The hotel-style services you can enjoy — without leaving home
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The hotel-style services you can enjoy — without leaving home

The apartment concierge goes mainstream as luxury developments take service to a new level

By Kirsten Craze
Mon, Mar 18, 2024 9:56amGrey Clock 5 min

As downsizing has given way to rightsizing, a new breed of homeowner is exercising their right to outsource. From dog walking to gift buying, personal drivers to private chefs, today’s concierge services have become so much more than the glorified parcel-minding amenities of yore. Time poor homeowners are increasingly seeing the value of bringing the hotel lifestyle home by happily handing over daily tasks — and the real estate industry is taking note.

The global concierge services market was valued at US$647.30 million in 2022, and is predicted to hit $1.1 billion by 2032 according to Allied Market Research data. While there are no comparable Australian-only statistics, anecdotal evidence suggests our local market is set to explode as stretched-thin professionals seek out additional at-home help.

Interested in more stories like this? Order your copy of Autumn 2024 Kanebridge Quarterly magazine here.

Concierge on call

Comprehensive concierge services are now a hot commodity in lavish new residential developments, especially those targeting “rightsizers” relocating from big family homes to lock-up-and-leave apartments. Once just a smiling face in the lobby of upmarket inner-city unit blocks, the role of a concierge in 2024 goes beyond simply signing for packages and surveilling security cameras.

The Landmark in Sydney’s Lower North Shore is a $1.4 billion development offering residents access to its Club 500. The exclusive club includes traditional aides such as house keeping, restaurant bookings and car washing, with additional high end helpers like chauffeurs, event managers, interior decorators and personal shoppers. 

The music room in the Landmark on Sydney’s Lower North Shore is just one of several services available to residents.

On the riverfront in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct, Seafarers (a joint venture between Riverlee and 1 Hotels) is part five-star hotel, part residential development giving permanent residents the opportunity to cash in on the hospitality. Homeowners at the $550 million project set to open in late 2024 can tap into all the guest services of the luxury accommodation. 

“Residents will benefit from a blend of the best hotel amenities with curated residential offerings, including organic pantry stocking, botanical and pet care, eco-conscious housekeeping, private chefs, in-room massages and access to the hotel’s event programming,” says Riverlee’s development director, David Lee. “The breadth of services on offer combines convenience, luxury, and responsibility into an unparalleled residential experience.”

Lee says Australian’s desire for concierge services is increasing as the needs of local luxury property buyers continue to evolve.

“As a developer, we saw a need to cater to this demand and provide residents with access to the services that allow them more time to enjoy life and experience luxury within the comfort of their homes,” he adds. “As we navigate the new norm post-pandemic, integrated services have become an enabler of a more balanced lifestyle, and we recognise that people are looking for a complete lifestyle upgrade, which begins in the home.”

A life of service

Evan Cannan, operations manager with building management company Lefand, has been a professional concierge for more than two decades, first in five star hotels and now in a residential setting. Lefand will provide building services at new residential development Akoya, a 55s project in Greenwich, Sydney.

“The types of services and facilities are becoming more high end, especially over the past five to 10 years, compared with the concierges we remember from the 1980s and 1990s,” Cannan says. “These additional services mean apartments are achieving a higher price point, but with that comes higher strata fees. 

“However, most buyers are happy to pay for it because they’ve reached that stage of their lives when they appreciate it.

“These people have seen the benefits of having a concierge within their office space, or they’ve travelled the world and experienced luxury concierges in places like Dubai and Singapore.”

The Akoya development by Lefand will have a virutal driving range, complete with bar.

Although there was once a great divide between a hotel concierge and an apartment concierge, Cannan says the lines have now blurred.

“A great concierge needs to have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Without even looking having to look it up they should be able to know the best restaurants in the area, what events are on and where, and just be able to advise residents with personal requests.”

He says the job calls for plenty of patience and discretion.

“I’ve had no limit of extraordinary requests over the years including one lady who used to send me off with her ATM card to get large sums of money out for her, but sometimes it’s as ordinary as looking something up on Google Maps when you know they could have found the information themselves,” he says.

