There was a time when a healthy lifestyle meant the odd salad and a brisk country walk, but over the past decade or so, health and wellbeing have filtered steadily to the top of the must-have agenda for property owners around the world. As with many lifestyle trends, hotels have led the field, and what were once seen as holiday extras are now considered everyday norms. “International buyers with homes in several locations will often look to find everything they would in a hotel,” says Roarie Scarisbrick, a partner in leading UK search agents Property Vision. “As well as a 24-hour concierge service and strong security, they expect somewhere nice to go for a swim.”
The latest developments, of course, have taken this requirement in their stride, and at the top end of the London market, a gym and spa are generally recognised as a prerequisite. At Ten Trinity Square (pictured on fourth page), for example, the Grade II-listed former Port of London Authority building overlooking the Thames at Tower Bridge, the 41 nobly proportioned residences (from £5m, through Christie’s International Real Estate and Strutt & Parker) come with a guaranteed entrée to the building’s Four Seasons spa – itself an exercise in contemporary luxury.
But it isn’t only those with a home in every port who consider exercise facilities essential. Busy young urbanites, whose downtime once centred on squeezing in another round at the pub, now also require their homes to meet a high fitness benchmark. “Our City buyers are looking for somewhere to live, work and play,” says Piers Clanford, managing director of Berkeley’s northeast London branch. “There’s a real focus on health. People are very conscious of what they eat and how much exercise they take.”
To reflect this awareness, Berkeley’s latest development at Goodman’s Fields, nestling up to the City fringes in Aldgate, has supplied owners of its 775 properties (from £735,000 to £5m) with a five-star residents-only health club accessorised by an 18m pool and well-equipped gym. “We provide a personal induction and tailormade training and, if you want to pop down for a dip at midnight, you can,” says Clanford. “As the club will serve fewer than 2,000 residents, you’ll never need to queue.”
When considering appropriate off-duty opportunities, location and target market will, of course, define what’s on offer. The triathlon, for example, with its demanding medley of swim, bike and run, is now a high-fashion sport among the young, fit and energetic, and Mount Anvil has taken this particular enthusiasm into account at its Terry Farrell-designed development, The Eagle (one two-bedroom apartment remaining, £1.5m), at the heart of the tech hub on London’s City Road. “Buyers here are less interested in simply having a beautiful space to relax,” says Jon Hall, Mount Anvil’s sales and marketing director. “They want a serious workout, so we’ve included a spa with a resistance pool and all the correct machinery.” Nearby, mindful of a similar imperative, the 286 apartments at 250 City Road (from £865,000 for a one-bedroom residence, through Berkeley) are accompanied by a boot-camp terrace, an attractive setting for another demanding and modish workout regime.
Not everyone, however, feels that getting the pulses racing is what leisure is all about and at Queen’s Wharf (studio and apartments, from £585,000 to £7.5m) overlooking the Thames in Hammersmith, the somewhat more soothing unique exercise point is a rooftop yoga studio. “We felt that here, beside the river, exercise should be more about body and soul,” says Hall.
In many urban locations, of course, maintaining body and soul has to be balanced with the equally high-octane requirements of family life, and, at 111 Murray Street (apartments from $2m to over $17.5m), a 58-storey luxury tower in Tribeca, New York, there’ll be something for everyone, including a 23m lap pool, a beauty salon and a children’s splash pool with interactive water jets. “We were conscious that serious swimmers might not want to be disturbed by children,” says co-developer Winston Fisher, partner in Fisher Brothers, “so we made a beautiful family pool alongside the lap pool.”
There’s everything here to keep the most dedicated athlete in fighting form. “People today are very aware of the physiology of sport – a professional athlete may have a massage three times a day – and modern sports facilities need to be accompanied by steam, sauna and massage.” The ravishing Turkish hammam at 111 Murray Street, constructed from 2.5m-tall slabs of stone, will no doubt be equally appreciated by sportsmen and sybarites.
This new emphasis on exercise has also been taken up with gusto in private homes, and today’s well-toned purchasers at the top end of the market certainly expect far more than a cupboard under the stairs or a roll- down mat in the bedroom. Here too, a dedicated gym is increasingly something of a sine qua non.
In prime central London, digging down has become the conventional route to supply this. “It costs about £400 per sq ft to create a larger basement,” says Property Vision’s Scarisbrick, “and the extra space you gain is worth about £2,000-£3,000 per sq ft. Without proper daylight, however, it can’t be used for bedrooms, so a gym is an obvious addition.”
Leading international interior designer Katharine Pooley has found her private clients are using this newly colonised space in imaginative ways, quickly adopting the latest spa trends, such as a Vichy shower massage system and rasul mud treatments. (“We recently installed a stone‑lined room with tubs of mud and a mud fridge.”) In more expansive locations, the latest sought-after additions include a tennis court encircled with an automatic track to round up discarded balls.
Throughout the world, developers are also keeping well ahead of the game, with radical sporting angles to tempt those with unlimited choice. At the recently launched Jnan Amar, Ritz-Carlton’s hotel-cum-home offering in Marrakech, a polo club is the main attraction. Owners of the 85 branded residences (from £600,000 to £2m, through Knight Frank) will be able to enjoy not only encircling views of the Atlas Mountains and surrounding desert, but a ringside seat on the in-house polo club’s manicured lawns. And, if dashing about on horses gets a bit too strenuous, they will also be able to lounge by their private pool and spectate the world’s finest players at British Polo Day.
