The Luxury Conundrum

January 12, 2018

Are there ANY urban developers building owner-occupier housing, not marketing their homes as embodying a new standard of luxury? In spite of many being in sub-par locations, suffering from bad design, low quality construction and boasting amenities that will never be used, almost every new urban development on the market today is being promoted as the height of luxury. They are not!

What is luxury? By definition, luxury is that which is pleasant, desirable, indulgent and expensive but not considered a life necessity. While luxury takes on significantly different meaning to everyone, depending on socio-economic status and location, to the affluent homeowner in western society, the continuum tends to be shorter.

Simple luxuries may be things such as fresh flowers on the table at breakfast, time to oneself in the evening or a weekend away at a favourite hotel. When it comes to our homes however, much of what is today being touted as “luxury” by speculative real estate developers is at best delivering on base level expectations. Gourmet kitchens, integrated appliances, marble baths etc., are now expected in all upmarket homes and do not define luxury. Particularly when shoddily installed, with little care and attention to detail, in poorly thought out floor plans.

Defining an adjective as arbitrary as “Luxury” is a subjective process, however simply meeting bare minimum (if that) buyer expectations can hardly be defined as providing a luxury home. With the last decade seeing a proliferation of add-ons and amenities, as each development tries to outdo its competitors, these too are less appreciated as luxurious attributes and more as either base expectations, or a fiscal drain on the community, depending on one’s perspective.

For the most part, gone are the days when one would look to aspects of their new “Luxury” home in admiration of the quality craftsmanship. Extolling the virtues of excellence in design and execution. Today, one of the first decisions the luxury home buyer often faces, is whether to accept and live with the mediocre design and quality, or face the daunting task of “rebuilding”. This is rarely simply the obligatory personalization of an expensive home. More often than not it requires significant or complete redesign and reconstruction.

While unfortunate, this is not surprising. The speculative development of most owner-occupied housing, through financial necessity is driven to deliver the greatest quantity, at the lowest cost, to the greatest number of potential buyers. Maximizing quality, indulgent comfort and individual experience is generally not top of mind for the financial mechanics looking to optimize square footage, at the lowest cost per unit.

In most cases, this is the appropriate approach, the developer has to provide the most impact per dollar spent, while appealing to a broad base of homeowners. They are providing a commodity product and whoever does so most cost effectively wins, by maximizing their profits. This is not a “luxury experience” however. These are not thoughtfully designed, integrated homes, quality crafted in personalized communities. This is commodity housing, regardless of the price point or splashy marketing expounding the embodiment of luxury.

Is this “more is better” definition the new normal, or will the home buyer of tomorrow be seeking a more personalized interpretation of Pleasant, Desirable, Indulgence, and be willing to pay for this “Luxury”?

/ CATEGORIES: Robert Quigg’s Blog