The Great Outdoors is a Top Amenity
It took a pandemic, the surge of remote work, and a feeling of disconnect with busy city life to send luxury-property buyers to the great outdoors—or more specifically, residences with easy access to nature. Now, pockets of desirable green areas for residential developments have been coined “naturehoods,” which can include properties with nearby forests, mountains, a flourishing yard, or even a great community garden.
“ Properties nestled in lush nature or rural areas have enjoyed increased interest.”
Savvas Savvaidis President and CEO, Greece Sotheby's International Realty
“During the global pandemic, we noticed an increased desire to disconnect from busy lifestyles and re-establish meaningful connections with nature. Properties nestled in lush nature or rural areas have enjoyed increased interest,” says Savvas Savvaidis, president and CEO, Greece Sotheby’s International Realty. “Natural and pristine surroundings and authentic locations have always fascinated residents who traditionally inhabit urban communities, but the pull is now much stronger.”
In Greece, such developments have sprung up in Hellinikon, a beautiful suburb in southern Athens close to the waterfront. Neighboring areas such as Glyfada are vibrant and lively hubs, with great restaurants and bars for entertainment and culture, according to Savvaidis. Hellinikon is expected to be a beacon for sustainable living in Greece, with buyers tending to be midcareer business people with families looking for a healthier lifestyle, says Savvaidis.
It’s no surprise that healthy lifestyles became a high priority for many since the pandemic hit in 2020. “These shifts have had a global impact, and the face of urban living is changing for good,” Savvaidis says.
As a result, homes with easy access to trails for hiking, biking, and running have gained popularity. In New Zealand, where nature has always been a priority, buyers are turning to naturehoods as a permanent living arrangement due to advances in technology, according to Myles Green, projects and developments manager, New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty.
Remote areas in New Zealand that are increasingly more self-sufficient, such as Queenstown, Wanaka, Arrowtown, and Cardona, are performing particularly well as naturehoods with strong sustainability initiatives, Green says. “Thermal insulation is a key consideration in our climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Private water and sewer schemes are often developed and are required to be sustainable. Carbon neutrality with respect to construction materials is also starting to emerge.”
One such example of a new sustainable and nature-centric development in New Zealand is Mount Cardrona Station, an alpine village appealing to those with an adventurous spirit. The village—located at the base of a ski field—comprises 450 houses.
Such residential developments often rely on natural timber, stone, and large windows to welcome the spectacular views of the surrounding area, Green says. Natural landscaping of indigenous species surrounds these homes. These developments are particularly popular with affluent urbanites looking for a getaway, change of lifestyle, family retreat, or a legacy purchase, Green adds.
Agrihoods, which are planned developments that focus on communities sustained on locally grown produce, have also gained traction in certain corners of the world, These developments began to pop up “when organic food became more expensive to obtain and out-of-season crops cost more to purchase,” says Frank Aazami, sales associate, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.
According to Aazami, in addition to growing produce, an agrihood aims “not to disturb the land, its natural grade and vegetation, and perhaps to use footings to preserve mother earth for generations to come.”
In the U.S., northern Arizona—where there is already basic utility infrastructure, roads, rails, and airport access as well as affordable land and a need for workforce housing—is gaining traction as a naturehood and agrihood hotspot, according to Aazami. Carbon-free and reduced-waste initiatives are fueling these communities, which are also drawing retirees looking to become more involved to enhance their productivity, spirituality, and leadership opportunities, he says.
In Italy, agriturismi, or farmhouses, located in unspoiled settings with large, green spaces and tax benefits are especially popular, according to Diletta Giorgolo Spinola, head of realty, Italy Sotheby’s International Realty. “Some boast greenhouses, vegetable gardens, and rows of fruit trees. Thanks to this, these types of properties offer very healthy and high-quality food.” And, she adds, these types of residences “have fostered the rediscovery of rural areas and their culture, and helped to promote innovation and diversification of the agricultural sector, one of the pillars of Italy’s economy.”
Wealthy millennial buyers, young families, and digital nomads are particularly aware of issues of sustainability, healthy food, and the rediscovery of rural traditions, which is drawing them to embrace sustainable ways of living, according to Giorgolo Spinola. “After the pandemic, the importance of clean air has returned to everyone’s attention.”
The key components of a naturehood, according to Giorgolo Spinola, are space, privacy, quiet, clean air, and the possibility of sustainable/eco-friendly living. “Small villages surrounded by nature, with local markets selling local products and a slower-paced routine, are now the lifestyle choice of many citizens,” Giorgolo Spinola says.
In Italy, Tuscany is still the most desirable spot for a countryside home. Umbria or Lazio’s northern area, called Tuscia, are up-and-coming in the naturehood arena, with the aim to make foreign buyers discover these unspoiled alternatives that often have strong historical roots, Giorgolo Spinola says.
In all corners of the world, buyers are looking for quality buildings and modern architecture in their nature-bound residences. “They opt for properties with spacious indoor and outdoor areas and place high importance on the levels of privacy the residence offers,” she says.
Regardless of amenities, location is key, whether it be an expansive desert, a rolling hillside, or the serenity of a quiet lake.
“There is a great need to spend quality time, in contact with nature, living authentic experiences.”
Diletta Giorgolo Spinola Head of realty, Italy Sotheby's International Realty
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