Some property buyers prioritise a beautiful view, a multitude of ensuite bedrooms or ample staff quarters. Increasingly, however, there are those who insist that a house is not a home without appropriate accommodation for their most-prized possessions – their cars.
Over the past 10 years, some of the world’s wealthiest investors, concerned with the vagaries of the financial markets, have placed their spare capital in more tangible assets, and although art, wine and jewels have all seen a very healthy growth, classic cars have left others in the dust. According to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, the value of period vehicles has risen by 258 per cent over the past 20 years, and despite a slight slowdown in 2018, last year again saw record-breaking prices, with two 1960s Ferrari 250 GTOs selling for $48m at auction and for $70m privately.
Automobiles, of course, require a tad more storage space than even the most extensive wine cellar – and although the impact on residential design in many cases has simply meant a demand for larger, more secure garages, elsewhere (perhaps understandably) some owners have begun to treat their cars with the same respect as a fine-art collection. “Certain cars have come to be seen as works of art,” says Andrew Hay, global head of residential at Knight Frank. “For some, they deserve to be the centrepiece of the house. One wealthy collector in India, for example, dedicated four entire floors of his mansion to his car collection.”
It’s a trend that’s particularly noticeable in car-focused cities such as Los Angeles, where Paul Lester, partner and founder of Beverly Hills estate agent The Agency, has witnessed a gradual extension of a design feature that originated in the car galleries of the all-inclusive mega-mansions currently trending in the wealthiest parts of town (such as 924 Bel Air Road, on sale for $150m through Hilton & Hyland in association with Christie’s International Real Estate). “The garage has now become a living room, with direct access to other parts of the house, and will often be fitted out to the same standard with bespoke lighting, air-conditioning and designer furniture,” he says. “Owners want to be able to see their cars and show them off – they don’t want them stored out of view in a basement.” For certain buyers, the car is a beautiful object in its own right. “One house we sold had a substantial collection of Ferraris displayed in pairs in spotlit stalls so that the entire collection could be viewed at once.”
A similar shift in the approach to design can be seen on the other side of the Atlantic. In Mallorca, Savills is selling a six-bedroom villa in Golf Bendinat for €8.8m, where the swimming pool deck has been pierced with a large skylight, furnishing sunbathers with a bird’s-eye view of the cars housed below. In Ticino, Switzerland, Christie’s International Real Estate is selling a three-bedroom house ($2.88m) with a “car hall” for collectors looking for an on-site playroom.
Alex Jaggs, an architect at developer Finchatton, says that even in period renovations aficionados expect a design that reflects their passion and he is currently working on a private project in Hampshire, where the owner’s car collection has been central to the plans. “We’ve made the cars and garages a focal point of both the house and the landscaping, incorporating a nearly kilometre-long drive that meanders through the park to give a real sense of arrival, and introducing two adjacent garages that form the entrance to a central granite-flagged courtyard opening out from both the main house and a guest wing,” Jaggs explains. The garages have been equipped to the same high standard as the house, with central heating, fabric wallpaper, artwork on a motoring theme and projection lighting to define the size and profile of the cars. “The courtyard, meanwhile, is very much a shared space where the cars can be brought out to be washed, tinkered with and displayed,” he says.
The desire to keep one’s car up close and personal has also been a driving force in new developments. In prime central London, for example, Knight Frank is selling a six‑bedroom house in Chester Street, Belgravia, for £14.75m, where the owner’s four-wheeled treasure can be viewed from the comfort of the drawing room. Over in Miami, the Porsche Design Tower (remaining units are priced from $6.3m to $32.5m) allows residents to bring their vehicle right to the brink of their apartment and into their own personal garages – whatever floor they live on. Here, developer Gil Dezer wanted to share his own passion for the eponymous brand and invited the Porsche design team to set the interior-design pace. As a result, a glass wall separates the garages from the split-level apartments, ensuring the cars can be admired from the living space. Dezer also patented his own car-plus-person lift, the Dezervator, the first such mechanism to allow drivers to remain in the driving seat throughout elevation. “I knew people wanted to come and go without using a valet service,” he says. The development met an unidentified demand, selling speedily not only to Porsche loyalists but to the owners of Bugattis, Ferraris and McLarens, as well as to those who prefer their comings and goings to be as discreet as possible. “We had given the project a code name, but by accident the architects left it on the drawings when they went to the planners and they were leaked to Yahoo – 39 units were reserved immediately.”
