By Zoe Dare Hall
The sheer drama of driving – let alone parking – in cities, along with a bigger push to be healthy and walk or cycle instead, is seeing super-rich buyers increasingly willing to forego off-street parking spaces with their multi-million pound mansions. But access to a private jet or helicopter, on the other hand, has never been more desirable – particularly when it comes to viewing properties.
Private aircraft ownership is on the rise, driven by the US (New York is the private jet capital of the world, according to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2019, with nearly 67,000 flights taken in 2018 from Teterboro airport, 12 miles from Manhattan).
The number of global billionaires is on the up too, and jet owners spend about 1% of their wealth on private aircrafts, with an average of $16.4m per plane, says Knight Frank.
Travelling by private jet isn’t so much a status symbol as a matter of pure practicality, I am told by London agents who are increasingly seeing their clients buy from the skies.
“Every minute counts. Ultra high net worth clients live much faster lifestyles and private travel allows them to fit in more activity – and of course do things in comfort and style,” says Camilla Dell, director of Black Brick buying agency. It’s the norm among London clients spending £20m or so on a country estate, she adds, to travel by helicopter rather than car.
With Battersea the only place to land a helicopter in central London, a chopper only really comes in handy when viewing in the countryside. Oxfordshire-based buying agent Jess Simpson says her clients use private jets or helicopters all the time.
“It might not be obvious, as they’ll use an airport near the property, then travel to the property by helicopter or car. But it’s a great time-saver and you see so much more from the air than the road,” she says. “Many buyers in the £20m+ market search a wide geographical area, so viewing by helicopter is the only way to cover the distance.”
In the south of France, getting to know the lie of the land from the air is commonplace among UHNW buyers. “It means no queuing, no delays, no fuss,” says Tim Swannie, director of the French buying agency Home Hunts, who says a helipad is on the shopping list of most of his wealthiest clients. He is marketing a five-bed house with a helipad in St Jean de L’Esterel, with views over the Bay of Cannes, for 9.85m euros.
“One financier recently sent a friend to view six properties for him in one day, spread across the Riviera and Provence, so he chartered a helicopter,” says Swannie. When the buyer came to inspect in person, he landed his jet at Cannes private airport, saw the properties, snuck in lunch in a Provencal chateau, then was back in London by late afternoon. “The next day, he bought a villa in Cannes and a hunting domain near Aix-en-Provence,” says Swannie.
Some property owners even carry out luxury home renovations by private jet. “One couple were restoring a house on the French Riviera. They sent two planes loaded with antique furniture and art from Geneva and City Airport and we arranged the logistics in France,” says Swannie.
As flying privately becomes more desirable among the wealthiest property buyers, so too are properties that offer places to land their helicopter – or borrow a plane. South Florida saw a 35% increase in private jet travel last year, according to ISG World’s Miami Report.
In Miami, competition for UHNW buyers is fierce among the city’s super-prime, starchitect-designed schemes. One way to set yourself apart from the rest is to offer access to the skies.
At One Thousand Museum Residences, designed by the late architect Zara Hadid, developer Louis Birdman describes the need to offer an amenity that isn’t typically offered in Miami – and the answer is a private rooftop helipad.
“There are virtually no private skyscrapers in the US that have such an amenity. We have buyers from Latin America, Europe and New York where transportation by helicopter is far more common and they have chosen to buy here for the convenience,” says Birdman. Residences start at $5.8m through One Sotheby’s International Realty.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach – priced from $2m for a two-bed condo to $40m+ for a 10,000 sq ft villa – offer Miami’s first navigable marine helipad on Biscayne Bay, enabling buyers to view the property by air, and residents to schedule helicopter shuttles through the concierge.
“The helipad is a three-minute ride away by day yacht – then owners can get to and from the airport in just a few minutes, or take a trip to the Keys or the Bahamas,” says Ophir Sternberg, CEO and founding partner of Lionheart Capital, the resort’s developer.
“We often see international or out of state buyers requesting helicopter tours, allowing them to view the layout of the surrounding neighbourhood and proximity to landmarks such as the airport, major highways, schools and the beach. It also allows buyers to see the project from a 360 degree vantage point,” Sternberg adds.
And at the Turnberry Ocean Club on Miami’s Sunny Isles Beach – where residences cost $3m-$35m – buyers have priority access to the private jet facility at Opa-Locka Executive Airport, including aircraft maintenance and a full-service concierge.
“It’s the only residential condominium development that provides a true private FBO (Fixed Base Operator) as an amenity to our buyers – and many people are purchasing directly from the skies via plane and helicopter sales tours,” says Bruce Weiner, Head of Fontainebleau Development. “Many of our residents would fly private regardless, so the access is an added benefit that allows them to land private, just minutes from home.”
Meanwhile, in Greece, super-rich buyers island-hop by chopper. New luxury developments with private helipads include One & Only Kea Island – where two- to five-bed residences cost from €3m-€7m – and Amanzoe in Porto Heli – whose turnkey villas on one- to five-acre plots cost from €3.2m for two bedrooms – both schemes through Sotheby’s Realty.
“We have flown clients by private jet to Athens and then taken a helicopter to Amanzoe for a 24 hour viewing experience,” comments Guy Bradshaw, director at UK Sotheby’s International.
Developers in Dubai have taken private aviation for property buyers one step further. Bradshaw reports that Omniyat, developers of The Dorchester Collection Residences in downtown Dubai, where two-bed residences start at around £3.1m, have partnered with Aston Martin to create the first people-carrying drones.
Satisfying the UHNWI’s need for speed and one-off experiences, these futuristic, self-driving machines are surely a marketing tool no super-prime scheme – with enough space to land – should be without.