If you were wealthy enough to afford whatever house you wanted, what would be first on your list?
According to a recent survey of the world's wealthiest people by real estate company Luxury Portfolio International, the answer to that question is most often privacy.
Luxury Portfolio partnered with market research firm YouGov to conduct the survey of a representative sample of the top 10% of consumers in 12 countries globally: United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, China, Japan, Australia, Korea and Singapore.
The research team completed more than 5,000 online interviews of wealthy people, in addition to focus groups and in-person interviews.
When asked about the characteristics they typically seek in a home, 61% of those surveyed said that having lots of privacy was important to them.
Privacy was the most commonly named characteristic in the survey, beating out high-end kitchen appliances, en-suite luxury bathrooms, and master bedrooms with dual walk-in closets.
"We know that those of means regard home as a refuge and a place to spend time with family and those who have achieved a similar level of success," Stephanie Pfeffer-Anton, executive vice president of Luxury Portfolio, told Business Insider. "The desire to enjoy the lifestyle that their wealth affords them with a certain level of solitude and discretion drives the demand for privacy."
That desire for privacy often leads to the installation of high-tech smart home systems and high fences, and sometimes even the hiring of security guards. For some of America's wealthiest, it could also mean purchasing the home next door so that no one else moves in.
In November 2013, Elon Musk paid $6.75 million for a teardown across the street from his $17 million Bel-Air mansion. A year later, Mark Zuckerberg did a similar thing, buying four houses surrounding his Palo Alto home in a purchase that has since brought him a fair amount of legal trouble. In addition to another home in San Francisco, Zuckerberg also owns 750 acres of secluded land on the North Shore of Kauai — big enough for a set of villas or even a resort, but he apparently plans to build only one home.
The practice of using LLCs to hide a buyer's identity is also fairly common, and it is legal. In January, the Treasury Department announced that it would begin tracking the masked buyers of high-end properties in New York City and Miami-Dade County. The new initiative will require real-estate companies to reveal the names of people who purchase properties behind shell companies, often in all-cash transactions.