UELI SCHNORF AND PHILIPP PETER, OWNERS OF WETAG CONSULTING, OUTLINE THE MAIN TRENDS IN THE WORLD MARKET FOR LUXURY REAL ESTATE AND FOCUS IN PARTICULAR ON THE SITUATION IN TICINO.
Taking into account your international experience and your membership in the most prestigious real estate networks, what do you think are the main elements that will characterise the luxury property market in the coming years?
"Let's start with a necessary premise. The market is determined by two elements: the players, i.e. the sellers and the buyers, and what could be called the goods, i.e. the luxury properties. Well, the number of buyers is destined to grow, were it not for the fact that in new and immense countries the number of owners of wealth is increasing. Current statistics say that globally in 2018 14% of the wealthy (HNWI) intend to buy property, while 12% intend to sell. By 2021, this relationship is expected to become more pronounced, meaning that 25% will have the desire to buy while 17% will have the desire to sell: the luxury market will therefore experience a shortage of objects in the coming years. Sellers will decide on prices, we talk about a "seller's market". This also means that buying and selling in the luxury property market will become increasingly difficult and will require greater professionalism and expertise from those who wish to operate successfully in the sector".
In particular, how do you foresee the development of the main key markets?
"As far as the luxury market is concerned, it would be necessary to make a country-by-country analysis. In very general terms, we can say that the United States and Canada will continue to grow showing constant dynamism, not only thanks to capital coming from the Far East. Australia, which has experienced considerable growth in recent years, will maintain this positive trend, also thanks to Asian influence. For Great Britain and London in particular, a more fluctuating trend is expected, due to Brexit and British legislation. Italy (Sardinia for the sea, Tuscany for the estates) will continue to be a favourite destination, as will Spain for Marbella. For Italy in particular, the market is expected to improve. On the other hand, the popularity of the Caribbean countries is declining, partly due to the frequent natural disasters, with the exception of St. Barth, which continues to be a very attractive dream location".
And as far as the specific Ticino market is concerned, what forecasts can be made?
"The luxury property market in Ticino retains all its growth potential, also because it is still a market characterised by necessarily modest numbers. The great variable, however, is the choices made by politicians and the ability to recognise that the luxury market is of great importance to the whole of Switzerland, and therefore also to Ticino. This awareness should consequently be followed by those support actions that are still lacking. For example, the opening of multilingual schools in Ticino should be encouraged, as this is a very important requirement for international customers. Or the presence of an airport, the operation of which must certainly be maintained. On the other hand, a positive factor is the improvement of transport, both in terms of the railway system and road links, the benefits of which will be seen in the next few years".
What are the main demands coming from high-end international buyers looking to Ticino?
"In the past, villas and period residences, of which there are still magnificent examples along the shores of the Insubria lakes, were very much in demand. Today, on the other hand, the trend is towards recently built, modern, functional properties with all the necessary comforts, including technological ones. As a result, residences built in the 1950s and 1990s are finding it more difficult to get on the market. In this sense, there has been a profound transformation in the requests made by a clientele that comes about 2/3 from abroad and for the rest mainly from inland Switzerland. Other elements that have an important impact on the choice of a residence are location, accessibility and services".
The concept of status changes depending on the reference region: what are the characteristics of buyers looking at Ticino?
"This is a very interesting situation to analyse. If we look at potential buyers from Asia or the Middle East, we see that about 80% of requests are still directed towards residences that can convey monumentality and opulence, as evidence of recently acquired wealth. The percentage drops to around 50% for North American buyers. If we look at the situation in Europe, only 36% of buyers consider an opulent property to be a status symbol. In Switzerland and Ticino, the percentage is even lower: 80% of buyers are mainly looking for discretion, confidentiality, absolute quality that is not ostentatious but protected and sheltered from prying eyes".
Security and privacy are therefore particularly important. How do Switzerland and Ticino respond to this need?
"Those who come to Ticino choose to take advantage of the traditional advantages offered by this region, starting with Switzerland's political and economic-financial stability. The pleasant Mediterranean climate, lush green nature, the lakes of Lugano and Maggiore, and the surrounding mountains have made this area a particularly attractive destination for decades. Also of great importance are the low level of crime, a widespread sense of security, the excellent health system and the high level of public facilities and services. In other words, the share of burglaries in Switzerland as a whole halved from 2009 to 2017, and Ticino is among the cantons with the lowest share. In other words, Ticino continues to be a great place to live".
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