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Ultra-Wealthy Own $3 Trillion in Luxury Real Estate Assets: Report

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Luxury residential real estate holds a special place in the portfolio of the world’s ultrawealthy population.

Nearly $3 trillion of the world’s private wealth is currently held in owner-occupied residential properties, according to a new report released Wednesday by Wealth-X and the Sotheby’s International Realty brand.

The report counted 211,275 ultra-high-net-worth individuals — those with $30 million and more in net assets — in the world, 79% of whom own two or more residences.

Researchers found that the U.S. was the most popular country for wealthy foreign individuals looking for secondary residences, and New York City had the highest number of residences in the world owned by ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

Other cities favored by the ultrawealthy, in order of preference, were London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Singapore, Dallas, Mumbai and Paris.

Also gaining popularity, according to the report, were niche locations, such as Switzerland’s Lugano, the Hamptons outside New York City and various rural areas around the world.

The report listed several factors that make a city a residential real estate hub.

The city has a concentrated business environment, often related to the finance industry, and proximity to some of the world’s largest markets. English-language proficiency is the norm.

In addition, real estate markets are stable, and economic performance is historically strong and stable, as are institutional frameworks.

Not least important are a city’s high living standards that take into account such factors as weather, health, leisure activities and transport.

Luxury Real Estate Trends

The Wealth-X and Sotheby’s report forecast that both the ongoing shift in the wealth-creation cycle from West to East and the growing significance of intergenerational wealth transfers will have major consequences for the luxury residential real estate market, with an emphasis on new developments and a change in investment-grade cities.

Following are other key findings from the report:

  • The value of residential real estate assets owned by the ultrawealthy increased by 8% globally in 2014
  • Ultrawealthy individuals on average owned 2.7 owner-occupied residences
  • As of 2014, some 7% of the world’s most affluent people made their wealth through real estate, up from 5% in 2013
  • Rich women valued real estate assets more than their male counterparts, holding 16% of the net worth in such assets, on average, compared with less than 10% for men
  • Wealth inheritors typically favored luxury residential real estate, holding 17% of their net worth in these assets, compared with slightly less than 9% of self-made wealthy who did so
  • Ultrawealthy Chinese and Russian multiple homeowners are typically self-made and young, and these two clusters are increasingly buying luxury residential real estate around the world
  • Individuals with net worth between $30 million and $50 million typically keep their primary residences for more than 15 years and their secondary residences for more than 10 years
  • Billionaires change one of their four properties on average once every three years
  • Secondary residences are typically 45% more valuable than primary residences, having twice the square footage and surrounded by 10 acres of land
  • More than 6% of the world’s ultra-high-net-worth population have relocated their primary residence to a different country from which they were born, often while keeping a secondary residence in their home countries, and India is the leading country in this respect.

— Check out 12 Hottest U.S. Cities for Millionaires on ThinkAdvisor.