Local, national luxury housing market gaining momentum
October 15, 2013By J. Elias O'Neal
Foreign and well-educated buyers are helping to fuel luxury home sales across the greater Wilmington area and the U.S., according to an expert on national luxury homes.
Stephanie Pfeffer, executive vice president for Luxury Portfolio International, told a group of more than 150 Intracoastal Realtors Tuesday that the luxury housing market is making a “serious comeback” from the housing lull of the Great Recession.
“Two or three years ago, no one wanted to talk about the luxury home market,” Pfeffer said. “Now, nationally, we’re struggling with an inventory problem.”
Founded in 2005, Luxury Portfolio International is a leading global network of locally branded companies that lists residences for sale for $1 million and more by independent luxury brokerage firms, including Wilmington-based Intracoastal Realty.
In greater Wilmington, luxury homes start between $500,000 and $600,000, while high-end luxury homes start in the $1 million range, according to area Realtors.
Lake Slacum, Intracoastal Realty vice president of marketing, said the threshold for a luxury property in Topsail Island, most south Brunswick County beach communities, Pleasure Island and the Lake Waccamaw area in Columbus County – areas seeing an uptick in luxury home sales and inquiries – are priced at $799,000 and up.
Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach and Figure Eight Island luxury properties are priced at $1 million and above, Slacum said.
Earlier this year, area Realtors reported robust luxury homes sales across the region, including the sale of multiple luxury estates on Figure Eight Island and Wrightsville Beach.
The historic Dudley Mansion on Front Street also sold this summer for $1.25 million.
Pfeffer said the demand is up significantly for luxury properties across the country, largely in part to emerging international buyers from Brazil, Russia, India and China. She said buyers are also becoming “worth buyers” versus “value buyers” – meaning that luxury home buyers are now more likely to shell out more cash for truly customized properties, such as those with handcrafted molding, custom closets, USB outlets and stainless steel appliances, Pfeffer said.
“The shock of the crisis has really changed the DNA of the buyer,” she said. “They are more driven by crafts and quality.”
Pfeffer said the luxury home buyer is also looking for exclusivity, and is willing to pay cash for such a lifestyle. She added that second homes for the top 1 percent of wealth earners are also rebounding.
“They have an expensive first home and an even more expensive second home,” Pfeffer said. “They want to be surrounded by people like them. Many buyers are going back to homes in gated communities and properties with long driveways.”
While Wilmington’s housing market continues to work through its inventory of high-end luxury homes, Pfeffer said the region stands to continue its momentum as long as economic headwinds, such as the current government shutdown and rising mortgage rates, do not discourage buyers.
“The luxury home market is coming back,” she said. “Builders are building again and they can’t catch up.”