Whether you’re walking through Chicago single family homes for sale or the newest developments gracing the Chicago skyline, there is one word that is used above all others. Review the marketing for five different properties, and they’ll all say luxury, though they’ll all differ in design, location, and price. From Bucktown to the Gold Coast, the word is loosely used to sell everything from handbags to homes, yet if you ask what it means you won’t get the same answer twice. The word has become a diluted crutch for sales people like myself who want you to imagine a lifestyle of sophistication and status, if only you buy what we’re selling. We’re experiencing a renaissance of change in all parts of our life, and housing hasn’t been overlooked. After spending an inordinate amount of time inside, many are yearning for something different that functions in new ways and offers fresh possibilities. The meaning of the word luxury is morphing for a new generation that has different needs and tastes than previous ones.
Nice and shiny things are great, but infrastructure is sexy to the tech-enabled workforce looking for a new abode. Before someone wonders what the countertops are made of, I’m more likely to be asked who the internet provider is, what’s the speed, and if it’s synchronous. I’ve even had a client do a speed test before they would make an offer! While buying a home with a ‘dated’ or ‘tired’ motif might be a misstep, a greater faux pas would be a home that doesn’t answer back when you talk to it or doesn’t dim the lights or preheat the oven when you swipe.
While Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance might be a hot topic for the boardroom, Chicago doesn’t have a proven market for eco-friendly homes, and I’ve never been asked how a property affects social equity. Having green features will differentiate your home, though, and make it stand out in a competitive market. An evolving trend that indicates that utility might be the new luxury is a switch from natural materials to synthetics. We’re not talking organic to GMO. This is a move away from real stone and wood and accepting look-a-likes like porcelain and engineered flooring as the new status quo. We’re getting to a point where these “fake” materials are just as aesthetically pleasing as the natural ones, yet the utility is far superior. You have to seal natural stone, and installing natural hardwood floors is cumbersome, laborious, and just plain messy. New alternatives require much less fuss and maintenance and that is an emphasis of new luxury.
Location, Location, Grafft is our tagline, but I may have to rethink that soon. As we follow Elon into autonomous cars, driving is likely to become a pastime. The new money of tomorrow is trading crypto and selling NFTs, and if their car can pull up and drive them away while they step into the metaverse from the backseat, location may not have the same importance it does today. This may be a decade away, but if this is an investment, it’s worth paying attention to.
While the meaning of luxury real estate evolves, it will continue to be used lazily by charlatans relying more on insecurities and sales tactics than nuanced expertise. The next time you see the word or go to use it, ask yourself: what makes this luxury?
John Grafft is an Award-Winning Realtor with Compass specializing in luxury Chicago real estate. Click here and watch his weekly videos of different Chicago properties.