L.A.'s Ultra-Luxe Mansions Now Come With Servants

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Smart homes are so 2015. The new hot perk for eight- and nine-figure real estate buyers is a staff that potentially includes a concierge, chef, doorman, masseuse, driver and personal trainer.

In the ’80s, it was tennis courts. In the ’90s, eleva- tors. And in the aughts, smart homes. Now comes the newest over-the-top amenity in L.A.’s sizzling luxury real estate market: a full-time staff that’s part of the deal. Whoever ultimately purchases the $250 million home at 924 Bel Air will walk through the front door and be greeted by seven staffers (potentially including a concierge, chef, doorman, masseuse, driver and per- sonal trainer), all gratis for two years.

“Wealthy people have different needs,” says Bruce Makowsky without irony, noting that the staff will work for an annual wage with a bonus (he declined to disclose how much). He is credited with bringing this idea to market, but several other developers, including Nile Niami, are following suit.

“Now everyone is copying me,” says Makowsky, who adds that he was inspired with the idea after spending time on superyachts in the Mediterranean. “When you look at these yachts on the water and people are spending $250 million, it’s because there is a special feeling. I want to re-create that special feeling you get when you pull up and six guys in suits are taking your car,” he says.

According to Charles MacPherson, a former butler who launched a luxury household management, consulting and training firm in 1996, business is booming in this field. The growth, he says, is based on the explosion of wealth among the one-percenters and the size and number of homes owned that have come with that. “Fifty years ago the super-wealthy had one or two homes and they weren’t nearly as big as they are now. A 5,000-square-foot home was considered big. Now we have homes that are 20, 30 and 40,000 square feet and you might have homes in New York, L.A., Aspen and Palm Springs. And all of a sudden you ask yourself, 'Who is coordinating all of this stuff?'" he says. MacPherson, who has written several books on household management, says graduates of his program typically make around $50,000 to $60,000 right out of school and after eight years can crack six figures. But he calls the trend of including service in the package of a home a great concept that often doesn’t work. “It is such an intimate relationship between a domestic servant and a family that it doesn’t work to have people just waiting (before they move in) because of that intimacy. What I’m seeing is that the staff aren’t staying very long,” he says.

Jeff Hyland applauds the idea and compares it to the cooks and ranch hands on an Aspen property. Mauricio Umansky is more circumspect, calling it a great marketing ploy that may be superfluous for a rich and well-connected buyer. “Most of these people can get a reservation at Nobu without anyone’s help,” he says.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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