- Europe's wealthiest have adjusted their second home wishlist during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Instead of luxe city apartments, ultra-high-net-worth individuals are looking for quiet country estates and private oceanside villas that offer plenty of secluded space for long-term stays.
- These folks are looking for tennis courts to play in, pools to swim in, and gardens so the private chef can grow fresh veggies.
- Equally important is extensive indoor space to comfortably fit "husband, wife, kids, and nanny all under one roof," said director of London Residential Guy Bradshaw.
- One such home on the French Riviera, called the Villa Vogue (pictured above) has a current asking price of over €20 million ($23.6 million).
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
On a midsummer's afternoon in Le-Bar-sur-Loup, a charming walled village in the Cannes hinterland, the cicadas hum under the hot Mediterranean sun. The setting is quintessentially southern French: The countryside is scattered with olive and orange trees, while the floral scents of jasmine and rose fill the air.
Bucolic scenes such as this have inspired countless artists to pick up their brushes; however, they traditionally haven't seduced those wealthy real estate investors in the market for a residence on the French Riviera. (That cachet has been reserved for the likes of waterfront addresses in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat or Cap d'Antibes.)
"In the Cannes backcountry, we've only seen one or two transactions over €10 million ($11.8 million) in the last decade," Fredrik Lilloe, the CEO of Knight Frank Riviera, told Business Insider. In the last two months, however, he has seen five.
Europe's 1% have emerged from lockdown with a new set of criteria when it comes to purchasing second homes.
Lock-up-and-leave, hassle-free properties are out. Instead, space is firmly at the top of the wish list.
"People don't want apartments anymore," Fredrik said. "They are looking for land, security, to be close to nature and to able to walk, cycle, run, hike, and play sports."
Across Knight Frank's network of agencies on the French Riviera, inquiries are down 50% for apartments and up 50% for country estates - a term that covers both inland and coastal villas that offer "outdoor space, greenery, a swimming pool, easy parking, and distance from the neighbors," Fredrik explained.
Previously overlooked villages such as Le-Bar-sur-Loup are the source of many properties that match these new demands. "You're just fifty minutes from Monaco here, yet it still has a rural feel," said Fredrik, who had spent the morning showing a prospective buyer from Monaco around Château des Valettes, a sumptuous 17th century chateau that he has recently listed on the market for over €10 (USD$11.8) million.
"It has all the trimmings," he said, describing a secluded 15-acre walled property with a clay tennis court, a 4,305 square foot swimming pool area, space for ten cars, and sweeping views across the countryside towards the medieval village.
Inside, the expansive residence includes three reception rooms and a fully equipped kitchen and dining room.
The Château has six bedrooms and four bathrooms.
There's also a vaulted wine cellar.
A property this size offers plenty of space to grow produce, another preference of this particular buyer who is looking to cultivate an organic vegetable garden, something that, for Fredrik, has become a familiar request.
"Health and well-being are the ultimate commodities today and these clients have the luxury of being able to hire personal chefs to cook fantastic food grown in their own gardens," he said.
One feature a luxury estate such as Château des Valettes lacks, however, is a sea view - which remains the ultimate premium. "It is attractive as always, but a lot more people are happy to let it go if compensated by bigger land and the countryside lifestyle," Fredrik explained.
But, if a buyer isn't prepared to compromise on a sea view and a vegetable patch, another of Knight Frank's listings on the French Riviera ticks all the boxes. On a 38,000 square foot waterfront estate on Cap d'Antibes, Villa Vogue has its own private ocean access.
There's also a spa with sauna and hammam and an outdoor heated swimming pool.
Inside, there's a cinema room, and seven king-sized bedrooms.
The entire rooftop has been converted into a vegetable garden, so there's never a shortage of fresh ingredients to cook in one of the residence's three kitchens. The property has an asking price of over €20 (USD$23.6) million.
Across the border in Italy, Lodovico Pignatti Morano, the owner and managing partner at Sotheby's International Realty Italy, is witnessing a similar trend. He told Business Insider that fruit and vegetable gardens, swimming pools, and outdoor space are seeing a surge in demand. "A terrace or garden now counts more than a prime location in the historic centre," he said.
"While it's about tranquility, it's also important to be near a village or city and a maximum of one hour from an airport," he added. Along with Sicily, Puglia, Lake Garda, and Lake Maggiore, Tuscany is proving as sought after as ever, he said, especially properties such as a €1,850,000 (USD$2,180,000) traditional farmhouse in the hills above Lucca.
Set on 7.4 acres of land, it comprises three independent yet interconnected units. Other features include an infinity pool, olive grove, and a working vineyard. It's also within walking distance of the nearest village.
Lodovico's colleague at Sotheby's International Realty UK, director of London Residential Guy Bradshaw, said that at least four of his clients who were in the market for what he refers to as "substantial" properties in London and the home counties before lockdown have now told him they have repositioned their requirements. "Rather than spend £25 (USD$32.6) million on a London home, they are looking to lower their budget and buy a holiday home in the South of France or on the Italian Lakes as well," he said.
Luxury buyers are listing privacy, security, and open-air space at the top of their wish lists.
The other question Guy's buyers are asking is whether the property has at least two home offices or the space to create them. "Those people living in houses for three months of lockdown have had husband, wife, kids, and nanny all under one roof. In ordinary life, you'd never have that many people," Guy said. Like Fredrik and Ludovico, he listed land, security, and privacy as the new selling points. But so is the ability to let the children loose in the garden while parents jump on a Zoom call. "Generally speaking, it's that sense of fresh air," he said.
While the current preference for rural properties transcends individual markets, there will always be demand for urban living, according to Fredrik on the French Riviera. "Cities will make a comeback and we'll find a balance in the near future. People still need offices and city centres will always be attractive, especially to young professionals," he said. "But people with money are definitely moving out."