Property: View from the top

Lisa Hollands, managing director of residential at CBRE UK, argues that understanding the changing role and design of the penthouse is important for understanding the residential market as a whole

Property Lisa Hollands, CBRE_160“The penthouse is arguably the most important and defining property within a residential development. Not only is it known for being the highest-value unit in a building but it can also bring up the value of the floors below.

Demand and design are affected by market conditions and buyer sentiment, cultural nuances and interior and architectural trends. One of the most noticeable changes is the emphasis on space and how it is allocated.

Historically, penthouses were carved up into separate accommodation and the rooms were frequently spread over two or three floors. However, as the traditional penthouse resident has changed, so have the requirements. We now see increasing interest from older buyers, who are usually moving from much larger properties, often outside of town. While these buyers are downsizers, they do not want to compromise on space so penthouses are generally getting bigger.

Furthermore, penthouse buyers are increasingly owner-occupiers and require bigger spaces. Lateral open-plan space is preferable, allowing for large rooms to be flooded with natural light, while high ceilings and magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the views. High specifications and technology is usually a given but, if the space is wrong, any penthouse is at an immediate disadvantage.

Single-floor penthouses are also appealing because they inevitably make the property more manageable. Direct lift access is to be expected; multiple or keyed-off lift access is even more favourable, so the residents and their guests don’t have to share with concierge or staff.

At the early stages, developers work closely with architects and designers to ensure the penthouse will stand out in the market, while ensuring it is sympathetic to the context of its building. Consulting agents are particularly crucial pre-construction because they can advise on how the penthouse can command the very best value.

While the residential market, particularly in London, seems to be in a period of extended growth, the penthouse apartment’s position at the top of the class remains unchallenged.”

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