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How ‘quiet luxury’ is reshaping real estate

How ‘quiet luxury’ is reshaping real estate


Today, October 30, 2023

A seismic transition is underway in the preferences of global luxury consumers. “Quiet Luxury” is here — and it arrived well before the hype around Kendall Roy’s $600 cashmere baseball caps. Gone are the days of big, flashy logos: Today’s traveled, well-informed audiences expect a more intentional value proposition, trading the superficiality of trends for the timelessness of authenticity. Opting for sneakers instead of a silk Hermes tie, and choosing inclusivity over exclusivity, are decisions more likely to resonate than ever before.

Real estate, too, is feeling the reset. Not only is the average luxury consumer trending younger, but so has the average agent, spurring new strategies in the luxury real estate market with regard to client communication, brand recognition and property marketing.

Stephanie Anton has a unique perspective on the industry’s new lookbook. In just over three years as President of Corcoran’s Affiliate Network, she has led her team to grow a 50-year-old brand to some of the world’s most relevant markets, from San Francisco and the Napa Valley to Greenwich, Connecticut to resort destinations like Hawaii, St. Barth and Italy’s Lake Garda. More than a case study in franchising, Corcoran’s true success story is its keen ability to select local operators in key markets, each of which contextualizes this dynamic real estate brand — and its values — in regional vernacular.

To speak on the brand’s behalf, what is the Corcoran definition of “luxury?”

SA: We believe ‘luxury’ is a relative term and, above all, a feeling.  At Corcoran, luxury is about finding the home that matches the heart — a place to live your best life. Luxury could mean cozying up fireside in a one-bedroom mountain bungalow you’ve poured your soul into, or it can be casting the bowlines off your yacht as you set sail from your private, backyard dock. It’s price-agonistic and entirely dependent on the individual, which our brand tagline, ‘Live Who You Are,’ captures so elegantly. It works well in today’s marketplace as luxury consumers, in no small part to the digital revolution, have a greater sense of ownership in confidently shaping trends rather than following them.

We want to empower people to bring their dreams into reality — and provide our affiliated companies and agents with the tools to build clients for life.”

Although the company operates on the higher end of the real estate market, Corcoran prefers to stray from using the term “luxury” when defining itself. Why is that?

SA: Corcoran identifies first and foremost as a lifestyle brand. The word “luxury” has become ubiquitous to the point of dilution — it simply doesn’t carry the meaning it once did. While home prices naturally trend upwards in many desirable, lifestyle-driven markets we serve — the Hamptons and Palm Beach, for example — the branding itself works across all price points. Today’s luxury consumer craves authenticity, and Corcoran delivers that at an approachably premium level. We’re not looking to be in every market, but in the right markets. High-end urban, suburban, resort and second-home regions are a natural fit for a brand that embraces the casual side of high-end but has also participated in nearly every closed Manhattan residential real estate transaction over $100M. This all goes far deeper than advertising. Our affiliated agents are ambassadors for the lifestyles they sell, and they’re connected within their communities. At the end of the day, our brand is our people, and they evangelize our mission of prioritizing meaningful connections over transactions. 

How has the demographic of the high-net-worth consumer changed, and how has that impacted Corcoran’s approach on the industry?

SA: A recent study by Bain & Co. and The Altagamma Foundation, two organizations that extensively track the ultra-luxe sector, predicts that millennials, Gen-Z, and Alphas will together account for 80 percent of the luxury goods market by 2030. But this isn’t any simple changing of the guard: These generations have a completely different value structure than their predecessors. Not only do they hold a greater desire for high-end goods, but also an intentional one, and that’s largely owed to what we’d traditionally call the “luxury” market becoming more democratized and accessible. They place less value on legacy and prestige and the foremost emphasis on quality, CSR and sustainability. In other words, they’re not buying in name only — there needs to be substance.

Real estate tends to adjust more slowly and with a bit more nuance than consumer products, but it’s clear which way the market is heading as new generations look for their first house and then seasonal, investment, or other secondary properties. Understanding consumers’ lifestyles has always been at the heart of Corcoran’s DNA, and keeping our finger on the pulse of what people are looking for and finding ways to articulate that through our marketing, sets us apart. We know that today’s affluent clientele might be as likely to be looking for a second place in a cool college town — say Athens, Georgia or Berkeley, California — as they are searching for a beach house in Montauk, or even a villa in St. Barth or Lake Garda, Italy. Our advertising, with our witty taglines and regional illustrations by Simone Massoni, stands out from our competitors and conveys that luxury is hardly singular. Younger generations set the trends, meaning the time to stay relevant is always yesterday. A brand that connects with buyers is a brand that makes deals for sellers. Moreover, they’re a chance to create those lifelong clients.

After 50 years in the industry, how has Corcoran been able to stay ahead of the curve and act as a leader when markets change?

SA: Corcoran has always pursued multiple growth tracks at a time so that we never stop moving. As an ambitious, female-led company, we’re also never afraid to stray outside the lines and get creative. We grow outside-in and inside-out: When it comes to new markets, sometimes we won’t find an ideal fit, so we’ll move on and loop back to that market at a later date. Then comes growing our existing affiliates, both through agent recruitment and, my personal favorite, mergers and acquisitions.

The Corcoran brand has a proven, time-tested message that we work tirelessly to innovate and contextualize in the present tense, whether that means jumping on a new social media network or harnessing the latest technologies to help our affiliated agents streamline their business. We adapt to trends rather than define ourselves by them. We’re proud to have built an offering that’s dynamic and scalable and that grows with the times.

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