British sports-car legend Aston Martin has also taken its first spin in the branded residences market in Miami, driven by the global real-estate company G & G Business Developments. Occupants of the 391-unit residences (priced from $750,000 to $50m) not only enjoy extensive vistas of the Florida coastline, but an environment distinguished by all the craftsmanship Aston Martin is celebrated for – from tan leather doors to handcrafted door handles. “For me, it was simple. When I think of Aston Martin, I think of understated style, luxury and innovation, qualities that form part of the vision for all our developments,” says G&G’s CEO Germán Coto, himself the owner of a DB11. “Aston Martin owners are without doubt interested in living in the Residences but the development has a much broader appeal.”
Even the best-designed developments, of course, can house only a handful of vehicles and there is a considerable appetite to find an appropriately stable and secure habitat for a more extensive fleet, such as the one offered by Historit – a 348-acre centre of excellence for those whose passion is classic cars, housed in a converted military building in Oxfordshire’s Bicester Heritage. “As values have gone up, vintage models have become more of a target for thieves; we provide 24-hour manned security, a secure perimeter fence, state‑of-the art monitored alarms and fire detection,” says manager Andrew Ferguson. “For some, car ownership is simply an investment, but for others it’s emotional. Classic cars have huge resonance and associations – many are seen as family heirlooms – and we tailor maintenance to individual needs.”
The modern supercar is a resilient beast, but classic designs, fitted out with vulnerable antique woods and fragile leather, often require specialist attention – and for some owners, only home care is good enough. Eric Walsh of Giordano, Wegman, Walsh and Associates, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Texas, for example, is selling The Baldridge House in Fort Worth (price on request), a 100‑year-old mansion now accompanied by two sympathetically designed garages equipped with four car lifts, a workshop and a wash bay. “The garages have their own washer-dryers so that towels can be cleaned on site, hospital screens ensuring other cars are not sprayed while washing, and commercial ventilation systems – but they are also social spaces with a refrigerator, where guests can gather after a dinner party.” Understandably, the house attracted much attention when it was unveiled at the Concours d’Elégance automotive event in Pebble Beach, California.
Storing and viewing cars is only half the story. What car lovers crave is somewhere to both drive themselves and watch others drive fast. Currently, plans are under discussion to convert Enstone Airfield, near the Cotswolds’ fashionable Chipping Norton, into a high-speed holiday village of 28 lodges, with a motor museum, workshop and racetrack. If the intentions of wealthy American philanthropist and car collector Peter Mullin are realised, those storing cars in the museum will take their own motors for a spin round the track.
Proximity to a Formula One racetrack has long driven property prices and homes with a ringside seat at Monaco’s famous course continue to draw enthusiasts. Savills, for example, is selling a six-bedroom apartment (price on request) in the aptly named Le Panorama that, in addition to four rare‑as-gold-dust parking spaces, offers an appropriately panoramic perspective of the Grand Prix start line. While those hoping to end the season in style might also consider buying in Abu Dhabi (where Global99 is selling a five-bedroom villa in Saadiyat Island for £3.027m). Alternatively, neighbour Dubai (where Mansion Real Estate is selling a spectacular villa on The Palm for about £10.55m) hosts the 24 Hour – a GT, sports car and touring race open to professional and semi-pro drivers on its FIA Grade 1-licensed motorsports circuit in Dubailand (the emirate’s entertainment complex). Certainly – for an increasing number of property shoppers, a room with va va voom has never been easier to put at the top of their shopping list.