Hotel groups are accelerating their involvement in the branded residence marketplace, as buyer demand has remained strong throughout the pandemic period. The units, typically sold ahead of completion to individual investors, continue to sell well and are particularly in demand across Asian markets. And the value of the hotel brand affiliation means more standalone projects are under way – featuring apartments without a co-located hotel.
A new survey by Knight Frank notes that 39% of prime international buyers are prepared to pay a premium for a branded residence, rising to 43% in Asia and 45% in Australasia. But the premium is not just the perceived brand value, and can vary substantially based on other factors such as location and design: “Defining factors and special features, such as historical legacy or park views, can also influence the price that buyers are willing to pay.” One US developer that the agent spoke to, encapsulates the appeal of a hotel-like apartment block: “The idea of a hotel without hotel guests is the fundamental vision for this project, because there’s no greater luxury than living in a hotel, but not everyone wants to have hotel guests in their buildings or in their homes.” The big hotel groups are stepping up. In a recent review of 2021, Marriott noted how its branded residence business had really taken off through the pandemic, noting: “Evolving lifestyle changes have sparked growing interest in on-demand amenities and services from brands people admire and trust.”
Chris Graham of Graham Associates, who has monitored the niche for many years, told Hotel Analyst: “Sales have been really buoyant, and we’re seeing quite a lot of projects that were simmering, now going live.” He has long expected standalone projects to take off, as they still deliver the services of the hotel brand, without the coming and going of hotel guests. They also allow a brand to appear in locations where there is insufficient space to develop a hotel alongside apartments. Marriott now counts 190 projects open or in development, utilising 14 of its brands. Of this total, it currently operates 14 standalone residences, not featuring a co-located hotel, with a further 16 in development; last year saw it add its first standalones under the Edition brand, in Miami, and a London project that will list under the Autograph collection brand. In contrast with Marriott’s hotel pipeline, which remains significantly within the US and Canada, its branded residences are far more international, with almost 80% outside the home territories. During the current year, it expects to open 14 sites, including W Residences Algarve, and at the St Regis, Belgrade. Outside the US, Accor claims leadership in branded residences, with close to 40 projects open and a pipeline of more than 80. Projects feature 16 brands from the portfolio, ranging from luxury to midscale.
According to Agnes Roquefort, chief development officer at Accor, developers and hotel owners are increasingly interested in projects with a private residence element. “Consumers are eager to invest in real estate that will be managed by a trusted hotel brand with the knowledge they’ll also have access to an atmosphere and experiences that are near to their heart. A key focus of Accor’s development strategy is to accelerate the expansion of our branded residential portfolio, with the right projects in the right markets.”
The group is also looking at opportunities via the lifestyle brands in its Ennismore portfolio. Ennismore co-CEO Gaurav Bhushan commented: “By definition, a lifestyle brand offers a holistic style, culture and values that permeate the entire guest experience from sleeping to socialising, which is what makes residences at brands such as SLS, SO/ and Mondrian so compelling as places where guests want to live, work and play.”
In mid-2021, the first Mondrian Residences outside the US, in Australia’s Gold Coast, sold out within six months. Developers achieved AUD231m in gross revenues for the 84 units, selling uniquely to Australian buyers, with 60% of them local to the Gold Coast. “It’s clear to us that there is pent up demand for private residences with elevated international branding, turnkey services, and innovative lifestyle experiences,” said Tisdall. Upcoming projects include Movenpick branded development in Cairo combining serviced apartments and branded residences. And in Busan, South Korea Accor has signed a combined hotel and branded residences project under its Novotel brand. The group already operates a hotel and residences project in Seoul, under its Sofitel brand.
Luxury brand Four Seasons is also accelerating its branded residence portfolio. Currently it has 48 residence sites and 122 hotels and following a recent change of shareholding has promised to accelerate growth further. Alongside hotels and branded residences, Four Seasons is also growing its villa and vacation home rentals, private jet experiences, and a branded goods collection. Bart Carnahan, president of global business development and portfolio management at Four Seasons explained: “Our residential business in particular is a key pillar in our growth plans, with a five-year pipeline of USD7bn in gross sales value comprising more than 30 projects worldwide.” The company’s standalone Jumeirah, Dubai residences project sold out before construction, while other standalone projects are planned in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, online booking app Hopper has added home rentals to its platform. The option joins Hopper’s established lines of flights, hotels and car rental. The company says it allows users access to more than two million homes globally. It acquired Journy in May 2021, and has used the team from that business to build out the offering.
Graham said the big hotel brands are increasingly offering the branded residences for rental via their homes and villas services, such as Accor’s OneFineStay. “This is a natural extension for them, putting it on their platform.”