Thursday, July 25, 2024

Luxury buyers are spending an extra $1 million to add pickleball courts to vacation homes

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When it comes to vacation homes for the ultra-wealthy, the hottest amenities in 2024 aren’t indoor bowling alleys or stables for horses—they’re pickleball courts and sophisticated safe rooms. And buyers are willing to shell out as much as seven figures for them.

Pickleball, a cross between tennis, badminton, and pingpong, exploded in popularity during the pandemic among Americans of all ages and income levels. Though a personal tennis court has long been a symbol of wealth, depicted in movies and television shows as the one percent’s go-to activity at the country club, now buyers are far more likely to ask about access to pickleball courts, says Senada Adžem, executive director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, Florida.

“Recently we were representing a seller with a very unique, unusual lot shape, and we found buyers who were willing to pay $1 million over the last comparable in the community because it was the one lot where they could put their pickleball court,” says Adžem. “It’s a must.”

For those opting to build their own, not only do they need a big enough lot, it needs to be set back from the street and from neighbors. The game’s gotten so rowdy, some communities have implemented noise ordinances to curb pickleball play, says Adžem. For those who can’t or don’t want to build their own, or buy in luxury developments, community access is important.

“Basically every single community has started making space or repurposing what used to be tennis courts,” says Adžem.

‘Life or death’

More important for many buyers, says Darin Tansey, a realtor with Douglas Elliman in South Florida, is safety, particularly amid growing political and social unrest. Stone Creek Ranch, an exclusive community in Palm Beach, hires former military and police personnel to patrol the neighborhood 24/7. Jeff Bezos recently made headlines for moving to the “billionaire bunker” of Indian Creek Village, an island near Miami accessible only via a guarded bridge.

“After COVID, safety and privacy have become such an important feature or demand of a lot of our buyers,” says Adžem. “For many people, it’s just having peace of mind.”

Even in these ultra-safe communities patrolled by armed guards, there is a desire for secret safe rooms, the agents say. These rooms aren’t displayed on the plans for the residences; the agents reveal their locations only after the homes are under contract. They are outfitted with their own electrical systems and feature hardwired phone lines, and they’re not connected to a home’s central WiFi.

Prices vary, but for a basic level of security, Tansey estimates upgrading a safe room could cost $100,000 to $250,000. Some clients are installing biometric locks, which could cost more.

“The question of life or death is priceless at this level,” says Tansey.

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