‘Authenticity is Luxury,’ Says Half Moon Bay CEO

Mansion Global
Apr 22, 2019

William Anderson is CEO of Half Moon Bay Antigua, an ultra-luxury resort/residence development on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

The crown jewel of the property is the Mellon Estate, a three-acre parcel on a dramatic bluff, formerly owned by philanthropist Rachel "Bunny" Lambert Mellon.

Owners and resort guests at Half Moon Bay will have access to an on-site biodynamic farm, a cocktail lounge and a Rosewood Spa. Home prices range from US$10 million to US$25 million.

Before joining Half Moon Bay Antigua, Mr. Anderson—who lives in California wine country—has developed, managed and marketed exclusive residential resorts, including the private island resorts of Jumby Bay in the Caribbean, The Wakaya Club in Fiji and Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, overseeing more than US$450 million in real estate sales.

We caught up with Mr. Anderson to discuss what wealthy buyers are looking for in a luxury residential resort, buyers’ increased interest in superior craftsmanship in their luxury homes, and more.

Mansion Global: Describe your dream property. William Anderson: It’s about being authentic. I’ve lived in California wine country for years, so a transition to the outdoors and a compelling outdoor space are important to me.

MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?

WA: Absolutely. I’m chagrined that you brought it up, because I had forgotten it. In the town I live in in Sonoma County, I was renting a stunning period house. It was an authentic California craftsman with outstanding outdoor spaces. I was renting with an option to buy, and I didn’t buy, and I’m still kicking myself.

MG: What does luxury mean to you?

WA: It’s become watered down, and the word has become so overused. I take a very specific view, and I coined a phrase years ago I should have registered: “Authenticity is luxury.”

I’ve worked a lot with Bob Zimmer at Rosewood Hotels, which include the Hotel Bel Air, the Mansion on Turtle Creek [in Dallas], and Lanesborough in London. At each of those places it’s immediately evident where you are in the world.

People are gravitating to two things— authenticity, because they travel all over and crave a sense of authenticity, and sensibility around craftsmanship. It started with food, where people were interested in the provenance—now it’s clothes, furniture. People are much more interested in the “making” aspect of things.

MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?

WA: For me, it’s not so much about a specific location. My career has been spent in some really beautiful places. It transcended the physical location and became a place people wanted to go to. It’s not about Europe or Asia, it’s more about the singular experiential aspect of things, and about people feeling compelled to visit that property. It’s about the uniqueness of the experience, more than “it has to be in a certain area.”

MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?

WA: We have a 1937 Craftsman home that’s incredibly authentic to that period and to Northern California. To me, that is my favorite part. It has beautiful redwood paneling. It’s truly authentic. It almost glows.

MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?

WA: California Craftsman. It feels authentic, and natural and organic to where it sits. That’s what we do with our properties, too, and that was the dictate with our current Caribbean property.

MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?

WA: We have two grandfather clocks from the 1700s and we put them right next to each other. They were made about 100 miles from each other.

MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?

WA: The indoor/outdoor connection. But it’s also about the kitchen. The kitchen has transitioned into a living space; that’s where people are spending their time.

It comes back to the idea of transition—literally and figuratively, walls are breaking down. Transitional areas are the key to having a wonderful home.

MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?

WA: Your first reaction to real estate is visceral. Like art, try not to listen to the noise/the pitch. Listen to what your heart is telling you.

MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?

WA: The very high end transcends market changes, and you see that in the luxury hotel market. People will always travel.

But there are some big macro issues like Brexit, and what’s going on in the U.S. is so seismic, it’s hard to know.

It’s amazing to see how many people are wanting to spend time in the Caribbean, and that’s clearly influenced by the world environment. People are putting an ever-increasing value on the time they’re able to spend with their family. And that can be skewed toward vacation properties.

MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?

WA: It goes back to the earlier question—in our segment of the market, it’s not so much about where it is, but about wanting an extraordinary experience. The simple answer is that there will always be places—such as London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Hong Kong—that are clearly the best places to invest, but it’s about more than that.

MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?

WA: Older. Authenticity speaks to me. It doesn’t have to be super old. It could be a mid-century in Los Angeles. Or a spectacular house in Provence. Anything with history and place. That is hard to replace and speaks to me on a deeper level.

MG: What area currently has the best resale value?

WA: It’s hard to beat Hong Kong. Both from a price standpoint and pressure on prices. That’s hard to beat.

A year or two ago, the answer probably would have been London. In San Francisco, there’s limited supply and high demand. At one point a few years ago, the average selling price was 40% over the ask.

Those trends will continue. But now it’s hard to eclipse Hong Kong.