Turnkey Is King for Those With A ‘Move-in-Now’ Mentality
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Turnkey Is King for Those With A ‘Move-in-Now’ Mentality

Amid the pandemic, some developers in Hawaii, California and other areas are catering to buyers looking for furnished and pre-decorated homes.

By JOHN SCOTT LEWINSKI
Mon, May 9, 2022 1:46pmGrey Clock 4 min

When Covid-19 began spreading in early 2020, the erroneous assumption among real estate experts suggested luxury market sales would slow as shoppers held their money until they saw how the pandemic would progress. Instead, purchasing has boomed to the point that top-shelf communities and destinations have few available listings to peruse.

As a result, many buyers who hesitated to jump into the hot second-home market of the last two years must alter their expectations and search through whatever homes are left, regardless of size or type. Sensing the urgency, many developers are turning over turnkey concepts to boost offerings—serving up high-end, furnished, pre-decorated homes allowing the buyer to pay, take the keys and enjoy.

By way of case studies, the turnkey push has found its way to Hawaii, Grenada and California with separate developments and price points, but the “move in now” theme stays the same.

The residential community at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the big island of Hawaii, for example, reports no sales inventory among its more than 350 homes for the first time in 25 years. According to Rob Kildow, director of sales and principal Broker for Hualalai Realty, the site saw a 20% jump in demand during the pandemic—creating a local market that’s all turnkey for now.

“When our residents sell their home, a buyer from a smaller property here buys it and moves into the bigger space,” Mr. Kildow said. “They leave the smaller home fully furnished while they create their new residence. I then have a three-page waiting list of buyers interested in that smaller property.”

Mr. Kildow explained that the turnkey residences at Hualalai routinely sell within days at or above asking price. Residents enjoy the natural beauty of the Kona coast with access to the Four Seasons’s elite amenities, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed main resort golf course and a second private course tucked in among the community’s homes.

When the pandemic slowed bookings during Hawaii’s aggressive testing and quarantine edicts, the Four Seasons Hualalai used the time to complete a $100 million renovation on the resort side to upgrade all guest rooms, complete two new villas and add a 1.8 million-gallon swimmable aquarium.

“There’s a clear trend toward single-family, ‘want it now’ homes,” Mr. Kildow added. “Psychology always provides different sales drivers, and the pandemic pushed buyers on the fence to buy—in some cases ‘sight unseen.’”

Kandace Douglas, real estate sales and marketing director at Silversands Villas on the island of Grenada, cited the pandemic-driven challenges of construction as a driving force in buyers looking to grab turnkey spaces as they hit the market.

“Given the low inventory of furniture and materials, buyers want something fully turnkey and ready to be enjoyed,” Ms. Douglas said.

Strongly embracing the luxury “move in now” mentality, Silversands Villas sells fully furnished homes featuring original artworks carefully curated by CEO and Ora Developers Chairman Naguib Sawiris. The art in question stays with the home, so each property’s collection will be owned by future residents of the villas, adding investment value.

The Silversands Villas offer an additional advantage many ready-made housing developments can’t manage—a sort of turnkey citizenship program. Grenada offers Citizen by Investment by which home buyers and their families can apply for citizenship after making a minimum investment of $220,000. Once approved after a vetting process, those buyers are soon able to receive a Grenadian passport granting them visa-free access to more than 140 countries.

At Rancho Palos Verdes along the Southern California coast, the resort real estate development of Terranea covers 102 acres, offering nine dining spots, a 50,000-square-foot spa and a nine-hole golf course. Resort President Terri A. Haack reports a familiar increase in buyer interest.

“The demand for Terranea properties cannot be satisfied as there is only one available property currently for sale,” Ms. Haack said. “Since selling out all of the available for-sale properties at Terranea, owners have shown little interest in selling their property.”

Terranea buyers cannot use their space at the resort as a primary residence due to California laws, so they opt for the simplicity of buying into preexisting, “ready to enjoy” spaces.

“Turnkey homes offer peace of mind and instant enjoyment —while avoiding construction costs and labor force issues presented by today’s economy,” Ms. Haack added. “Time is priceless.”

