Sotheby’s International Realty

18 October 2017

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Gregg Lynn jokingly calls himself the penthouse whisperer.  But as the man behind a $28 million condominium sale that set a record in San Francisco, California, the moniker may be truer than it is funny for the Sotheby’s International Realty agent. It’s also a sign of the niche market’s strength and just how high buyers will go to nab sky high residences.

Penthouses are a floor apart and a world away. Buyers covet them. There are even magazines devoted to them. They’re more than the floor of a building. They represent a “tectonic shift of how people live luxuriously,” says Lynn. Layouts are typically more sprawling, finishes are more lavish and the views are as good as they get.

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$3,500,000 USD | San Francisco, California | Sotheby’s International Realty – San Francisco Brokerage

It wasn’t always this way. A century ago top-floor units were cramped quarters with low ceilings usually designated for servants. These days, however, Lynn says, “the number one benefit on being on the penthouse level is higher ceilings.” They’re about a foot and half higher than those of standard units. In penthouses with floor-to-ceiling windows, the effect of those bonus 18 inches is all the more extraordinary.

The size of the penthouse, the pedigree of the building and the landmarks within its view dictate price. A rooftop residence that looks out onto the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia or Alcatraz Island in San Francisco is guaranteed to turn heads and boost prices.

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$2,795,000 USD | San Francisco, California | Sotheby’s International Realty – San Francisco Brokerage

Oversized penthouses are also an attractive option for empty nesters coming out of large private residences, according to Mary Lin of Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty. Sellers are “getting record prices” for their homes and opting for a low maintenance “lock up-and-go lifestyle,” she says. Sydney’s “uberluxe” market is not limited to affluent Australians. The city is making a showing alongside real estate powerhouses like London, New York, Hong Kongwith the “prestige” market buoyed by international buyers looking to purchase in Sydney’s blue chip developments.

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Price Upon Request | Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty 

For some buyers, investing in such exclusive residences is part of a long-term wealth management strategy.

Penthouses represent a specific market niche. Rarity sells. Their limited availability and one-of-a-kind layouts are the reason these trophy assets have fetched newsworthy prices. In the arms race of ultra luxury condominiums, where amenities include wine rooms, private roof decks, libraries and more, penthouses have topped the nine-figure mark.

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Price Upon Request | Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty

Along with the cache of perks is the cachet that goes along with a residence in the clouds. Just pressing the PH elevator button—no unit number required—has the subtle but powerful impact of pulling out a Black Card from one’s wallet.

Penthouse buyers are a demographic unto themselves. Fifty percent would never consider living on a floor other than the top level, says Lynn. “They only want to live on the best blocks in the best buildings and have the best units in those buildings.”