The growing trend of serviced apartments
They'll book your yoga class, find a school for the kids, and offer VIP security. Danielle Demetriou reports on the new must-have for luxury homes: a concierge
Wednesday 23 May 2007
They'll walk the dog, book a table at Nobu, fill the fridge with champagne and even remind you to buy a card for your mother's birthday.
Gone are the days when service charges were limited to paying for lift maintenance and other domestic mundanities. Instead, residents in top-end developments are being offered the services of a army of household staff and concierges.
This month sees the on-line launch of White Glove Lifestyle Concierge, which caters for the property market – homeowners, tenants, vendors, property developers and agents alike.
At £100 a month, clients have 24-hour access to a team of lifestyle managers, who will cater for their every whim. From cooking dinner parties and drawing up lists of the best schools to arranging yoga classes and packing belongings, there is little that White Glove's house helpers will not do.
"We are living in a society where people want things done now," says Simon Gordon-Smith, of White Glove Lifestyle Concierge. "People don't want to get bogged down in the minor details. There are a lot of people short of time but wealthy enough to afford some assistance in day-to-day life."
The trend for luxury services is being fuelled by London's buoyant property market. As Arab sheikhs and Russian oligarchs descend on the capital, developers are tripping over themselves to provide services befitting such clients.
Ed Lewis, head of London new homes at Savills, explains: "When the owners fly into London, the concierge can get a table in the best restaurant, fast-track them at sporting events, put food in the fridge and flowers on the table. Most importantly, a concierge also provides security. "People are prepared to pay for this kind of service. It costs between £7 and £10 per square foot. So if you have a 4,000sq ft property, that's £28,000 to £40,000 a year. That is not a lot of money for a Russian billionaire."
One pioneer of the concierge trend is The Knightsbridge. Opened 18 months ago, it has joined forces with the Hyatt International hotel chain to provide 24-hour concierge services. Meanwhile, West India Quay in Canary Wharf has the Marriott Hotel on the first 12 floors, with the rest of the building residential. The £5,000 service charge allows residents full access to the hotel concierge and restaurants. A two-bedroom flat there is for sale at £625,000.
But king of the luxury developments is One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge. With Richard Rogers Partnership as architects and Candy & Candy as development managers and interior designers, the complex will have every conceivable luxury when opened in 2010.
The luxury hotel chain Mandarin Oriental will provide 24-hour concierge services to all 80 properties. On the walls of communal spaces will be artwork by Sam Taylor-Wood and lighting by James Turrell.
Other reported features will be bullet-proof windows, eye scanners in the lifts, an SAS-developed security system, "specially purified air" and private wine-tasting facility.
"At the top end, service charges have escalated dramatically," says Cliff Gardiner of The Buying Solution. "Developers are looking for ways to differentiate their developments by providing extra services."
And is not only millionaires who can benefit. New – if rather less glamorous – services are becoming available in cheaper properties.
The Bridge, a regeneration development in Dartford created with the designer Wayne Hemingway, offers consoles in each home displaying real-time information for public transport.
Chelsea Bridge Wharf in south-west London offers hotel concierge services to its residents, at a snip of the price. At Lanson – the final phase of Chelsea Bridge Wharf scheme – apartments start at £340,000, and a tunnel will link properties with a new hotel which is being built.
Service charges – which have not yet been set – will include CCTV-monitored parking, 24-hour concierge and access to the hotel's bar, gym and restaurant. And so the mantra "location, location, location" may soon be replaced by a timelier motto: services. What does it matter where you live if your team of staff will secure last-minute Eurostar tickets or buy your partner flowers on Valentine's Day?
White Glove Lifestyle (020-7479 3520; www.whiteglovelifestyle.com) will provide six months' free service to any tenant or vendor who signs up before the end of May with Bective Leslie Marsh (020-7221 0099; www.bectivelesliemarsh.co.uk)
Where to live the high life
*Live like a princess at the Lanson development in Chelsea Bridge Wharf (right – 020-7720 4000; www.chelseabridgewharf.com); from £340,000.
*Tabard Square (020-7403 7503; www.tabard-square.co.uk) near London Bridge has a 24-hour concierge service. Penthouses from £1.3m.
*The Bridge in Dartford ( www.thebridgedartford.co.uk) has apartments from £160,000. Service charges start from £800 and include consoles displaying real-time public transport movements.
*A two-bed £625,000 home at West India Quay (020-7512 9955; www.knightfrank.com) has access services at the onsite Marriott hotel: £5,000pa.
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