What UHNW buyers really want: A holistic approach to property security
The past 4 years has been an interesting experiment for Americans and the world audience, transfixed by the chaos and uncertainty of an unravelling government. A presidential term of heightened anxieties, widening wealth disparities, and the ravaging of cities at the hands of poor management in the face of a deadly virus has resulted in record property sales in prime real estate locations of leafy enclaves such as The Hamptons and Miami. According to security experts, Hunter Protection, many Americans are making the move away from cities, threatened by the perceived risk of increasing crime rates in divided, economically worse-off cities and states. “It would seem that some of the shine of the greatest country in the world is wearing thin, and people are looking to move increasingly further away,” says Karen Connell, the Director of the firm.
This exodus favours the UK, and London in particular. “The UK, especially London and its surrounding counties, offers wealthy Americans exactly what they’re looking for,” says Connell. “It is a collection of temperate cities with history and culture, unburdened by gun violence or political unrest.” And while London is comparatively far safer than many American cities, Connell believes that certain people and properties will always attract unwanted attention that needs to be avoided and managed by experts. “We use the mantra, prepare-not-scare, and are mindful that although London has a long history of general safety, desperate people will always do desperate things, and the current economic environment will intensify this,” she says, adding, “regardless of a homeowner’s wealth or indeed the size of their property, their home is their sanctuary and needs to be secure.”
The international investment in prime real estate in the UK is hugely valuable to the UK economy, and real estate agents at the top end of the property market understand the specific and rare considerations their buyers have when it comes to security. That’s why luxury property agents, including Daniel Daggers, the self-named “Mr Super Prime” and winner of the Property Advisor of the Year award from wealth management magazine, Spear’s, is enlisting experts in home security to help streamline international property sales. Working collaboratively with security firms like Hunter Protection will help give prospective buyers (and renters) reassurance and insight into the safety of the property itself and the wider community.
Connell believes that this insight should be intrinsic to the process of selling all property and that the safety of a home should be the number one consideration before exchanging or commencing a tenancy. Her anecdotal evidence from historic luxury property checks is chilling: “We were asked by a house manager of a very large property in North London to test the property’s security measures. Hunter’s Architectural Risk Manager, a British Army Veteran who has learned his craft over 30 years of securing embassies, Royal palaces and compounds in war zones, started to walk the property perimeter while I stayed with the client at the front door. Within two minutes he scaled the newly erected eight-foot wall, made it through the gardens and called me from the kitchen inside the property. The culprit wasn’t a forgotten ladder but rather a design feature that had been built into the wall that acted like stepping stones. Furthermore, because our activity was concentrated outside, the staff were distracted and didn’t notice a stranger in the house until he was there making a phone call. The experience was a terrific example of how safety isn’t just about locks or CCTV cameras, it’s also about motivation and possibility”.
According to Hunter Protection, property security surveys can take as little as a day or up to a week depending on the size of the property and the level of detail the client requires. The firm’s Architectural Risk Manager says that the process of surveying a property goes beyond studying the property itself and that the survey often requires a more holistic approach. “It’s important to look at the neighbourhood as well as the property, and what is available for a motivated intruder to help them access what is not theirs,” they explain. “One recent burglary was successfully perpetrated by a gang who had rented an apartment in the road behind a row of expensive properties. This offered the criminals not just an uninterrupted view of a number of high profile properties, but also the opportunity to learn the internal security team’s habits, and find weaknesses in their patrols.”
The added value of home security checks to any property sale will be highly-sought amongst both domestic and international buyers as the uncertainty around political matters and the virus continues. The collaborative efforts of prime real estate agents and home security experts to maintain the growing property market demonstrates a wider trend within the luxury sector, which is one of a higher level of caution amongst UHNWIs when parting with their cash in troubled times.