World’s ultrarich suffered $10 trillion hit last year—but now is the time to be greedy, wealth report advises

The world's wealthy saw their biggest collective loss of wealth since the 1930s.
The world’s ultrawealthy lost the staggering sum of $10 trillion, but now is the time to get greedy again.
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Last year was not kind to the multimillionaires and billionaires of the world. 

According to the 17th edition of its annual wealth report, real estate consultancy Knight Frank found a traditional blended portfolio belonging to individuals with at least $30 million in assets net of liabilities suffered its worst losses last year since the 1930s.

By its calculations, these ultrahigh-net-worth individuals—or UHNWIs—saw a tenth of their collective fortune wiped out as central banks stopped flooding the economy with liquidity and began instead to combat soaring inflation.

In absolute terms, the staggering loss of $10.1 trillion equates roughly to the annual gross domestic product of Germany, the U.K., and France combined

But fear not—now is the time to be greedy, it advises.

The world’s wealthy must look through red-hot inflation figures, more restrictive borrowing conditions, and a cost-of-living crisis to seize chances as they unfold amid this year’s economic rebound. 

“Investors should look beyond these risks,” argued Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank. “As the interest rate pivot approaches later this year, we believe market sentiment will shift quickly, and investors need to be well placed to take advantage of the very real opportunities emerging across global real estate markets.” 

According to Knight Frank, residential real estate is currently viewed as the most desirable choice among the rich and famous when it comes to where they should best invest their money, safer than even gold.

That’s in part because COVID has sparked a massive desire for mobility among the world’s wealthiest.

“The 13% of UHNWIs who are planning to acquire a second passport or citizenship is the tip of the iceberg,” the report found. “The boom in so-called digital nomads is only just starting.”

Dubai is the hottest destination for the world’s ultrawealthy

On average UHNWIs have two-thirds of their fortune tied up in residential and commercial property, split approximately evenly between the two asset classes. On average they each owned 3.7 houses in 2022, up from 2.9 just one year earlier.

By comparison, they only invest about a quarter of their net worth in equities and just 17% in bonds. The remainder is in private equity, venture capital, art, classic cars, gold, and even a small amount in crypto.

The most attractive city for the ultrawealthy at the moment is the emirate of Dubai. The introduction of a new golden visa provides a path to longer-term residence and contributed to residential property prices in the luxury segment soaring 44% last year, more than any other city in the world.

Yet with the exception of certain red-hot luxury markets where the air is currently deflating, such as New Zealand’s Wellington and Auckland, UHNWIs otherwise want to live it up or at least enjoy the fruits of their wealth more often than before.

“The pandemic focused people’s minds on living for today,” argued Mark Harvey, Knight Frank’s head of international sales. “Markets such as Provence, Tuscany, the French Alps, and Barbados have been among our hotspots with no letup in inquiries in 2022.”

Along with Aspen and Miami in the United States, coastal European destinations have seen their property prices jump. 

“Portugal has seen a huge influx of younger wealth in recent years—surfers that have earned money in the U.S. tech sector, for example,” said Katya Zenkovich, a partner in the firm’s private office.

According to Zenkovich, Italy’s prime real estate market has been transformed ever since it extended residency in exchange for a one-off flat tax.

“Three or four years ago there was very little demand for penthouses in Milan,” she said. “Now they are virtually impossible to find.” 

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