Dana Jacobsohn, senior vice president of residential development at Marriott International, oversees all aspects of the branded residential units of Marriott International, including Ritz- Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Edition, Bulgari, JW Marriott, Marriott, St. Regis, W, Luxury Collection, Westin, Sheraton, Autograph, Tribute, and Le Meridien.
These types of hotel residences have continued to be popular all over the world since the start of the pandemic, with known brands proving to be safer bets for people during uncertain times, Ms. Jacobsohn said. And with people using their vacation homes more than ever before, many buyers who already own these branded residences are spending more time in them than they ever planned to.
We talked to the Maryland-based Ms. Jacobsohn about what’s on buyers’ wishlists, the importance of high-quality service, and more.
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Mansion Global: Do you think branded residences will fare better than others sectors in this downturn?
Dana Jacobsohn: There’s been an unprecedented impact on hotels. But we are still seeing steady interest return even in that sector.
The biggest surprise to me is that branded residences are more resilient than other types of real estate. My team is as busy, if not busier, than ever. Customers, more than ever, see the benefit of our brand. We’re also seeing strong velocity of sales. People have the desire to have another residence, and they’re not spending as much time on the road.
And buyers have also gotten very comfortable with virtual tours. They know that the projects are going to be extraordinarily high quality. Especially with brands like the St. Regis and the Ritz- Carlton.
The buyers know that our brands are professionally managed, and that makes the buying decision easier and makes them more confident.
The vast majority are buying second, third or fourth homes, but people are spending a lot more time in these homes. Now many of our owners are staying for months at a time.
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MG: How do you make sure that the residences properly pay homage to that brand?
DJ: Whether we have a co-located branded residence or a standalone property that doesn’t have a hotel component, either type of residence is completely aligned with the hotel brand standard. It’s not as if we have different sets of rules. The training is the same, and it feels the same whether you’re in a St. Regis hotel or residence. What may happen in a residence is the team members may know you better and your family better, and can offer an even higher level of service.
MG: Are the services the same as a hotel?
DJ: If you’re in a co-located, of course you’re getting access to all facilities and amenities—the spa, pool, and you can order in-room dining and get housekeeping services.
But the business model that we’ve also grown is the standalone business, with no co-located hotel. That’s one of the fastest growing parts of our business. You’re getting the same services and similar amenities as a hotel—having an owner’s lounge, a gym. You might have a theater, too.
The vast majority of properties in the pipeline are co-located. That’s the bread and butter. But what’s happening is the residential consumer is so excited about our brand, that developers are coming to us to ask us to brand their developments.
I’d say standalone residences are now 12% of our portfolio, but they’re 25% of what’s in the pipeline.
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MG: Are buyers’ requests changing as a result of Covid?
DJ: In the short term, people are looking for more space, and cleanliness. And at Marriott we have an incredible commitment to that.
In the short term, people are looking for outdoor areas to come together. In the long-run, I think home offices will continue to be important. But generally, I don’t think in the long-term, we’re gonna see major changes.
At Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley in Arizona, they’ve included an air filtration system and that’s super important. I don’t see why we wouldn’t have those more going forward. In projects that didn’t have balconies, we’re looking at adding them, as well as work from home space. We’re also looking into ways you can be in touch with the concierge without necessarily being face to face.
Often, we’ll have an owners lounge, and a place where, say, a celebrity chef comes and does a cooking instruction. At Ritz-Carlton L.A. Live, during the pandemic they delivered food, and did it all over Zoom. We’re all about exceeding expectations—surprising and delighting our clients.
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MG: How do you define luxury?
DJ: It’s easy to install top-of-the-line countertops, granite and appliances. To me, that’s not true luxury. To me, it’s all about the services. It’s not just about meeting needs, but surpassing them. Knowing the names and the likes of your family. That personalization is truly luxury.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
DJ: I have three kids, and I’ve been lucky that some have been home from college. The kitchen island is a hub of activity. At any given time, someone’s there—doing homework, reading the newspaper, playing Scrabble or Rummikub there.
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MG: Describe your dream property?
DJ: I have one. St. Regis Deer Valley [in Utah]. My husband has been asking me about this property for a year. You fly into Salt Lake, Uber or get a rental car to the resort, and it’s just amazing and secluded and beautiful. The food is also really good.
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