Penthouses in superb locations rank as the ultimate “must haves” for the world’s super rich

Several weeks after an apartment at One Hyde Park in London sold for USD220 million, which made it the world’s most expensive penthouse; the record was spectacularly shattered by the sale of the La Belle Epoque penthouse in Monte Carlo at USD 308 million.

This 1625m2 duplex home in the sky also features a double-volumed library, outside gardens with 4.5m high trees, a sumptuous spa, and a fully equipped media centre. Not to forget that the world’s costliest property is a 27 storey skyscraper ‘single residence’ for one family in Mumbai. Belonging to India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani, it cost in excess of USD I billion.

On a recent trip to Hong Kong I visited one of the astoundingly beautiful penthouse apartments in Frank Gehry’s Opus building. Situated like an object of art on The Peak, it features balconies designed like boat decks taking in views of, well, everywhere. My well-heeled and fabulously rich host informed me that one of the penthouses sold late last year for HKD$ 455 million; making this a record price in that region. And it appears the same trend is happening in South Africa. We were all astounded by the R 110 million achieved on the sale of one of the penthouses at the One And Only V&A Waterfront in 2008; and there is a plethora of new penthouses with hefty pricetags emerging.

Several weeks after an apartment at One Hyde Park in London sold for USD220 million, which made it the world’s most expensive penthouse; the record was spectacularly shattered by the sale of the La Belle Epoque penthouse in Monte Carlo at USD 308 million.

So this begs the questions; “why” the demand, as well as “how” are these huge prices determined ? Penthouses in superb locations rank as the ultimate “must haves” for the world’s super rich. It’s kind of like having the Bugatti Veyron sportscar parked in your 12 car super-garage. Like Monte Carlo, space on the Atlantic Seaboard is minimal and Clifton ranks as one of the world’s finest spots to live. Little wonder that Dogon Group are currently marketing a R100 million plus duplex penthouse in Clifton’s most prestigious apartment block. On 800m2 of marbled luxury this equates to R 220,000 per m2; which also includes 200m2 of outside terraces and swimming pool, multiple garaging, and a private lift. Dogon also recently sold a 700m2 penthouse at Pinmore at the V&A Waterfont for R 52 million (R 75,000 per m2). Not to be outdone, the regionally wealthy business hub of Johannesburg boasts some superb new penthouses. At the Regent in Sandton a triple storey 4 bedroomed place is going for R 60 million (R 102,000 per m2).

In Sandhurst, another triple storey penthouse which boasts the largest rooftop garden in the country, is on the market at R 35 million (R 47,000 per m2). In the trendy Melrose Arch development a brand new penthouse has come on the market at R 45 million. Within an incredible location overlooking the prestigious Houghton Golf Club, the apartments at The Houghton are setting standards in high-end vertical living. The seriously wealthy are snapping up the penthouses which are being customised and interior-tailored to their exact requirements. With price tags ranging from R 40 million to in excess of R 100 million they enjoy an unparalleled lifestyle. The “jewel in the crown” of this development will be The Houghton Hotel; a seven star ultra-luxurious hotel. Residents at The Houghton will also enjoy the private dining, gymnasium and spa facilities offered right on their doorstep. You may be wondering how penthouses achieve these spectacular prices per square meter. The simple answer is that it is due to “location” as well as what I refer to as the “extravagant necessities”.

If you are overlooking Hyde Park in London, Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, or hanging over Clifton Fourth beach; you will fetch premium prices. And if the said block was designed by an acclaimed architect or designer, this will add more square meterage dollars. Then of course we must look at what the particular penthouses offer. Private lifts are hugely popular, as well as separate secure basement parking. Home spas, gymnasiums and private cinemas are the norm. As well as butler suites, wine cellars and home automation. The size and quality of terraces, swimming pools, and gazebos also add to the tag. “Wealthy clients want convenience” says Joanna Leverett, head of international developments at Savills. “Flagship developments provide services and facilities that you wouldn’t normally get in a house”. At One Hyde Park in London residents have the use of on- site golf simulators and squash courts. Residents also tap-in to the fine-dining and concierge services of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel next door, as well as the pampering spa facilities of the Bulgari Hotel a few doors down. Not forgetting you are diagonally opposite the world’s most famous shopping experience…Harrods. Private basement parking with lifts directly to your apartment is becoming the norm.

However for Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban this was just not enough. They splashed out USD 10 million on a luxurious penthouse in Manhattan into which they can drive their car. Located in mid-town Manhattan, 432 Park Avenue will be the tallest residential building in New York. Their penthouse will have six bedrooms, a library and an en-suite “Sky Garage”; a car elevator that will take their limo all the way to their own floor. The building, which has stunning Hudson River views, is the first in New York City to get this feature. Around the world a common thread is that the penthouses within flagship developments sell out before the other apartments. They are in property terms what ‘haute couture” is to “pret-a-porter” in fashion. Little wonder that developers at this end of the market partner with leading architects and interior designers to produce these luxury trophies. In terms of décor and furnishings, work on 15% of the penthouse cost. Atypically the top of the range penthouses are marketed as fully decorated and furnished by interior designers. Usually to a standard befitting trophy homes; they showcase the best of fabrics, wall coverings, furniture labels and objects.

Of course it’s not an easy task transporting baby grand pianos, 5 meter paintings and 2 ton sculptures to the top floor. Think hefty crane hire and insurance charges. With over twenty skyscrapers currently under construction in the Sandton and Rosebank precinct of Johannesburg alone, and many more in the planning process, we anticipate a plethora of wondrous and ground-breaking designed apartments and penthouses within the next few years. As we speak, the world’s most expensive apartment is being built in Monaco. With an estimated sales price of USD 400 million this 5 storey penthouse will be housed in the tallest building in Monte Carlo, the Tour Odeon. Apart from its incredible position overlooking the entire principality and the Mediterranean sea, one wonders what possible new luxuries and facilities they will introduce to the world!