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The pandemic spurred an ultra-luxury explosion in these markets

Nearly 1,774 homes at $10 million and up traded across 53 markets in the U.S. in 2022

Ultra-luxury sales in 2022 were higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by estate brokerage Compass.

The report analyzed residential real estate transactions and sales volumes at $10 million and above across 53 markets in the U.S.

The brokerage observed an “insatiable appetite for legacy properties” last year.

Nearly 1,774 homes worth $10 million and above across those 53 markets traded for a total of $29.5 billion – an increase of 95.3% and 104.7%, respectively, from 2019. Compass attributes these sales to wealthy buyers who want to diversify their real estate portfolios.

“During lockdowns, they wanted everything they needed in one place and found inspiration in markets they had not considered before, creating new ultra-wealthy areas that did not exist a few years ago and inspiring a renaissance in others,” Leonard Steinberg, Compass’s “chief evangelist,” added.

The ultra-luxury markets with the most growth

Notably, 10 markets that had no ultra-luxury trades before the pandemic blossomed. Brooklyn, North Florida and Boulder all saw a 300% increase.

“Boulder is a smaller market with just over 100,000 residents, yet we continue to see extraordinary demand with buyers relocating from California, New York, Chicago, and international cities. 2021 was an unparalleled year in the Boulder market, and 2022 was very similar,” said Boulder-based Realtor Zach Zeldner.

Meanwhile, California’s East Bay, Dallas-Fort Worth, Central Florida, and Austin saw high growth in ultra-luxury sales, with a transaction volume growth ranging from 25% to 100% in 2022.

Washington D.C., District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia; Indianapolis and North New Jersey were flat in terms of luxury sales.

What happened to the established ultra-luxury markets?

Markets that were familiar to the jet-set crowd reached new heights in the post-pandemic setting.

Telluride and Palm Springs witnessed a 600% increase in transaction volume in 2022 from 2019. Sales volume in Palm Springs increased by 117.6% last year from 2021, totaling $207.4 million.

“People from across the globe are purchasing luxury estates to enjoy the lifestyle our desert has to offer,” said Valery Neuman, a Palm Springs agent. 

The area is a popular spot among younger buyers because of its outdoor activities, cultural hotspots and an airport with private jet amenities, Neuman added.

The Broward County, Florida market saw an increase of 528.7% in transaction volume compared to 2019 and Hawaii, 190%.

“It is no surprise that affluent buyers are seeking to call Hawaii home with its conservation-zoned lands, pristine waterfalls, clean air, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation,” said Roni Marley, a Hawaii-based agent. “Kauai in particular has become a prime destination for the ultra-luxury market–the ability to work remotely, paired with its laid-back lifestyle has created high demand.”

Who won the sales volume round?

According to the report, Manhattan posted $6 billion in sales across 343 trades, leading the ultra-luxury markets. Nine of 2022’s top 10 deals took place in Manhattan during the first half of the year.

This pointed to a “market correction while demonstrating strength as total transactions for the year were up 5.21 percent compared to 2021,” Compass said.

The $10 million-plus market in Manhattan slowed down between July and October but the $20 million-plus market picked up in November and December.

There are shades of 2009, according Compass’ New York agent Tony Sargent. “The ultra-wealthy who seize opportunities in volatile times usually end up winning in the long term.”

The markets following Manhattan in total $10 million sales volume include Greater Los Angeles, Miami Dade, Palm Beach County, The Hamptons, Orange County, Aspen, Southwest Florida, Big Island, Kauai, Oahu & Maui, Silicon Valley and peninsula, Santa Barbara and Montecito, San Diego, Panhandle, Broward County, Vail and Beaver Creek, Lake Tahoe, Greater Boston, Jackson, Greater Seattle and San Francisco.

“The impact of rising interest rates has not been felt in the ultra-luxury market, primarily because the high-net-worth individuals purchasing these properties are generally not reliant on financing,” said Westport agent Hyleri Katzenberg. “The most affluent and liquid buyers feel comfortable bidding up and taking higher risk in their offers.”

A California-based agent Joujou Chawla echoed that statement.

“The high-end continues to outperform the low-end as those buyers generally don’t finance their real estate purchases. However, a change in the Fed’s policies can invigorate both the real estate and the stock markets and this seems to be the most likely scenario going into 2023,” Chawla said in the report.

What will happen in 2023?

A number of Compass agents in the report expressed optimism for 2023.

Mack Mendenhall, a Wyoming-based Compass agent, said he expects the boom in the luxury home market to revert to pre-pandemic levels. But some buyers will not hesitate from buying houses worth “record-breaking prices,” he said.

Although the L.A. mansion tax is set to be effective starting April 2023, agents in Tinseltown remain hopeful. 

“We have a deficit of marquee inventory at $10 million and above, which, to me, indicates that the luxury market will remain strong through 2023 as there is still a surplus of viable buyers for this product in L.A.,” said Tomer Fridman, an agent in L.A.

“Based on early activity during the first month of the year, I expect 2023 to exceed 2022 in luxury sales,” said Mike Mahlstedt of the market in Houston.