A well-polished groundbreaking ceremony took place at London’s Hyde Park Corner back in November 2017. In attendance was Michael Kadoorie, chairman of Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels and his guest of honour, Hugh Grosvenor, the 7th Duke of Westminster, who greeted photographers under the flare of flashbulbs on the foundations of what will become The Peninsula London. The occasion marked the end of a 30-year search for the perfect London site for The Peninsula Hotel, and the beginning of a four-year project that will replace an unattractive 1960s office block with a 190-room five-star hotel.
A new London hotel – even one as unashamedly top‑flight as The Peninsula, with views of Buckingham Palace Gardens – may not be especially newsworthy, but what will excite elite home buyers is the news that alongside the hotel will be up to 28 supersized and serviced residences to buy. Prices for these Halkin Street homes have not yet been released but the heady combination of a prime Belgravia location, a top-notch newbuild and an intimate association with a leading hotel brand should ensure their exclusivity.
Branded residences such as The Peninsula London’s apartments are a growing real-estate trend – a hit with global buyers for the rarefied standards of style, service and comfort they provide. And it’s in urban hubs such as London and New York where that growth is particularly notable, says Chris Graham of consultancy Graham Associates, whose 2017 report on branded residences summarises the key benefits for buyers as confidence and convenience. “Buy into a reputable brand and you have the assurance in the delivery and quality of the development as well as professional management,” he says. “The best products offer prime locations, likeminded neighbours, cutting-edge interior design and, crucially, stronger resale values and higher rental income.”
Added to this compelling list of incentives are security – a metaphorical gated development for high-net-worth buyers – and the prospect of hassle-free ownership. Some buyers appreciate a concierge service providing a hotel lifestyle in their home, while for others the sheer exclusivity of ownership is appealing. “They are a form of trophy purchase rather like collecting expensive art,” says Robert Green of Sphere Estates.
The first branded residences appeared in New York in the 1920s, but it was in the 1980s that demand gathered pace, both in the US and further afield. Four Seasons launched its first residential condominiums in Boston in 1985, soon followed by superbrand Aman, which sold 30 villas at Amanpuri in Thailand. Today, both hotel groups remain significant players in the market. Four Seasons manages 38 residential communities across 17 countries, with plans for over 80 per cent of all future projects to include a residential component, while Aman has homes from Asia to the Caribbean. They have been joined on this highly successful “brandwagon” by a diverse rollcall of elite businesses, all eager to sell their products to worldly and discerning buyers.
Certain buyers will pay handsomely for the privilege. In 2011, the penthouse at Four Seasons Toronto sold for C$28m (about £16m), then the highest price ever paid for a Canadian condominium. Just last year, a penthouse at Four Seasons Private Residences One Dalton Street in Boston set a record for the US east-coast city of close to $40m.
In Japan, meanwhile, apartments at Four Seasons Kyoto sold for more than double the prime local rate. “We continue to establish new pricing benchmarks and are able to command figures around 30 per cent higher than our direct competition,” says Mike Crawford, Four Seasons president of portfolio management and owner relations.
In general, branded residences carry a 14-44 per cent premium over the top end of the local market, according to Savills. “The exact uplift is dependent on developers building a quality product in the right location, with the right design and brand,” says Rod Taylor, head of international development sales at Savills.
So what’s on offer for those tempted by the benefits of a hotel-serviced home? Significant city-based projects available right now include Four Seasons’ third London property with its first standalone residential project at Twenty Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. Prices for these 37 homes start at £17.5m for a three-bedroom, 315sq m property and services will include an elite address book of contacts accessing private jets, personal shoppers, Harley Street specialists, educational advisers and private security consultants.
Nearby Mayfair Park Residences will have one- to four-bedroom lateral and duplex apartments on Park Lane connected directly to the adjacent 45 Park Lane hotel, ensuring owners enjoy Dorchester Collection services such as a sommelier, in-residence dining and the assistance of a full-time concierge and dog walker – this will be the first time the hotel group has lent its name to a residential development.
Meanwhile, Mandarin Oriental has announced its management of Hanover Bond, a new luxury Mayfair hotel with 80 branded residences, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and expected to open in 2021. Here, buyers will benefit from the full five-star hotel experience: from in-residence dining, housekeeping and valet parking to a dedicated 24-hour residential concierge. And for those who prefer more clement climes, perhaps a move to Barcelona – where 34 Mandarin Oriental Residences await in the former Deutsche Bank building on Passeig de Gràcia – ticks the right boxes.
Even Aman – the archetypal top-drawer beach-resort brand – is targeting city slickers with exciting new property. Its Russian owner, Vladislav Doronin, has purchased New York’s Crown Building on Fifth Avenue through his company Oko to create Aman‑branded residences where prices for the first five apartments to be released range from $5.9m to $58.3m. For this, residents of the beaux‑arts neoclassical building can expect a top-notch design by architect Jean-Michel Gathy and three floors of spa amenities, a 25m pool lit with firepits, and delights such as a wraparound garden terrace and cigar bar on the 10th floor overlooking Central Park.
