By Mike Espindle
Travel and leisure pioneer Alistair Ballantine, who has had an illustrious history with Abercrombie & Kent, Orient-Express and Oberoi, visited me recently to discuss his latest venture, Rocksure Property. A kind-of re-invisioning of the fractional ownership/destination club concept so popular a few years ago, Rocksure is creating buzz by using some of the hard lessons learned from the first generation of travel property ownership and focusing on the investment side of the equation as intently as they focus on the hospitality side. Rocksure offers a series of “funds” or portfolios of properties that are limited both in the number of investors allowed in, the numbers of properties purchased and the timeframe of the investment itself. For example, its latest offering, called the Capital Fund, gathers together 10 exclusive, two-bedroom residences in 10 European capital cities (all ranging from $1.5 to $2 million values), including London, Paris, Florence and Prague (about half of the fund’s properties have already been purchased).
The 150 initial investors are all “owners” of the group of residences, and the investment is geared for a 10-year term. Early investors get a price break on their share, a priority position in property usage and first dibs on new properties that enter the portfolio. An investor today might pay in about $200,000 (plus a nominal annual fee and even smaller per-use charge) for a share that grants them up to three weeks of use of the fund’s properties. In addition, Rocksure also have several other “funds” already in process, mostly comprised of country estates and villas across the globe, from Brazil to the Orient. Shareholders get access to these properties, as well. A simple point system is used to redeem usage time; more points are taken for using a property during a holiday, using a property outside of the primary investment fund, and so on. All properties include maid service and a local concierge service, as well. Anything from private chefs to social reservations to childcare can be arranged with a phone call.
By demystifying the value proposition, simplifying the usage programs and not losing a wit to the white-glove aspect of ownership management and hospitality, Rocksure presents one of the more compelling pictures for lifestyle property investment I’ve seen in a while.