Kathleen Benoit, real estate agent for Russ Lyon/Sotheby’s at the massive Desert Mountain community in Scottsdale, insists buyers looking to get into that golf community value acquiring a second home easily over hanging onto a long list of potential accoutrement options.

“It’s all about instant gratification, simplicity and getting to the end game of a resort home that one can just walk into to begin enjoying that lifestyle,” Ms. Benoit said. “Whether or not the buyers like the furniture, the convenience of enjoying the home immediately outweighs whether they will end up replacing items in the home.”

Back in Hawaii on the quiet island of Kauai, the 1,010-acre real estate project of Kukui’ula stands only 25% into its overall build and is already leaning into the single family, turnkey trend.

Kukui’ula Development president Richard Albrecht explained their buyers are eager to purchase longer-term residences where they can live for extended periods throughout the year. Rather than buy an open lot and work through the design and construction process (which Kukui’ula also offers, if desired), many buyers come to Mr. Albrecht looking for easy access into a growing community.

“Our buyers are looking for second homes, not vacation homes,” Mr. Albrecht said. “We’re currently designing our next phase, including carefree, furnished residences. We built four of these turnkey homes in December 2019 for presale, and they all sold within hours.”

Kukui’ula current construction includes 14 new homes targeted to sell in the $4.5 million to $6 million range. A collection of 45 smaller homes now underway are projected to sell around $3 million to $4 million.

Kukui’ula life revolves around the community’s 21,000-square-foot-clubhouse, the home for the Umeke Kitchen restaurant and the Huaka’i Outfitters that equips residents for a variety of ocean activities. Residents also come to this Kauai haven to enjoy the 18-hole, Tom Weiskopf-designed Kukui’ula Golf Course.

Mr. Albrecht believes half the people making up the luxury real estate market never wanted to go through the design and building even before the pandemic. Those buyers come to his Kukui’ula team willing to trade choices of household elements for convenience.

“We built turnkey condos on the property during our earlier stages,” he said. “At this time, we have no intention of building more condos. We’re looking to single-family homes when we offer that turnkey option. Houses last on the market here for different amounts of times based on price point, but none of our turnkey properties linger very long.”



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They Were About to Move In When the Ocean Almost Washed Away Their New Home

Gail and Ron Fink’s property in Jupiter Inlet Colony sustained major damage during an unusually windy day. ‘The whole backyard is shot. All the landscaping is gone.’

By E.B. SOLOMONT
Fri, Feb 23, 2024 8 min

Gail and Ron Fink weren’t home the day the ocean swallowed their backyard.

The Florida couple, who are in their 70s, were a few miles away on Feb. 6—an unusually blustery day in the Sunshine State—as waves pounded their beachfront property in Jupiter Inlet Colony, sweeping sand, dirt and trees out to sea. When it was all over, the Finks’ newly-built, roughly 10,000-square-foot home was intact; so too was their free-form swimming pool, improbably balanced on exposed concrete-and-steel pilings.

“That’s what saved the whole thing,” said Ron, founder of an air- and-water purification company. “The pilings are holding up the house and pool.”

Gail and Ron Fink recently finished building a roughly 10,000-square-foot home. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Drone footage and pictures from local photographers and the Finks’ builder show the severity of the destruction, which left their pool suspended in the air, with pipes protruding from the earth. Town officials said erosion claimed 7 to 10 feet of sand and created steep drop-offs in front of about half-dozen homes, including one belonging to Kid Rock , the rapper-turned-country rocker, who paid $3.2 million for the property in 2012. Conair heiress Babe Rizzuto also sustained damage to her property down the street, which she bought for $6.3 million in 2015 and currently has listed for $22.5 million, according to Zillow.  Neither responded to requests for comment.

But the Finks house, located just past the end of a granite revetment wall—a kind of sea wall—bore the brunt of the heavy wind and waves.

