COVID-19 pushes Chicago couple to make the move

David Wilkinson epitomizes a new type of luxury buyer that’s going to be relocating to Las Vegas in the aftermath of the COVID-19 era.

Not only are he and his wife, Brenee, attracted to Nevada’s lack of a state income tax compared to states like California, but COVID-19 has changed the workplace where he realized he can work from home rather than commute or travel to an office.

David, 61, managing director of Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management at Willis Tower in Chicago and Brenee, have bought a $2.1 million Vu Estates home that’s under construction by Christopher Homes in MacDonald Highlands.

The Wilkinsons sold their home in Chicago and have rented there with the intention of finding a primary residence outside the state where David could work from home. The couple has also had a second home in Irvine, California, for five months.

Wilkinson said the COVID-19 quarantine taught him that his business of managing $1 billion for 25 families wasn’t enhanced by going into the Chicago office. He said he communicates with his team and clients just as easily from home, aided by technology of Morgan Stanley investing billions of dollars over the last few years to enable home systems to mirror those in the office.

“Had the COVID issue not happened, we probably would have moved to Dallas because of the proximity back and forth to Chicago,” Wilkinson said. “Now, I realize I don’t have to go back and forth to Chicago into the office, and I’m working entirely from home. … Due to my experience during the COVID-19 quarantine, going into the Willis Tower office now seems like a complete waste of time. Even getting to my office on the 92nd floor (via two elevators and limited crowding inside them) will take much more time. … That’s what accelerated the viability of Las Vegas.”

Wilkinson said he and his wife have been thinking about a move out of Chicago for years to a more tax-friendly state.

Before the coronavirus factor entered the picture, their decision had long centered on three important factors.

The biggest was economics because Illinois has rising state taxes and an estate tax. The state’s finances “are in terrible shape, and that not only impacts tax rates but impacts property values. People sell their homes for less than what they paid 10 to 15 years ago,” Wilkinson said.

Second, Wilkinson said they were looking for a city with great restaurants like Chicago, a lot of entertainment options and a place with increased outdoor recreational opportunities for hiking, biking and boating.

Third, Wilkinson said proximity to Southern California and their second/summer home was important. But he needed a great hub like McCarran International Airport where he can easily travel for work and pleasure inside or outside the country, since they fly more than 100,000 miles a year.

“That was all the things that led us to think about it, but we could just never get comfortable when we came to the Strip,” Wilkinson said. “Comments from people were it’s a great place to visit but you can’t live there. We listened to all of that, and we had to make up our mind if we could live there.”

Wilkinson said he found local luxury Realtor Kristen Routh Silberman online. She set up appointments for The Ridges in Summerlin, Southern Highlands and MacDonald Highlands. Once they saw Vu Estates, they loved it and the Henderson hillside community and cancelled their other two appointments.

Wilkinson said they had been considering Austin and Arizona where they both had family. They also preferred to live in a college town.

“Las Vegas became our first choice on paper,” Wilkinson said. “We just needed to go there and see if we could get comfortable with any of the neighborhoods, as most of our previous experiences there were at the Strip.”

Their Irvine home in Shady Canyon is in a gated golf course community, similar to MacDonald Highlands. The Irvine home is 5,000 square feet and two-stories with four bedrooms.

The Vu Estates home is two stories and measures 4,400 square feet with three bedrooms that will be completed in three to four months. The couple plan to install a pool.

“We have a gorgeous view of the Strip and golf course and mountains,” Wilkinson said. “I never lived in the LA area, but (Brenee has), and she said it reminded her of the Hollywood Hills in that it’s a beautiful community with great views and great facilities. We thought it was gorgeous.”

The second level will have a roof deck for views. Wilkinson said he will have his office on the second floor.

The couple, who have five grown children and 11 grandchildren, will be great ambassadors for the city.

Wilkinson said they know people who are looking to relocate to the West, and Las Vegas is on their list.

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