NO LONGER IN THE GARAGE OR IN FRONT OF THE ENTRANCE. THE LATEST TREND IN REAL ESTATE IS A LIVING ROOM, A SWIMMING POOL OR AN ENTIRE SKYSCRAPER WITH FOUR WHEELS. SO, FROM MIAMI TO DUBAI, FROM SWITZERLAND TO MAJORCA, THE CAR GOES UP A LEVEL, TO BE ALWAYS IN FRONT OF THE OWNERS' EYES. BY LISA FREEDMAN.
When buying a house, some people prioritise a beautiful view, the number of bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms or a large enough area for the domestic staff. Increasingly, however, there are buyers who insist that a home cannot be considered a home if it does not provide a special place for their most precious possessions: cars.
Over the past decade, some of the world's richest investors, worried about the fluctuating financial markets, have been putting their money into tangible assets, and despite the strong growth in art, wine and jewellery, it is classic cars that lead the pack. According to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, the value of these cars has increased by 258 per cent over the past 20 years and, despite a slight decline in 2018, last year still saw record prices for two 1960s Ferrari 250 GTOs, which sold for $48 million at auction and $70 million privately, respectively.
Collecting four-wheelers, however, requires a bit more space, even compared to a huge wine cellar - although the impact on residential design has, in many cases, simply translated into a demand for larger, more secure garages. In other cases, however, some owners have begun to treat cars with the same respect as a collection of paintings and sculptures. "Some custom-built cars are considered works of art," explains Andrew Hay, global head of residential at Knight Frank. "And they deserve to be the focal point of the house. One wealthy Indian collector, for example, dedicated four entire floors of his residence to his car collection."
This trend is particularly evident in some cities. In Los Angeles, for example, Paul Lester, partner and founder of Beverly Hills real estate agency The Agency, has witnessed a gradual evolution in the design of car galleries inside estates that are becoming more prevalent in the city's wealthiest neighbourhoods (such as the one at 924 Bel Air Road, for sale for $150 million through Hilton & Hyland in partnership with Christie's International Real Estate). "The garage has now become almost a living room, with direct access to other rooms in the house, meeting the same standards as the home: custom lighting, air conditioning and designer furniture," explains Lester. "Owners want to see their cars and show them off - they don't want them hidden away in a basement." For some buyers, the car is a beautiful object in itself, like a painting or a sculpture. "One house we sold had a collection of Ferraris, displayed in pairs, in specially lit stations, so that they were all visible at a glance. In Europe, too, a similar evolution is taking place.
In Mallorca, for example, Savills is selling a six-bedroom villa at Golf Bendinat for €8.8 million, where the poolside deck has a skylight (above, left and right) that offers sunbathers an aerial view of the four-wheelers parked below. In Switzerland, in the canton of Ticino, Christie's International Real Estate is selling a three-bedroom house ($2.88 million, top photo, next page) with a car lobby for collectors who want a "game room".
Alex Jaggs, a Finchatton architect, explains that even with period restorations, enthusiasts expect a design that reflects their passion. Jaggs is currently following a job in Hampshire, where the owner's collection was a crucial element in the design. "The cars and garages are the focal point of the house and the exterior. A one-kilometre path winds through the grounds to mark the moment of arrival and lead to the two garages that form the entrance to a central courtyard with granite paving, accessible from both the main house and the guest wing," says Jaggs. The garages have the same standards as the house: heating, fabric wallpaper, motor-themed graphics and targeted lighting to highlight the profile and size of the cars. "The courtyard is a place for sharing, where cars can be taken out to be washed, displayed or repaired," concludes Jaggs.
The desire to keep one's own car close has also been an impetus for new projects. In London, Knight Frank is selling a six-bedroom house (pictured on the opening pages) in Chester Street, Belgravia, for £14.75 million, where the owner's four-wheeled treasure trove can be admired from the comfort of the living room. In Miami, the Porsche Design Tower (the remaining units cost between $6.3 million and $32.5 million) allows residents to keep their own custom-built cars on the edge of their flats and in their own garages, no matter what floor they live on. In this case, designer Gil Dezer wanted to share his passion for the German brand by inviting Porsche's design team to outline the interior design.
