Home / Companies / News /  There’s huge interest in resort markets, 2nd homes in India: Sotheby's LaTorre

New Delhi: Since the launch of Sotheby’s International Realty’s India operations in October 2014 in New Delhi, the real estate arm of Sotheby’s has opened three offices across India, with approximately 100 listings, from farmhouses in Delhi to beach front properties and condominiums in Mumbai. The company is diversifying its portfolio in the subcontinent. In 2018, the Sri Lankan subsidiary of India Sotheby’s International Realty was appointed the global marketing agent for ITC’s Sapphire Residencies in Colombo. Since 2017, the Indian offices have also organised the Global Luxury Realty Conference (GLRC), a networking platform for realty representatives and developers from across the globe and high net-worth individuals. The third edition of the conference is currently underway in New Delhi and concludes on 23 February.

One of the key guests at GLRC 2019 is Julie Leonhardt LaTorre, chief operating officer for Sotheby’s International Realty, who is in India for the first time. “I’ve been wanting to come here for over a decade," she says. Trained as a lawyer, LaTorre was appointed in 2017 and is responsible for driving global strategic growth, expanding services initiatives, and developing business tools for affiliates. It’s a job that allows her to enjoy and balance her work with personal interests, be it travel or a love for beautiful fashion and art. Dressed in a smart casual skirt-and-blouse ensemble, a hint of her fashionable side is revealed in her studded Valentino pumps.

LaTorre spoke to Mint on the eve of the conference about the potential of India as a luxury real estate market, the rising popularity of retreat homes, and helping millennials find their dream homes and integrate their home in their lifestyle. Edited excerpts:

What made you launch Sotheby’s International Realty in India and what makes it a valuable market?

I think we realized that we weren’t truly a global company until we had offices in India, it being such a strong and growing market, especially with a lot of younger people. We knew that to be a truly global company, this was some place we had to be. There are a lot of developments happening and some exciting projects that we have been able to be a part of through our offices here.

This is my first time in India; from what I know and see, it’s very diverse. It’s vast and with so many types of markets—there’s something for everyone.

How does the Indian realty market differ from the international scenario?

It seems to me that there was a pent-up interest or need that wasn’t being met—that the real estate market here was pretty underdeveloped compared to places like the US, where there are all sorts of licensing requirements, companies that have been in business for 50 years or something. It’s a very established business, but here it’s still very new.

It seems like there was a need especially in the luxury market that wasn’t being met, a perfect place for us to step into.

What is the importance you assign to the intersections of realty and other luxury industries?

More and more people are looking for a whole lifestyle experience—that they are very into fashion, good design and architecture. We have more star architects than ever before. People want to live in a place that reflects that lifestyle they are living. They think of their home as very much integrated into that larger life. They are choosing, piece by piece—is it Chanel or a Gucci, Zaha Hadid or Charles Renfrow—curating a life that they feel reflects who they are. I think especially the younger generation is very interested in how they show themselves to the world, on social media. It’s very much about an image of the life that they are creating.

How do you curate such experiences for the client?

Because of our scope and our strength as a company, and our connection to the auction house, we have access to things like art, jewellery, cars, fashion designers. We are able to create experiences so that people can access real estate in a different way. Rather than waiting until someone’s ready to come to us and say, I’m looking to buy a house, we’re starting with the younger generation, creating experiences, like a wine tasting in a property with a famous architect. People can come and just have the experience of being in the space—before they may even be thinking about buying real estate, so that when they do think about it, we’re the ones they think of, as people who are in the space where they want to be.

We also sponsor a number of events like the Pebble Beach Concours D’elegance (an automobile charity event in California) last year where we had a lounge. We did have a number of leads and transactions that came through, but also for us it’s that future investment.

Luxury brands are now focused on millennials, but there’s also a perception that millennials don’t invest in real estate. What is your experience?

Our experience has been that while that’s the perception, the numbers are not showing that to be true. In fact, the average age of buying a house has not changed very much over the last 30-40 years. Despite all the technology that’s out there—the internet data—they are also looking for real estate advisors to guide them in that process. Even if they have the technology to see the properties, they still need an advisor to come alongside of them and help them make the best choices.

What kind of properties are millennials seeking?

They’re not necessarily looking for what their parents are looking for: the big house on the property. A lot of them are looking to be in a good location where they can socialize, be among friends and their work. We are seeing a lot of new developments in high-rise buildings.

They want all of the amenities, the newest technology built into their smart homes. Many are very focused on renewable energy—they’re very conscious of the choices that they’re making. Developers are seeing this and they’re starting to build to meet those needs. We are seeing this across the board, whether it’s in India or New York. They want the technology, the design, all the conveniences—it’s a universal interest.

We are able to stay with clients through their journey. We are already very well-established with the older clientele.

They know the auction house, they are collectors of art and fine goods, and have multiple properties most of the time. But, getting in now with millennials at this early stage and helping them identify what they want their real estate journey to look like and then as they buy their first home and then maybe buying a bigger house...And then in the next stage, if they are having children and buying a vacation home, our goal is to try and be that trusted advisor they go to throughout the course of their life.

What is the importance of affordable luxury? Is it impacting realty too?

Yes. Of course, when we run our global campaigns, we are showing our absolute best just like any brand should. But in fact, we transact into that affordable luxury space as well. It broadens the scope—there are people who want a luxury experience without buying the $10million flat. The way we approach it is that we see the services we offer as luxury as an experience. It’s not just about a price point. Whoever we’re selling to or buying from, we are focused on giving a concierge type of service to make sure they get what they are looking for.

Globally, which are some of the most popular real estate markets right now?

Some of the traditional markets that you’d expect, like the UK or the US, they are not front-runners like you’d think, for various reasons, be it tax reasons or political reasons.

We are seeing a lot of interest in resort markets and second homes...places like Mauritius, Malta and the Caribbean islands. A lot of people are focusing on retreat, and having that second home kind of experience. Most of the people that we transact with have multiple homes around the world.

What are the factors behind this popularity of retreat homes?

I think people are very focused on the quality of life. They work hard, they want to also have time with their families and friends in a place that is calm, when they can escape to. When we think of luxury, it is the privilege of privacy and escape, being able to get away from your busy life and have a place that’s your own. For some people it’s on the water, for others in the mountains.

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