Moving forward, Cannan predicts concierge services will likely be shaped by client demand as apartment buildings become vertical villages. 

“Just looking at what’s available within services around the world, I think there’s still a lot more to come to Australia,” he says. “A good concierge service is regularly having those discussions with residents about what they want and don’t want.”

Helping hand at home

Brand new apartment developments aren’t the only bricks and mortar getting the concierge treatment. Melbourne-based real estate agency Kay & Burton launched its in-house concierge service two years ago with a handful of offerings. What started as a service organising removalists and connecting homeowners with tradespeople has morphed into more than 100 preferred partners and associates. 

Cath Stubbings, director of Kay & Burton’s concierge team, says due to overwhelming demand for a suite of lifestyle requirements, the team has grown exponentially.

“It started with us wanting to service our clients with their property-related needs. As a result of finding trades for them we naturally started getting asked for more lifestyle-related things,” she says, adding that the evolution has stemmed from a desire for a better work/life balance.

Director of Kay & Burton’s concierge team, Cath Stubbings

“Many of our clients have fairly senior roles, or run their own businesses, and they’re reevaluating what’s the best use of their time. Those working quite long hours see the value of outsourcing tasks they may have normally done themselves.”

Since COVID lockdowns, Stubbings says her clients are spending more time travelling so are seeking a professional shoulder to lean on.

 “We look after their home while they’re away, which involves anything from visiting the property regularly to checking mail, watering gardens, turning lights on and off, putting blinds up and down, meeting trades, arranging cleaners or even putting food in the fridge. 

“The idea is when they return they’ve got a welcoming house to come back to and it gives them peace of mind.”

As the sector grows, Stubbings says the requests are also becoming more bespoke.

“Now we even have people asking us to stock their cellars,” she says. “There’s a trade on our platform specialising in building cellars so they liaise with the client to get an idea of what types of wine they like, what balance they want, and then go about sourcing those wines and building the cellar up from scratch.”

Stubbings says with the work from home phenomenon, the need for help at home will likely continue to grow.

“Over the next three to five years we’re going to see more people calling on a wide range of concierge services as individuals travel more or spend time building businesses,” she says. 

“It’ll become more common to seek out people like us who can support you getting things done around the home.”



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Millennials Are Coming for Your Golf Communities

Living on golf courses has surged in popularity since the pandemic. Many courses have upgraded facilities and broadened amenities. Now the 40-year-olds want in too.

By JESSICA FLINT
Sun, Apr 21, 2024 8 min

Gabrielle Sloan, 30, and her husband, Brandon Sloan, 30, never thought they’d live on a golf course. Gabrielle doesn’t even play golf—yet, at least.

But in January 2020, the Sloans spent $660,000 to buy a three-bedroom, roughly 1,960-square-foot ranch house on approximately 0.25 acres that backs up to the course at Tequesta Country Club, a private golf club in Tequesta, Fla., a village on Palm Beach County’s northern border.

Gabrielle and Brandon Sloan with their son and dog at their house in Tequesta, Fla. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“We loved how family-friendly the neighbourhood is,” says Gabrielle, noting that the club is catering to a younger crowd. “That lifestyle is something we wanted.”

Across the U.S., millennials like the Sloans are moving to where the grass is greener: private golf communities. “Millennials are starting to solidify their lives,” says Cindy Scholz, a real-estate broker with Compass in New York City and the Hamptons, on New York’s Long Island. “And they are strategically using real estate to shape their lifestyles.”

In Texas, about 10 miles west of downtown Austin is Barton Creek, a community where the Barton Creek Country Club is a selling point. “Before the pandemic, millennials were sporadically buying in Barton Creek,” says Stephanie Nick, a Douglas Elliman sales agent. “Now it’s a full-bore, ‘let’s get going on the country club lifestyle’ movement.”

In Barton Creek, Nick says millennial house hunters typically budget about $3 million to $4 million. In 2023, she sold a millennial a four-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot house for $3.5 million. Recently, she showed a $5 million house to a young couple with one child.