 

“The whole backyard is shot. All the landscaping is gone,” said Ron. Also gone are fully matured Palm trees and an ipe-wood deck. “It’s out floating in the ocean someplace.” Ron is self-insured and the repair work will be quite expensive. undefined

A New Jersey native, Ron is an engineer by training who worked at nuclear-testing sites in California and Nevada before moving to Florida in the 1980s. He is the founder of RGF Environmental Group, which makes air- water-and food-purification systems.

For almost 40 years, the Finks—who have three adult children and eight grandchildren—have lived in Admirals Cove, a gated community in Jupiter about 5 miles from their new house. They paid $180,000 for the Admirals Cove lot in 1987 and built a roughly 6,000-square-foot house, Ron said. The Finks also own homes in the Cayman Islands and Bahamas.

Until now, the Finks have lived in Admirals Cove, about 5 miles from their new house. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Ron said they began looking for property in Jupiter Inlet Cove years ago. “It’s a neat place, just a closed little colony right on the ocean, low key and quiet,” he said.

About 20 miles north of Palm Beach, Jupiter Inlet Colony is at the southern tip of Jupiter Island. The town, founded around 1959, has approximately 240 homes and is surrounded on three sides by water—the Atlantic Ocean, Jupiter Inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway. Long a destination for wealthy homeowners, homes in Jupiter Inlet Colony tend to trade for between $2 million and $5 million, although one sold for $18.6 million in January, according to real-estate brokerage Redfin. Last year, a home on the Intracoastal sold for $21.4 million, a record for the town.

In 2020, the Finks paid $4.9 million for a vacant beachfront lot and subsequently built a coastal-style house with a copper-and shake-style roof, covered loggia, pool and outdoor fire pit. “You know, it’s kind of a dream home,” Ron said. “We have built quite a few homes, but this is the end of the line for us, hopefully the last one.”

He said the property originally belonged to the singer Perry Como, one of the town’s first residents. A prior owner demolished Como’s house, and when the Finks bought it, there were concrete-and-steel pilings sticking out of the ground.

Ron Fink said he never removed about 60 pilings, he simply added roughly 30 more. “Now I’m glad I did,” he said. (Pilings are based on the design of a house, so Ron retained some pilings that he didn’t necessarily need.)

John Melhorn of design-build firm Thomas Melhorn, which built the house, said the Finks were a final review away from obtaining a certificate of occupancy when the backyard was destroyed. “They were right there at the goal line,” he said.

The Finks’ house and pool are standing on about 90 concrete-and-steel pilings. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Melhorn said the erosion began in late October amid unusually high winds and ocean swell. During the first week of February, sand beneath a row of sea grapes that stabilized the dunes between the house and ocean began to wash away. By the evening of Feb. 6, the plantings disappeared. The yard was gone by the next morning.

Melhorn said a pre-existing, low wall between the ocean and house—described as a cinder-block retaining wall on land surveys—also washed away, as did a walkway and steps to the beach. But he said the 2-foot-high wall was less of a retaining wall and more like a curb between the street and sidewalk. In this case, a prior owner used it to hold sea grapes back from encroaching on the property. The Finks replaced the wall with decorative stone, now lost to the ocean. An outdoor fire pit is still there, cantilevered over the ocean. “We tried to pull as many things out as we saw the erosion coming, but we lost a lot,” Melhorn said.

In Florida, erosion is increasing because of more frequent, more severe storms and sea-level rise, said Cheryl Hapke, a research professor at the University of South Florida and the chair of the Florida Coastal Mapping Program. But she said it isn’t just hurricane-level storms that cause major damage. “One thing I have found about barrier islands [like Jupiter Inlet Colony] is that sometimes a series of smaller events can have as big an impact as a major hurricane,” she said. “But people get caught off guard. It’s something they don’t think of.”

In Jupiter Inlet Colony, longtime residents said this month’s erosion is the worst the area has seen in years, possibly ever.

Mayor Ed Hocevar, who has lived there for 17 years, said it has been a particularly cool and challenging winter with an abnormal number of Nor’easters. On Feb. 6, local news channels warned of high winds, with gusts between 40 and 50 miles an hour. (There were also reports of an earthquake off the coast that week, causing high waves.)

