Hip to be Small
When people think of Manhattan, they usually envision soaring high rises equipped with white-gloved doormen or charming and luxurious prewar brownstones. Yet within the last year, the real estate market has seen a rise in a new and exciting breed of buildings — what many are dubbing “the boutiques.”
A growing pocket of new buildings, as well as older refurbished ones, have created a resurgence of interest from homebuyers and sellers within Manhattan. These boutique buildings, usually with less than 40 units and consisting of younger, tech-savvy clientele, are smaller than their more traditional counterparts, yet have fetched record prices for developers and homeowners alike. Why the trade in taste? It’s all about demographics. For this clientele, these smaller buildings provide a much more intimate and personalized feeling without the high costs associated with maintaining the traditional amenities offered in older full-service buildings. In addition, these high-end buyers are looking for some degree of anonymity from their neighbors and the doorman and prefer the smaller set-up.
From a seller’s perspective, the “boutique building” is attractive to leading developers who are looking to stake claim in emerging New York City neighborhoods such as the Upper West and Upper East sides and Brooklyn. Boutiques also are a way for builders to reallocate funds that would normally be used to maintain the needs of a large building. Instead, builders of boutiques use funds to provide more modern, functional and tech-infused amenities.
This boutique buzz and need to reallocate funds have created new opportunities for security and convenience. Security, which once was a nice-to-have, is now a must-have — and it comes in all forms. Security companies that are able to integrate not only traditional security systems, but also home automation and smart home systems into one streamlined package have partnered with developers to ensure amenities are incorporated well before ground is broken. New Web-based features enable homeowners to access their home’s systems — all via the Internet. Developers are installing systems like Virtual Doorman(tm), which offers security without the high cost of traditional doormen and includes smart home technologies.
In essence, more sophisticated boutique homebuyers are looking for more sophisticated technology, and customizations are now more common. Boutique homeowners are savvy, willing to pay for millions of dollars for a home, and are not willing to sacrifice security for privacy and anonymity. Luckily, the new technologies that exist today offer that balance. With technological breakthroughs such as remote services, biometric technologies, video analytics and smart home features, security systems today give building owners and residents a variety of options to better manage their homes. Systems are more scalable, enabling new residents in a boutique building to integrate and scale new features without a major assessment. Today’s homeowners demand real-time notification, personalization and a variety of security management options. But the most important component of a successful system, however, is its ease of use and the assurance that it meets the everyday needs of its clients.
Video surveillance, for example, can be taken to a new level when used with the Web to allow boutique homeowners to tailor their apartment access and entry by individual preference. For instance, with a secure Internet connection, a homeowner should be able to add, change or delete authorized access for specific visitors (e.g. cleaning staff, realtor, nanny or babysitter) Access can be set by time or date, and a homeowner can receive instant e-mail notification of package deliveries, maintenance visits or visitor arrivals at the home or office. Technology solutions that work with this group of buyers include the ability to self-control cameras within their own apartments, or being able to self-access spare keys if a homeowner gets locked out.
Maintenance management is another key area that boutique homeowners are concerned about. Building owners and residents should be able to send requests to maintenance and repair services companies, schedule appointments and monitor the work conducted within the apartment. By doing so, building owners can ensure that proper work has been completed and immediately identify any problems or follow-up repair work that needs to occur.
A Growing Trend
This heightened interest in boutique buildings has spawned exciting collaboration between security vendors, developers and realtors. They all have become more interdependent, each group needing to be preemptive and educated on the others’ strategy to ensure increased valuation of each boutique home that comes to market.
The luxury building marketplace in Manhattan is increasingly competitive; the average price is from $575 to $725 per square foot in the boroughs and from $1,200 to $2,000 per square foot in Manhattan. Therefore, developers are challenged to add the right mix of luxury and convenience without pricing themselves above the market. The need to increase the value of their real estate investment has caused both developers and homeowners to look at security and other technology amenities as enhancements that will help differentiate their properties from others. Realtors are becoming more involved in providing feedback to developers and security vendors about what their clients’ needs are in order to increase their return rate and justify their realtor costs. Security vendors are opening the lines of communications to both parties to ensure their products are in sync with the boutique market in terms of demand, usability and price point.
There is good indication that the “boutique boom” that is occurring in Manhattan will trickle to other parts of the nation. Keen areas of development and interest within other urban locations, such as Philadelphia and Boston, have sprung up. Interestingly, yet unsurprisingly, the vacation and second-home areas where Manhattan dwellers visit, such as the Hamptons and Naples, Fla., seem to be adopting this trend, not just within multi-tenant buildings, but also with gated, single-family home communities.
Needless to say, the boutique boom is an exciting market to watch and is one that offers plenty of opportunity for fresh innovation in the security world.