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With the coronavirus pandemic putting countries around the world on lockdown and social distancing becoming the norm, the world’s wealthiest are resorting to extreme measures to try and avoid catching COVID-19.
Dodging public transportation like trains and commercial flights in favor of private cars and privately chartered jets, the US’s richest citizens are also quarantining themselves in second homes – and even eyeing up disaster bunkers.
From the Hamptons influx to $1 million bunkers designed to survive a nuclear catastrophe, here’s how the 1% is dealing with the pandemic.
$5 million luxury ‘survival’ bunkers
Then, there are options for the very wealthy.
Larry Hall, developer and owner of Survival Condo Projects, offers a luxury safe haven that can be sealed off from the outside world as the pandemic worsens.
“We’ve seen a spike in inquiries and there is a difference in the calls. People are more serious, and most of them specifically mention that they are worried about the coronavirus,” Hall told us.
“We usually have to do some level of sales effort to get people to come here for a tour, and now the clients seem to have an urgency. Most have acknowledged that they were familiar with our bunkers prior to this latest threat and that they were interested before, but the coronavirus has made it more of a priority,” Hall said of the former Atlas missile silo infrastructure that can support between 36 and 70 people for more than 5 years.
In addition to asking about the units available (half-floor, full-floor and penthouse accommodations) and the price point ($1.5 – $4.5 million), Hall also noted that some are so eager to purchase a bunker, they aren’t even waiting to take a tour first.
“Just last week we had a client ask for a video of a half-floor unit on Tuesday, then we worked on the contract for Wednesday and Thursday, and closed on Friday – without the buyer having physically been here to see the unit,” he said.
With commercial flights making social-distancing an impossible task, those who have the means are turning to private charter aircraft.
“In terms of short-term inquiries, it is very busy indeed,” said Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly, who noted a 50 – 60% increase compared to last March.
“Routes are very varied, including shorter flights within Europe and the US, and longer transatlantic and transcontinental flights,” he said.
But seeking out a private jet doesn’t come without its own set of concerns.
“Availability of private charter aircraft is an issue at the moment with travel bans and border restrictions increasingly in place,” Twidell told us. “Plus, [with] the additional demand, it is proving more challenging to source aircraft in some cases,” he said, adding that his company is also seeing an increase in travel cancelations as plans change quickly.
In NYC, the city’s elite have flocked to their summer homes in the Hudson Valley, Vermont and Long Island a bit earlier. In particular, the Hamptons, which usually considers Memorial Day weekend as the start of its season, is filling up.
“We have definitely experienced an uptick in business from Manhattanites and their families who have their second homes here and are in the Hamptons isolating,” said Keith Davis, founder and owner of popular cafe, Golden Pear, which has locations in Southampton, Bridgehampton and East Hampton.
“We started to see a lot of our Manhattan customers that we typically don’t see this time of year coming out last Friday,” Davis explained, adding that new restrictions imposed by New York limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery only may change the number of customers.
“We were seeing people come in to have their breakfast, lunch or dinner and sitting in the cafe, but as of Monday at 8pm, we’ll be doing takeout,” he said, adding that even areas like the Hamptons aren’t exempt from the problems facing businesses and the food service industry in particular.
“I’ve been in the business 33 years out here, and this is an unprecedented event, even for the Hamptons.”