Nick believes millennials—born between 1981 and 1996—are tired of paying more for less in the city. In Austin, $3 million might buy a roughly 3,000-square-foot house on a small parcel, she says, whereas that same price in Barton Creek might buy a 5,000-square-foot to 6,000-square-foot house on a half to one acre in a community with easy access to four 18-hole golf courses, tennis, workout facilities, swimming and more.

In Georgia, Mary Catherine Smith, a real estate agent with Corcoran Classic Living, says millennials are moving to Jennings Mill Country Club, less than five miles south of downtown Athens. In March, Smith listed a typical Jennings Mill property—a five bedroom, 4,984 square foot house on 1.07 acres—for $965,000.

One reason Smith thinks young homeowners gravitate to the club is for its social life. “Many Jennings Mills residents have golf carts,” she says. “They’ll trolley around together on the weekend.”

“There are millennials who have never picked up a golf club, and a country club neighbourhood is still the only place they want to be,” says Byron Wood, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty – Westlake Village Brokerage, about 10 miles from Los Angeles’s city limits.

Millennials moving to private golf communities is a trend that might have seemed unthinkable before the Covid pandemic, when such enclaves seemed destined for the rough due to waning interest in the sport, especially among young people.

Then an unlikely coincidence occurred.

A bucket of balls at the Bermuda Dunes Country Club. PHOTO: OLIVIA ALONSO GOUGH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Golf play surged during the pandemic and continues to grow: In 2023, more golf rounds were played than any other year on record, according to the National Golf Foundation.

Meanwhile, since the Great Recession, there are private golf clubs that have been transforming themselves into amenity-rich lifestyle hubs, whose resort-style pools, sports facilities, fitness centres, dining and social programming have broad appeal, says Jason Becker, co-founder and CEO of Golf Life Navigators, an online platform that connects golfers to golf clubs and golf communities across the U.S.

At the same time, during the pandemic, millennials started turning 40 years old. Research from Club Benchmarking, a private golf club business intelligence firm, shows that the average age of new private golf club joiners is early 40s, says Michael J. Timmerman, the company’s chief market intelligence officer.

That means at the same time golf and private golf clubs came back into style, the next generation of Muffys and Skips were primed to start their country club years.

Consequently, the NGF has seen a shift toward younger private golf club members on the heels of the pandemic. Since 2019, the number of golfers at private golf clubs has increased by approximately 25%, from just under 1.5 million to 1.9 million, according to the NGF. Adults under the age of 50 comprise 60% of those memberships, with young adults, ages 18 to 34, representing about 30%. The latter can include adult children of members, typically up to a certain age.

There is no one-size-fits-all U.S private golf club community. Some clubs have housing within their gates; other clubs are integrated within regular residential neighbourhoods. Roughly speaking, a top-tier club’s golf initiation fee could be $250,000 or much more, with annual dues in the mid-tens of thousands and up. However, there are also clubs with golf initiation fees and annual dues in the low thousands or less. Typically, there are lower-priced membership options that don’t include golf, such as social or pool- and tennis-only memberships.

In December 2021, Tyson Hawley, 37, and his wife, Maital Hawley, 40, paid $1.15 million for a turnkey four bedroom, 4,272 square foot house on 0.4 acres backing up to the golf course at the Bermuda Dunes Country Club. It’s located in California’s greater Palm Springs area, which has more than 110 golf courses, of which more than half are private.

“I leave my house and I’m on my club’s first tee in two minutes,” Tyson Hawley says. Hawley is a real estate agent with Desert Sotheby’s International Realty. He says within a prestigious desert club’s gates, houses might be in the multi-millions. However, there are lower priced golf community options that work for his millennial buyers, who typically have house budgets of about $800,000 to $1.2 million, he says.

undefined “It is very possible to buy a house at $350 per square foot in a golf community and be super pumped about what you get for your membership,” he says. “There are clubs that understand that millennials are in a season of their lives where they can’t hang with the big dogs paying $250,000 for an initiation fee.”