While branded residences in cities are marketed – and often sold – well before completion, there’s a wider choice available when also considering resort properties. In St Lucia – on a glorious beachfront amid the Unesco World Heritage site of the mighty Pitons – Sugar Beach has been a fully branded Viceroy Resort since a $100m refurbishment in 2012. All 22 property owners rent their homes for part of the year and the quality of the Viceroy brand is reflected in the room rates: some of the highest in the Caribbean, says property director Penny Strawson. Here, a selection of detached villas offer four to five bedrooms and generous living spaces designed by London-based Michaelis Boyd – plus winning sea views – priced from $8.25m to $15m.
Some 200 miles away in Antigua, 120-hectare Jumby Bay Island resort has 56 of the Caribbean’s most beautiful and prestigious privately owned homes, priced from $7.5m to more than $40m. Sea Breeze is a four-bedroom villa looking out over the sea to Great Bird Island, with direct beach access, a wraparound infinity pool and an Italian kitchen, for $12.5m.
In 2017, Jumby Bay homeowners ended their 15-year association with Rosewood Resorts to join exclusive Oetker Collection, whose portfolio includes Eden Rock St Barths and Le Bristol Paris. “Jumby Bay Island is 100 per cent owned by its property owners, and while it is important to have a good brand fit, homes here are not at the beck and call of any developer or operating company,” says sales manager Andrew Robson.
Located on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, Amanzoe was the first Aman hotel to have branded residences in Europe. Its 95 hectares of herb-scented grounds above Porto Heli on the Aegean Sea house 38 private hotel pavilions alongside classically inspired homes for purchase or rent. Architect-designed by Aman-favourite Ed Tuttle, these off-plan residences have between two and six bedrooms, private pools and access to the hotel spa, gym and restaurants. The 340sq m, two-bedroom villas nestle on 4,000sq m plots starting at €3.2m, including a guaranteed five per cent yield for five years.
Bridging the gap between urbane and beachside, Florida’s sun-soaked capital Miami is another favourite for branded residence buyers. Soon-to-be-completed Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami Beach has 111 condominiums and 15 standalone homes ranging from $2m for a one-bedroom apartment to $40m for two conjoined penthouses. The contemporary Piero Lissoni-designed building is notable, but more remarkable, even by US standards, are the facilities: they not only include the predictable selection of fitness suite, spa, virtual golf and infinity pools, but also dedicated boat slips, a meditation garden, a pet grooming room and an art studio.
Fred Scarlett, sales and marketing director at Clivedale London, developer of Mayfair Park Residences, says that wellness facilities have become vital to super-prime residential developments: “The emphasis placed on spa and wellness facilities in hotels is enormous, so developers need to emulate this in super-prime properties,” he says. “At Mayfair Park Residences we are delivering facilities to the highest specification and Dorchester Collection will be operating, managing and staffing them to create one of the best and most exclusive spas in London.” Those facilities include a 930sq m health club. “Residents will be treated as Dorchester Collections’ ultimate guests,” Scarlett says.
Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons currently claim the largest share of the branded residences market, but participant numbers are growing rapidly and are up at least 27 per cent in just the past two years according to Chris Graham. These include luxury fashion brands such as Armani, Versace and Missoni. Indeed, Savills is selling a one-bedroom Armani Casa 93sq m apartment in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa for Dh3.5m (about £685,000); plus, more than 300 two- to four‑bedroom apartments furnished by Armani Casa at Sunny Isles Beach Miami are due for completion this year, priced from $1.35m.
Other more recent participants include prestigious automotive marques. There’s the 60-storey Porsche Design Tower, again in Sunny Isles Beach, where glass elevators will allow you to park your car outside the living room – “your own private garage in the sky” according to the superlative-laden brochure – and a Bugatti-inspired villa development in Dubai. Aston Martin recently announced its involvement with a Miami project featuring a helipad on the roof and its own superyacht marina. For design aficionados, this rapid expansion presents an intoxicating and ever‑wider choice of brand and developer.
Buying a branded residence effectively means investing in the continued reputation of that brand – which in rare cases is a potential pitfall. Should some unforeseen PR disaster strike, your asset could take a hit – as Donald Trump has experienced. “Yahoo commissioned a study before the 2016 presidential election and found the price premium attached to Trump-branded residences had fallen,” Graham says. “After the election, owners might have expected their association with the president of the free world to make their values boom, but enthusiasm faded further as Trump enacted controversial policies. His travel ban on several predominantly Muslim nations caused a considerable backlash – Trump’s name and picture were removed from a billboard marketing a $6bn golf development in Dubai. Meanwhile, developers Lodha temporarily suspended sales at Trump Tower Mumbai.” Apparently the company had not wanted to “take advantage of the changed political circumstances”.
Another high‑profile drama unfolded in Barbados during the 2007-8 global recession when banks withdrew financing for a Four Seasons Hotel, leaving buyers of the branded villas out of pocket. “When you buy a Four Seasons villa you won’t want to move in without the hotel services,” Graham says. The hotelier is understandably eager to prevent any repeat of this saga. “We have numerous checks in place with our development partners before the sales launch to ensure buyers receive the Four Seasons experience,” Mike Crawford says.
Such issues are, however, few and far between and the branded residences market is one of real estate’s fastest growing sectors according to Graham. He predicts the emergence of new destinations, notably in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, while top-notch design and wellbeing environments will continue to lure smart and sophisticated buyers.