Since the 1980s, Jupiter Inlet Colony has had a granite rock revetment wall that extends from the northern end of the community past 11 oceanfront homes. “But we’ve got 28 homes along the beachfront, so it isn’t complete,” Hocevar said. “Where the wall ended is where the significant damage occurred.” Hocevar said he doesn’t know why the wall wasn’t completed, although local lore is that homeowners building the wall ran out of money.

Last week, the town hired a local mining company to bring in 7,000 tons of sand to replace what washed away. Hocevar said it would cost about $500,000, which will come out of the town’s reserve fund. Long term, he said, extending the revetment wall isn’t a strong possibility.

Hapke, the coastal geology expert, said that in recent decades, sea walls and hardened structures have fallen out of favor as scientists discovered they are detrimental to the environment around them. “Storm water wants to flow, so it will redirect water to the area without a sea wall,” she said, adding that the most ideal long-term solution is to move homes away from the coastline.

 

Hocevar, 67, who has been mayor of Jupiter Inlet Colony for about a month, said the town is working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection on its response. He said the DEP’s recommendation, should erosion like this occur again, is to bring in more sand. Hocevar emphasised that the community is rallying together. “Think about it as a fortress and your wall has been breached,” he said. “You want to protect your neighbourhood and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Holly Meyer Lucas of Compass, who represented the seller when the Finks purchased their property, said Jupiter Inlet Colony is a “special little enclave” where sales exploded during Covid. “Listings sell after a day or sell off-market,” she said.

Lucas said the consensus among local real-estate agents is that property values will hold, despite the erosion. “I think this is a really rare, weird, fluky event,” she said. “I’ve sold everywhere up and down the coast and I’ve never heard of anything like this.”

The couple were close to getting their certificate of occupancy for the newly-built home. PHOTO: JAMES JACKMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Babe Rizzuto, whose house is two doors down from the Finks, listed her house for $24.5 million in December 2023 and cut the price to $22.5 million on Feb. 6, according to Zillow.

“She’s going to continue to sell,” said Milla Russo of Illustrated Properties, who is marketing the property with her husband, Andrew Russo. “Even though the timing isn’t great, it is what it is.”

Russo said there has been erosion in the past, and during hurricanes residents of Jupiter Inlet Colony are the first in the area to evacuate. But in general, people are not preoccupied with the weather. “Maybe because we live here, when the hurricanes come, we all have hurricane parties. We go to people’s homes and we barbecue and grill. Of course we’re careful and we lock up and all that, but weather is weather,” she said. “We’ve never been terribly scared.”

(The Russos were also involved in selling the Fink property. However, in 2020 the closing agent on the deal, Florida-based Eavenson, Fraser & Lunsford, PLLC, sued Milla Russo and Illustrated Properties as part of a commission dispute. The seller, Michael Cantor’s Range Road Developers, was named as a defendant and cross-plaintiff in the suit, in which a judge ruled in favor of Eavenson, court records show. Milla Russo declined to comment on the suit. Eavenson declined to comment beyond the judge’s findings and Cantor did not respond to requests for comment.)

Ron was also matter-of-fact about the state of beachfront living. Bring a life jacket, he jokingly told a photographer who inquired last week about taking his picture.

However, the Finks are facing weeks of costly repairs. Although the town is bringing in sand to replace the decimated beachfront, the couple is self-insured and will be on the hook for the cost of rebuilding. Several major home insurers have pulled out of Florida, and Ron said insurance on the house would have cost $100,000 a year. Now, he estimated they could face about $1 million worth of repair work. “We gotta eat it,” he said.

The couple, who was supposed to move into the house this month, has put those plans on hold—for now. An engineer recently inspected the property and deemed the house safe, Ron said. “We’re doing wallpaper today,” he said. “We can put it back together again.” The patio and pool area, meanwhile, are roped off while the area underneath is backfilled with sand.

Ron said being near the ocean makes it worthwhile. “I just love the ocean, we both do. It’s important to us,” he said. “It isn’t easy to look at, but I’ve been through a lot worse.”

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