Webster defines luxury as a condition or situation of great comfort, ease, and wealth; something that is expensive and not necessary; something that is helpful or welcome and that is not usually or always available.  For residential real estate, luxury homes are usually defined as the top 10% of a market.  In Anchorage, that would be homes over $750,000 which represent 12% of the active market.  Living in luxury usually includes a bathroom for every bedroom.  Bathrooms and kitchen countertops are solid surfaces (maybe granite, quartz or concrete) and cabinets are more like furniture than utilitarian boxes with doors.  Flooring is hardwood or stone with radiant heat.  Heated driveways and sidewalks are definitely a luxury in Alaska.

    A broader definition of luxury may be an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.  A kitchen faucet can be a luxury; so can a bathroom tub with feet rather than one that is set in the wall.  Luxury can also be an outstanding view or an expansive home site or, alternatively, carefree condo living where there is no yard maintenance but perhaps an elevator.  A luxury home is one that is well thought out.  It’s not based on size alone but rather the ‘right size’ with appropriate spatial dimensions.  It’s a home that doesn’t feel awkward.  You intuitively recognize the feel of luxury when you walk thru a home.  It’s a home that doesn’t say ‘Why did they do this or what’s that for?’.  It’s a home that provides the warm feel of cashmere and silk.

    True luxury homes have architectural style, such as modern or craftsman, with a consistency and discipline of style details throughout.  They have light with well thought out window placements that maximize southern exposure and views.  They fit nicely into the topography of the home site.   They look like they have always been there, even though the home may be brand new.

    Or maybe luxury is choosing from among several good options such as which home to purchase.  The very fact that a buyer has a choice of loan programs or an expanded price range may be a financial luxury that others cannot afford.  Some buyers have the luxury of a 15% or greater down payment to eliminate the cost of mortgage insurance; others can barely squeak into a home but to those who are renting or sleeping on a friend’s couch, even the $100,000 condo may be a ‘luxury’.  Others in the market place for a new home might say “We can’t afford the luxury of waiting any longer and risk having to pay a higher rate of interest.”

    Adequate food, clothing and shelter are the basic necessities of living.  A fine bar of Scharffenberger chocolate may be a luxury for some while a Mars bar is a luxury to others; the same holds true for the first time condo buyer and the $1 million home buyer.  There is always a home with more luxury as long as there is creativity and money to spend.  I have the luxury of living in Alaska and having a job I love. And for that luxury, I am very grateful this Thanksgiving.