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Live The Luxe Life Without a Mansion

Super-high-end apartments are setting a new standard for those who prefer to rent

Posh residences are just the start. Resort-like amenities, activities, a neighborhood feel and a hassle-free lifestyle are also attracting young professionals and empty-nesters to swanky new rental properties.

Life at Miami’s new 85-story Panorama Tower trumps a sojourn at a deluxe hotel. Apartments have five-foot-deep glass-railed balconies, walk-in closets and dressing areas. Residents of its 821 apartments have 100,000 square feet of shared amenity space to enjoy. “We have rooms for everything,” says Jerome Hollo, executive vice president of Florida East Coast Realty, the developer.

Among the perks are multiple restaurants, three plush movie theaters, and private dining and wine-tasting rooms with wine lockers. Musicians have a soundproof “Muse Room” for private jam sessions and live recordings. Residents who work remotely can lease one of the Panorama’s private furnished offices. “To make it easy, we have a post office on site and a pet daycare, grooming and boarding facility,” and a weekend beach shuttle, Hollo says. “We really tried to create this very luxurious apartment and incredibly luxurious amenities package.”

Heated pools, a children’s splash pad, cabanas and a cafe bar are on the expansive 22nd-floor pool deck, along with social lounges, a kids’ playroom and a sports lounge. The commodious fitness center boasts spinning, cardio and workout equipment, a yoga and pilates studio, a spa, and steam and massage rooms.

The Vanderbilt (courtesy of the developers)

The Vanderbilt (courtesy of the developers)

Wowed renters are signing one-, two- and three-year leases, Hollo says. “At the end of the day, it’s a better investment. They aren’t worried about paying the taxes. They aren’t worried about whether it appreciates. There’s flexibility when moving, and they get a nicer luxury package than you might get buying some of these condos and a nicer amount of amenities.”

Bejeweled with 40 pieces of art, the Oskar, a 14-story, 118-unit Manhattan apartment house which opened in June, “combines the convenience of home with the feeling of a hotel,” says Natasha Vardi,  senior vice president of residential leasing for the Moinian Group, the developer. “It rivals a condo at the end of the day.”

Apartments have keyless entry locks, floor-to-ceiling undulating windows  (on floors 8 and higher) and modern pale taupe oak wood floors. Kitchens sport Caesarstone countertops, glass backsplashes, paneled Bosch appliances and distinctive millwork shelving; some have wine fridges. Radiant heat warms bathroom floors in some units. Guest bathrooms feature soaking tubs. Custom closets sport illuminated hanging rods. “The renter has a discerning taste,” Vardi says. “They want the amenities; they want the finishes.”

A communal living room with hightop tables provides a place to “plug and play.” The building also has a business center, a fitness center, a cafe seating area, a garden terrace, an onyx-and-river rock reflecting pool and sculpture by artist Arik Levy and a furnished rooftop terrace with skyline and Hudson River views.

The pool on the 41st floor of Houston’s  463-unit top-of-the-line Market Square Tower has a glass bottom that cantilevers dramatically over the side of the building. It’s just one part of a wealth of carefully curated amenities—a rooftop sky gym and training studio, a grand ballroom with a catering kitchen, a poker suite, billiards, a children’s playroom, a movie theater and a cyber lounge—that make Houston’s tallest residential tower a standout. In addition to 24-hour concierge service, runners deliver dry cleaning, packages and groceries.

Penthouse rendering of the Oskar (courtesy of the developers)

Penthouse rendering of the Oskar (courtesy of the developers)

As apartment living in this Lone Star city shifts from garden apartments to high rises, “people are demanding more and more in their homes in terms of amenities and quality,” says Philip Schneidau, president of Woodbranch Investments Corp, developer of the two-year-old property. “We set the bar really high,” Schneidau says. Among the takers: millennials who aren’t quite ready for home ownership, professionals who want to walk to work nearby and empty nesters who “still want quality of living but don’t want the hassle of homeownership.”

Residents choose from three finishes for custom-crafted cabinetry and kitchen islands. Living areas in select residences have art niches, built-in bookshelves and floor-to-ceiling windows equipped with solar and black-out shades. Bathrooms boast marble countertops and framed mirrors with brushed nickel accents; some have oversized soaking tubs with separate walk-in showers. To feel like a neighborhood, Market Square Tower holds Sunday brunches, movies on Monday nights, cooking lessons, monthly happy hours and an annual building-wide basketball tournament. Rents for 3,500-square-foot three-bedroom penthouses with oversized kitchens and jumbo balconies start at $16,500 monthly.

After Beechwood Homes built a 720-unit luxury condominium residence 25 miles east of Manhattan for boomers who wanted to downsize from estate homes with resort-style amenities, many buyers told the developers “they’d love to see the same caliber of residences to rent instead of own,” says Steven Dubb, a principal.

Hence, the Vanderbilt, a 195-unit luxury apartment-hotel, including 17 $4,800-a-month hotel rooms. Opened in March, the six-story building is 95 percent leased with millennial to boomer renters. The ground floor common areas are designed for community building and healthy living: a library-lounge has fine art and rich furnishings; a 24-hour grab-and-go offers counter service. A fitness center includes a yoga studio, exercise classes and personal training.

Outside, an expansive heated pool and deck area includes a poolside bar, cabanas and grill stations. Off the striking lobby is a restaurant. Upstairs is a children’s playroom. Apartments have open floor plans, nine-foot ceilings, six-inch walnut floors and crown moldings; some units have a balcony or terrace. Kitchens have custom-grade wood cabinets and quartz countertops; bathrooms are fitted with Italian porcelain and designer fixtures. Penthouses rent for $8,000 monthly. “Instead of spending a couple of hours in an airplane flying to a resort,” Dubb says, “our residents can take the elevator and in two minutes have their resort lifestyle on the ground floor.”