and a 100m stroll to the beach.