Back in the '70s, when TV's George Jefferson was "movin' on up" to his de-luxe apartment in the sky, most affluent people remained firmly earthbound. A big, single-family dwelling with sweeping grounds was the gold standard - the epitome of luxurious living.
That was then, this is now. Yesterday's suburban estate is today's downtown loft, and a sweeping city view is the ultimate trophy landscape.
"There's been a big shift," said Fritz Kroll, an agent with Edina (Minn.) Realty. "The estate house in the suburbs is still the ultimate luxury for people in their 30s and 40s, with kids at home. But for young professionals, it's a swank loft, and for empty-nesters, it's a luxury condo."
And forget about "downsizing."
"I don't believe anyone wants to downsize their home; they want to right-size," said Paul Wischermann of Wischermann Partners, a consultant to three Minneapolis-area local mixed-use developments that will combine Westin hotels and hotel-branded luxury condos that include access to hotel services.
"The empty-nester who's coming out of a 5,000-square-foot house isn't prepared to get shoehorned into a 1,400-square-foot condo," said Barry Berg, an agent with Coldwell Banker Burnet.
Fortunately, they don't have to. Developers are beefing up the size of their high-end units and loading them with increasingly lavish features, finishes and amenities.
"The choices are significantly different than they were 15 years ago," Berg said, when a unit over 1,800 feet was unusual. Today's luxury condos are nearly twice that size and include all the McMansion comforts of walk-in closet/dressing rooms and butler's pantries.
What are the must-have features in today's cushiest condos?
"View is huge," said Edina Realty agent Fritz Kroll. The most coveted views are water or downtown skyline. "Both is even better," he said.
That means top-of-the-line appliances, such as Asko dishwashers, Sub-Zero refrigerators and Wolf stoves, Kroll said.
Custom cabinetry is a must, along with granite or solid stone countertops, and an island big enough to serve a catered appetizer buffet, according to Paul Wischermann of Wischermann Partners consulting group.
And don't forget the bells and whistles, like a wine-storage unit, warming drawers, a pot faucet and a built-in espresso machine.
Ceramic tile is so '90s. Only granite or stone bathrooms will do for today's upscale condo dwellers. Dual sinks, a separate tub and a walk-in shower also are must-haves.
"It can never be too big," Kroll said. And don't overlook the lowly throne. The newest model toilets have elongated bowls and added height, for less wear and tear on aging baby boomers' knees.
Have it your way
From floor plans to finishes, customization is the key to upscale buyer bliss. Whether it means moving a wall or adding a designer sink or stone inlays, owners of million-plus condos want their unit to be unlike any other in the building. "People want to do their own thing," Kroll said. "They don't want to be limited to option A, B or C."
On-site hobby, leisure options
Want a room where you can make a mess planting your container gardens? Or a wine cellar where you can store your choicest bottles, then uncork them in an authentic Tuscan tasting room? Both are planned at the Phoenix, a luxury condo development now underway in downtown Minneapolis, according to Kroll.
"Amenity lists are growing because of demand," said Aiyana Ruggiero, sales agent for the development Bridges, where plans include restaurants, a movie theater, a shopping district and street entertainment.
In today's time-starved society, a turnkey lifestyle is the ultimate luxury, according to Wischermann, who is consulting on three Westin Hotel-branded condo developments. Owners will have access to the hotel's housekeeping, catering and concierge services, as well as its fitness center and pool.
Need someone to clean your condo? Water your plants? Walk your dog? Bring you a hamburger at 11 p.m.? Just call the front desk.
"It's not just for the rich and famous anymore," Wischermann said. "If you're relatively affluent, you can have the luxury of outsourcing and spending your time on other things."