The result is a glass wall that separates the garages from the two-level flats (photo below, previous page) and offers a view of the cars directly from the home. Dezer has also patented the Dezervator, the first lift that allows the driver to stay in the car as it rises to the floor. "I know that owners wanted to come and go freely without using a car delivery and parking service," he explains. This project met a demand that had never been identified before and found customers not only among Porsche enthusiasts, but also Bugatti, Ferrari and McLaren owners, and anyone else who prefers to get in and out of the house discreetly. "We had given the project a codename, but the architects accidentally left it on the drawings when they showed it to the designers and it was leaked on Yahoo - 39 flats were sold in no time."
British sports car legend, Aston Martin, has also made its debut in the Miami housing market, thanks to global real estate agency G&G Business Developments. Residents of the 391 units (ranging from $750,000 to $50 million), of which the residence is composed, not only enjoy panoramic views of the Florida coastline, but also an environment that is distinguished by the same handcrafted features for which Aston Martin is famous: from the doors with leather trim to the handmade handles. "For me it was simple. When I think of Aston Martin, I think of a sober style, where luxury and innovation come together to shape all our projects," says G&G CEO Germán Coto, who owns a DB11. "Without a doubt, anyone who owns an Aston Martin is interested in living in this residence, which has a much broader appeal".
Even the best projects can only accommodate a limited number of vehicles, while there is a growing desire to find a safe habitat for a larger fleet. Such is the case with Historit, a 140-hectare centre of excellence for vintage car enthusiasts, housed in a former military building in Oxfordshire's Bicester Heritage. "As their value has increased, vintage models have become a target; we provide a 24-hour security service, a gated area equipped with state-of-the-art alarms, as well as a fire detection system," manager Andrew Ferguson points out. "For some people owning a car is just an investment, for others it's emotional - many are considered family heirlooms - so we tailor our services to individual needs.
The modern supercar is resilient, while vintage cars, often fitted with antique wood detailing or fine leather, require special attention and for some owners the only solution is an in-home care and maintenance service. Eric Walsh of Giordano, Wegman, Walsh and Associates, a Christie's International Real Estate affiliate in Texas, is selling The Baldridge House, in Fort Worth (pictured below, right), a century-old estate with two complementary garages, four lifts, a workshop and a washing department. "The garages are equipped with washers and dryers, dividers to prevent other cars from being sprayed during washing, and industrial ventilation systems - but they are also sharing spaces, where guests can stay for dinner." Naturally, this house attracted a lot of interest when it was presented at the Concours d'Elégance car event in Pebble Beach, California.
Preserving and admiring cars is certainly not enough. Quattroruote enthusiasts want to have a place to drive and watch others drive. A project to convert Enstone Airfield, near Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds, into a high-speed holiday village with 28 residences, a motoring museum, a workshop and a race track is currently being discussed. If the intentions of American philanthropist and collector Peter Mullin are realised, those who keep their cars in the museum will also be able to drive them on the track.
The proximity to a Formula 1 circuit has long influenced property prices and homes with a front row seat to the Monte Carlo Grand Prix continue to attract racing enthusiasts. Savills is selling a six-bedroom flat in the building, aptly named Le Panorama, which, in addition to four parking spaces, offers a view of the Grand Prix grid. While those hoping to end the season on a high note might also consider buying a home in Abu Dhabi (where Global99 is selling a five-bedroom villa on Saadiyat Island for £3.027m, pictured below, left). Alternatively, neighbouring Dubai (where Mansion Real Estate is selling a villa on Dubai Palm for £10.55m) hosts the 24 Hours, a race for GTs, sports cars and touring cars, open to professionals and semi-professionals on its FIA circuit in Dubailand (the UAE's amusement park).
From the United States to the Arabian Peninsula, it's never been easier to put a ¬ car-inclusive housing solution at the top of your wish list.
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