Lisa Grainger from The Times talk to CEO Mélie Dunod about the August proposition and why it makes sense.
One person’s dream life is, thankfully, often not another’s. Which is what makes travel so interesting. For some people, setting sail and exploring the Antarctic while sipping champagne and watching icebergs from an on-deck hot tub is a bucket-list experience that they’ll save up for their whole life to experience — hence the rise in luxury cruise-liners braving Drake’s Passage in the past year.
For others, the perfect holiday may involve hanging out in a beautiful private home in the south of France, exploring markets and sourcing fine produce, then skiing in winter from a chic chalet in the Alps — hence the popularity of the new luxury second-home sharing model, August.
The most common complaint of second home-owners is that once you own a holiday home you feel like you are only allowed to go there for a break. As an interior designer who specialised in doing up old houses in France for clients, Mélie Dunod heard it all the time. As a French woman, she also regularly heard the complaints of local villagers who were tired of foreign homeowners coming only once or twice a year and then leaving their properties empty. This is where she came up with the idea for August.
The company, created in 2019, finds and restores a collection of four or five homes across Europe for a single group of joint homeowners, who then share the properties between them. Each member of the group owns a share (usually a 1/17th or 1/21st) of the properties and can sell their share should they want to leave.
The holiday homes are all located in places popular with international travellers. The five properties in the Signature Collection, for instance, are an apartment in Chamonix, villas in the French Riviera and Tuscany, a cottage in the Cotswolds and a townhouse in Mallorca (from €425,000 for 1/21 of a share, excluding a monthly service fee). The Pied-à-Terre collection consists of two-bedroomed apartments in five popular cities (Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Cannes, London from €350,00 for a 1/21 share), and the Premium Collection of four or five-bedroom properties in prime spots (the south of France, the French Alps, Tuscany, Mallorca and the Cotswolds, from €680,000 for a 1/21 share).
It is not just the particular look of the homes — which Dunod describes as “Soho House: very laid-back and relaxed, but with interiors rooted in their origins” — that makes August special, but the professionalism of the curation and management of each collection. Because her family’s business is residential construction in Europe, “the properties have been built by us, they’re maintained by us, our teams take care of them”, she says.
Maintenance bills are between €5,000 and €15,000 a year. But then, as she points out, “It’s totally hassle-free. All the taxes and paperwork are taken care of for you. You arrive in your holiday home and the pool’s clean, there are fresh flowers in the house and you can just enjoy your holiday with the help of our August concierge.” Because there is a mix of different nationalities in each collection, she adds, there is never a log-jam of people wanting properties at the same time; currently 30 per cent of owners are British, 20 per cent European and the rest Australian and American of different ages, “so you don’t get 20 British families with young children all wanting the same house at the same time”.
August offers full title ownership and has no share in the finished properties. They always use local people to maintain the properties and decorate them. “The marble in the Italian properties is from Tuscany; the fabrics in the French properties are from Paris and upholstered in the local village,” she says. Plus each house has a guide to the best local workmen, shops, restaurants and food suppliers, she says, to ensure that locals benefit too. “And if owners find something in the area that they love, they put it in their house guestbook,” she says. “So it really is shared, it’s communal and it’s more sustainable.”
Re-purposed from The Times published 07 June 2023.
Journalist Credit: Lisa Grainger
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