Health, of course, is not confined to perfecting the physical and there’s an increasing emphasis on mind and spirit. At Nirvana ($27.5m through Douglas Elliman), for example, a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom, oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, buyers will find a Buddhist temple, Zen garden and meditation area. While on a somewhat more intimate scale, an inspiring three-bedroom “writer’s cottage” (£1.6m through Hamptons International) in London’s Wimbledon Village has foundations laid with gemstones, including diamond, amethyst and rose quartz, to endow it with “love, kindness, abundance and joy”.
Healthy living today also extends beyond the personal domain to the wider environment, and if you really want to live better and longer, “location, location, location” should be uppermost in your purchasing priorities. The Economist Intelligence Unit has long evaluated the world’s cities on the basis of their quality of life, ranking them in terms of civil stability, as well as healthcare, culture, education and infrastructure. In this respect, some of Britain’s former colonies perform particularly well, with Australia and Canada undoubted gold medallists when it comes to urban bliss – a talent clearly recognised by the multitude of global buyers now investing energetically in Melbourne and Sydney, Toronto and Vancouver.
In Australia, the ancient rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney is still hot competition, with outsider Melbourne now coming up fast on the inside track. “Melbourne is a relaxed and multicultural place to live, with an excellent education system, lively restaurants and bars and attractive leafy suburbs,” says Daniel Cashen, director and head of residential sales at Knight Frank in Victoria, which is selling the Array East Penthouse, overlooking the River Yarra and Port Phillip Bay, for A$8m (about £3.8m). “As a city, it presents far more potential for growth than Sydney, where expansion is limited by the fact that it’s squeezed between the mountains and the ocean.”
In Canada, Vancouver and Toronto offer contrasting but equally uplifting lifestyles, with the west coast city – poised between the Pacific and the Rockies – furnishing the ideal environment for sporting types. Today, its charms are a serious draw for both local and international buyers. “Total sales for Greater Vancouver in 2015 are up 38 per cent on the previous year and up 60 per cent on 2013,” says Kevin Skipworth, managing broker of Vancouver agents Dexter Associates Realty, which is selling (with Knight Frank) a spectacular waterfront residence, with six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and a pool, for C$13.9m, about £6.85m.
Toronto is, perhaps, the more obvious choice for urban sophisticates, with its ever-improving cultural and architectural reputation. “It’s an exciting young city with an increasing luxury offering,” says Barbara Lawlor, president and CEO of Baker Real Estate, which is selling a three-bedroom penthouse in Museum House on Bloor Street for about £5.2m. “Five years ago there were only a couple of five-star hotels, now around five more have opened.” With its cosmopolitan vibe and crystal-clear banking system, the lakeside city has long been a magnet for Asian and Chinese investors, but it’s now also attracting interest from buyers in India, Pakistan and the UAE. “It’s seen as one of the safest cities in North America.”
Financial wellbeing is, of course, a critical priority for international buyers looking for peace of mind, but personal health and safety are equally important factors for many high-net purchasers, and Switzerland, with its pristine air and well-swept streets, has always rated highly in this regard. Nowhere more so than Zurich. “Zurich is a wonderful place to live,” says Alex Koch de Gooreynd, partner in Knight Frank. “Everything’s on your doorstep – the mountains are easily accessible, the airport’s incredibly efficient, the entire lifestyle is easy. People think it’s a long commute if it takes more than 15 minutes to get to the office, and, if you can catch someone at work past 5.30, you’re doing well.”
The city’s two most exclusive districts are the Gold Coast (where Knight Frank is selling a six-bedroom, four‑bathroom period 1920s villa with potential for renovation, for about CHF10m, about £6.6m), and the more centrally located Zürichberg, where a superb 900sq m villa with a swimming pool and water views is on the market at about £10.9m (through Knight Frank).
The average life expectancy of citizens in the top 25 of The EconomistIntelligence Unit’s safe cities index is 81 years, compared to 75 for those in the bottom half of the table, but even within individual cities a specific postcode can make a significant difference. In London, the boroughs of Camden – where Glentree International is selling a six-bedroom new-build home with a gym in Highgate’s ultra-chic The Grove for £9.25m – and Kensington and Chelsea – where John D Wood is offering a five-bedroom Grade II-listed Georgian terrace in Cheyne Walk for £7.5m – are home to some of the city’s longest-living inhabitants.
A positive outlook is one of the more important factors determining longevity, and happiness guru Professor Paul Dolan, author of Happiness by Design, argues that proximity to nature contributes to mental as well as physical health. “Nature – even through a window – grabs and retains your attention in positive ways.”
Dorset, with its plethora of natural attractions, is also particularly noted for the hardiness of its residents, and Charlotte Lock, a broker at Hamptons International, which is selling a detached contemporary house in Poole (£7.5m) with an expansive sea view, completely understands why. “There are so many activities here for a fit and healthy life, from kite-surfing to hiking. It’s a little microclimate and the air is particularly pure.”
Even if long life can never be guaranteed, purchasers here should be able to revel in every minute of it.