Golf Life Navigators’s Jason Becker says some private clubs have invested in their amenities, golf course and branding, while others have not and rely upon their historic status. “Millennials are very cautious by nature in terms of their finances and investments,” Becker says. “Industry officials are seeing very in-depth questions coming from millennials pertaining to the club’s financial health and long-term plan to remain healthy.”

Becker says there are, of course, golf communities where there aren’t many younger members, specifically those in the U.S.’s Southeast or Southwest that are geared toward retirees or second-home owners. “There’s just so much demand from the baby boomers,” says Becker, noting that since the pandemic, generally speaking, membership wait lists are now lengthy, fees associated with being a member are up, attrition rates are down and tee time availability is compressed. He added that the cost of being a member at some clubs can be prohibitive for younger people, especially in an era when the average initiation fee at a private club has increased 50% to 70% since 2021. In the Sunbelt, the average age of private golf club searchers is between ages 55 to 57, according to Golf Life Navigators’s data.

That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, though. In the Phoenix area, Lisa Roberts is a real-estate agent with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. She is working with a young millennial couple at McCormick Ranch Golf Club, in Scottsdale. They recently went into contract for $1.1 million on a three bedroom, 2,550 square foot house on 0.21 acre. “They plan to upgrade once they have children and a more established income,” Roberts says, “but this house lets them lay a foundation within the club’s gates now.”

Becker says whether younger people will be battling generational stereotypes hinges on the club’s culture, which sets the tone for all members. “It is up to the club’s board and management team to lead the way of established culture, such as playing music on the golf course or wearing a hat in the clubhouse,” Becker says. “For younger, new members, the club’s culture has to be understood or frustration will likely surface.”

Club Benchmarking’s Michael J. Timmerman says, “It really depends on how the club is designed, whether the club wants to focus on programming that will attract different members.” Timmerman adds that clubs catering to younger members and families will develop social programming specifically tailored to that age group.

Around the communities of Monterey and Carmel on California’s Central Coast, there are storied golf courses including the public Pebble Beach Golf Links and the private Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Nic Canning, managing partner at Canning Properties Group with Sotheby’s International Realty – Carmel Brokerage, says retirees and second-home owners typically live around these premiere courses, where he says properties can range from roughly $15 million to $35 million around Pebble Beach, and $3 million to $10 million around MPCC.

However, the area is rich with golf—there are roughly a dozen public courses and a half-dozen private clubs—and Canning has seen an influx of millennials buying in  family-friendly private golf communities such as the Club at Pasadera, Santa Lucia Preserve and Tehama Golf Club, and the semi-private Carmel Valley Ranch. He says since the pandemic, the area has particularly attracted tech workers migrating from Silicon Valley, with San Jose being only about 70 miles north.

At these clubs, Canning has recently sold millennials properties such as a three bedroom, 2,717-square-foot house on approximately 0.23 acres for $3.792 million, and a house with roughly similar specs for $2.7 million. Another house that has three bedrooms and 4,396 square feet on 13.3 acres just sold to a millennial for $4.42 million.

“Millennials are less driven by ocean views and care more about the community, the school district and access to things like restaurants, grocery shopping, trails and beaches,” Canning says.

Similarly, millennials want to equip their private golf-club houses a certain way. Kate O’Hara, CEO and creative director of O’Hara Interiors, which is based in Minneapolis and Austin, says the country club houses her firm works on might include everything from golf-simulator rooms and yoga studios, to outdoor-access showers and expanded mudrooms for equipment storage.

Back in Tequesta, Fla., the Sloans spent about $150,000 to optimise their house to fit their lifestyle, including adding durable furnishings and built-in cabinetry and jazzing up their outdoor entertaining area. They did so with the help of local interior designer Victoria Meadows Murphy, 35, who has a knack for taking the Bob Hope vibes out of country club homes without losing the martini spirit.

Meadows Murphy and her husband, Evan Murphy, 35, are building their own house, a project budgeted at $2.8 million, on a tear-down lot on the Sloans’s same golf course. “It’s exciting seeing the turnover of houses as young people are moving in,” Meadows Murphy says.

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