Luxury housing differs with the local market, said a panel of experts addressing the National Assn. of Real Estate Editors annual conference here this week.
The question "What is luxury housing?" posed by Mark Moffa, managing editor of Unique Homes magazine, drew a variety of responses in terms of prices, amenities and styles.
For the Los Angeles area, Nick Segal of Partners Trust priced the luxury market at about $4 million and up – twice the amount he would have quoted eight years ago.
In Houston, the price demarcation for luxury housing is $1 million, said Martha Turner of Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty, "but we may soon pass that."
Driving this segment of the Houston housing market are two-salary households of young entrepreneurs.
While the luxury price start point differs with geographic region, Frank Malpica of ERA Franchise Systems pegs it at about $500,000 outside of metropolitan areas.
Popular amenities vary by location as well. Media rooms are still "in" in L.A. -- less so in Houston. Fireplaces are shrinking and changing in L.A., since newly constructed houses can no longer have wood-burning ones.
Home elevators are big in Houston, where luxury town houses may have five stories. In L.A., residential elevators exist but tend not to be used much, Segal said. "They are slow."
Generators are becoming more popular in all parts of the country, as homeowners build in safeguards in case of hurricanes or earthquakes.
But physical amenities aren't the only attributes sought in luxury home purchases, Malpica said, as millennials enter or move up in the housing market. "They are searching for more lifestyle-related attributes," he said, such as lakefront, golf course or riverfront property.
Luxury home styles are changing in Texas as tastes evolve and people move around the country, Turner said. "In Houston, they just wore out the Tuscan villa."
In the last two years she has seen more contemporary homes in her market.