David Diestel, CEO, FirstService Residential
David Diestel, CEO, FirstService Residential

As the CEO of FirstService Residential, David Diestel has witnessed the shifting trends in the luxury high-rise market. Luxury buyers demand name recognition, impressive amenities, and immediate service. Diestel’s company aims to bring all these requests and more to today’s high-rise purchasers.

FirstService Residential is the founding partner of at Elevate, a first-of-its-kind conference celebrating the art of high-rise living Dec. 4 to 6 in Miami Beach, Florida. Diestel will be one of the high-profile speakers at Elevate, and Livabl spoke to him about his upcoming participation in the event.

We’ve experienced the trend of making the home more of a flexible space for working and gathering post-pandemic. What are some other shifting trends you’re seeing in the luxury high-rise space?

Luxury high-rises are always early adopters of new services and technology amenities. Luxury high-rises are always about the four P’s: People, pets, packages, and parking. So, what are the trends in those areas?

When I think about luxury, let’s talk about the trends we see around people. There are now more spas, and there’s a focus on wellness. The food and beverage trend has also been picking up dramatically. There are restaurants within communities, and we’re seeing more mixed-use properties.

Pets have always been part of the family. Luxury communities used to have simple dog-washing stations. Now we’ve got pet spas.

When it comes to packages, when I think of the luxury communities in the past, packages were received. Today, they’re delivered to your home. Also, in some properties, we see butler doors where you can deliver a package and leave it inside.

Parking is the fourth shifting trend. The tsunami of electric vehicle charging is here. Now, that’s an essential utility in all our buildings. Service continues to evolve, and people’s demand for luxury living with more services continues.

Residences at Park District in Dallas offers an array of luxury amenities, including an open-air escape on the sixth level with an infinity-edge pool, social lounge areas, private cabanas, fire pits, and grilling stations.
Jenifer McNeil Baker Residences at Park District in Dallas offers an array of luxury amenities, including an open-air escape on the sixth level with an infinity-edge pool, social lounge areas, private cabanas, fire pits, and grilling stations.

How diverse are the segments in the luxury high-rise market?

We see tremendous diversity across the segments. We’ve always partnered with developers to realize their vision for these communities. What makes them so diverse is people look for communities that resonate with them for where they are in their lives. Our developer clients are building those communities that fit with their vision for the community—they know who they’ve targeted for their project, and they’re designing around that idea.

So, why do we see so much diversity in the luxury high-rise markets from Toronto, Miami, New York City, Texas, and California? They are all different urban markets with buyers having different needs and expectations, and they are buyers from all over the globe.

Our developer clients have a vision for their communities. And our role is to help them realize that vision for the lifestyle their residents buy into. It’s all about the project success and how the developers are designing their projects for today’s buyers, as well as five years in advance.

Many of our projects they’re designing will not come to fruition for many years. So, how do we get in front of those trends? Understanding what is in the local markets is common across the segment. That means taking advantage of neighborhoods in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, Miami, and more so that we are designing around those spaces. The developers are designing around those spaces—how do we realize those visions for what they have for their property? That makes it so exciting and challenging at the end of the day—the individuality—creating a unique property that suits a particular buyer the developers are targeting for their projects.

Why did you want to participate in Elevate?

Elevate is a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with developers and thought leaders in the luxury high-rise market. It’s great to be part of the conversations and learn from them. It’s great to be part of it and figure out how we can help them with their project success in the future. We’re just proud and pleased to be part of the conversation.

What are some differences between the Canadian and U.S. luxury high-rise markets, and what are the similarities?

Home buyers are humans; they choose communities that resonate with them. Canada, the United States, and all of our high-rise market buyers are looking for service that resonates with that.

We do see different levels of amenities in Canada. To give you some data points economically in Canada, when it comes to the higher-end luxury communities, the operating costs and monthly maintenance fees are $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

For comparison’s sake, down in South Florida, that segment will be $2 to $3 per square foot. At the upper end in New York City, it’s $3 to $5 per square foot. So that gives you a sense of cost relative to the amenities. There are other things, and there are operating costs. Still, the level of service is very different in resort-style living in places like Miami and the luxury markets in New York City than what home buyers expect in Canada, where it’s much more price sensitive per square foot on the maintenance fees.

You have been instrumental in building the foundation of the FirstService Residential brand. What is the most surprising change in the industry you’ve experienced during your time with the company?

It’s always been about service. We serve people in their homes in these communities. What has surprised me is how resilient and growth-minded this industry has been, particularly in the last four years.

When I think back over many years and the last crash back in 2007—now the health of the markets is incredible. The demand and thirst for service expectations are through the roof from our home buyers. We’re investing in looking at how we can better serve the needs of today’s buyers. Service expectations have never been higher. It’s about immediacy. It used to be that we’d serve people in their homes. It was property management. Today, it’s accelerated in terms of hospitality, level of service, and people’s expectations in these homes.