By specialist estate agent Sean Woolley
Marbella has suddenly become a hotspot for branded residences – villa or apartment developments, in collaboration with a famous fashion designer or luxury brand.
Branded residences springing up in and around Marbella include the Elie Saab Villas in Marbella, Marea (with interiors by Missoni) in Finca Cortesin, the Karl Lagerfeld Villas, Dolce & Gabbana Design Hills, Epic (with interiors by Fendi) all on Marbella’s Golden Mile and the Tierra Viva project in the Benahávis region, with designs by Lamborghini.
Previously only seen in rock-star locations such as Dubai, Miami and London, this is an excellent thing for the area. It adds prestige and focuses the attention of fans of these iconic brands onto the area, which might not have been on their radar before.
However, we’re advising our buyers to tread carefully before purchasing. Recent research showed that you can expect to be charged 30% more for a branded residence and so buyers need to make sure they are really worth this premium.
It’s important to understand that not all branded residences are created equal!
There are varying degrees of involvement with the brands and some of the connections are tenuous at best. In the best examples, the brand is really involved and committed and this shows. For example, the recent launch of Design Hills by Dolce & Gabbana on the Golden Mile, had Domenico Dolce and his design people present and they have been very much involved from the inception. In addition, the project will have a public section outside of the main resort, which will have a little designer shopping mall, the first Dolce & Gabbana beauty salon in Europe and a Dolce & Gabbana Martini bar. That's great because it creates a destination and when your home is part of that, it adds massive value. Of course, this all comes with a premium, but we expect the development to sell well and maintain a premium value for resale.
On the other end of the spectrum, you get a feeling that maybe it's just a badge that they're sticking on the side of a house, and it’s up to the buyer to calculate how much brand equity you get in return for your investment.
When you’re evaluating the different branded residences and deciding whether they would make a good investment I’d recommend that you establish exactly what part the brand is playing in the project. Ask whether it has actually had a say in the design of the project, are they responsible for the interior fittings or the furniture and does the development really reflect the brand.
Don't just buy it because of the brand, make sure it ticks all the other boxes and is well built. Then ask what you’re actually getting. Will it be furnished? Are you getting the wallpaper, the finishes, or just a couple of basic design options? Once you know, work out how much you're paying for that brand, package of extras or that furniture and make sure the figures make sense.
I was disappointed in a recent example, where all received was a mirror in the bathroom, a wall covering in the lounge and a wall covering in the bedroom, as well as having their name attached to the development. I didn’t feel that gave enough value to justify the premium, so please do your research and be guided by your agent as to what will really make certain developments stand out from the crowd.
The other thing to examine is the brand itself. What do they stand for and does that align with your values and image? What are their design USPs, and can you “see” these USPs throughout the design? If not, you are likely being charged for a badge and I would advise you to stay away.
Last, but by no means least, make sure it is situated in the right location, a location which matches the prestige of the brand. Some of these branded residences are in 5* locations, which align well with a luxury 5* brand, and will surely sell well. But others are in lesser quality locations and the synergy between the brand and the area (for me) just isn’t there.
It's all very well, selling in the five-star areas, a five-star product with a five-star price tag, because people will go, "Okay!" tick, tick, tick, "Yeah, I'll do it". But when you're in a four-star or even a three-star location, you're not going to have the fundamentals in place, so check the location carefully and make sure that your premium will be worth it in the long term.
By Sean Woolley, founder and director of Cloud Nine Spain and author of the insiders’ guide to buying Spanish property From the Ground Up.