‘Horse Riding Capital of the World’ Also a Beacon for Aviators

Taxiway homes in this upscale south Florida aero park start at $2 million.

Kirsten Kopp [Courtesy: Kirsten Kopp]

After years of building a career in niche luxury real estate, broker Kirsten Kopp instinctually knows what her clients want to see first.

“It’s so funny showing either aviation or equestrian real estate," said the Wellington, Florida broker. "Because usually when you show people quote ‘normal people’ homes, they go straight to the kitchen and the primary bedroom. Right? When you show equestrians a home, they go straight to the barn. And when you show pilots a home, they go straight to the hangar."

Over the years, Kopp has become an expert on both types of niche real estate. While she has long been involved with riding horses, she was more recently introduced to flying airplanes.

“I was born in England, immigrated to the States in 1996, and ended up in Palm Beach in about 2006. I’ve been an equestrian all my life, not a pilot, and actually competed in every single different English equestrian discipline. That would include eventing, show jumping, dressage, and then wound-up playing polo. I was really happy doing that and never really considered being a pilot, although I liked going places. Never would have I wanted to fly myself,” she advised.

An aerial view of one of Kopp’s recent taxiway home listings, which is listed at $6.95 million.  [Courtesy: Kirsten Kopp]

“But then I married a pilot, who already lived at Wellington Aero Club (FD38). So, I swapped horses for planes and found myself surrounded by pilots. Indeed, we have a hangar in our backyard and my husband, Ken Kopp, is a professional pilot [chief R&D experimental test pilot at Sikorsky Aircraft] and CFI. So, I thought, ‘What an opportunity. Why on earth would I not learn how to fly?”

Kopp has since become more involved in aviation than she had initially expected she would.

“And at first, I was one of those [spouses] who wanted to do an ‘in a pinch’ type of course. But that’s not really me. If I’m going to do something, I am going to do something properly. So cut forward, I now have my own little Cessna 172. My husband is an aerobatic competitor, so he has a Pitts Special S2C. Then we have a Foxstar Baron E55 family hauler. We’ve now got three planes and are having to expand our hangar.” 

The real estate specialist of more than a decade has found that selling real estate in Wellington has been a great way to combine her two passions, as well as interact with an array of like-minded people from all over the world.

“Selling aviation real estate is fun because naturally I share the same passion as my clients. I get to talk about the aviation lifestyle with many people. It is also usually the ultimate lifelong dream for a pilot—to live in a private airpark, especially in South Florida. So, shopping for a hangar home is an exciting time for most clients. With my clients selling their homes, they look to me to maximize the potential of their property, which obviously takes a pretty unique skill set, which I am happy to employ for them,” Kopp advised.

Kenn and Kirsten Kopp  [Courtesy: Kirsten Kopp]

As the pilot and real estate broker is quick to point out, Wellington is a one-of-a-kind place.

“I love properties in general, but especially aviation and equestrian properties. And in the Village of Wellington, it’s a bubble. We call it the ‘Winter Equestrian Capital of the World,’ because we have about 20,000 people who fly in every winter, from October to April, bringing with them about 8,000 horses. They come from 35 different countries. All of a sudden, six months out of the year, this somewhat sleepy, little suburban South Florida town transforms into an international jet set hotspot. And I’m not exaggerating; many neighbors here in Wellington are household names.”

According to Kopp, it’s not only those with recognizable surnames that call the 255-residence fly-in community home. There are plenty of people living there who are far out of the public eye and come from a variety of professional backgrounds. On average, she says that taxiway homes begin around $2 million and are as high as $10 million. Current and previous listings of Kopp’s Aero Club properties can be seen on her YouTube channel.

“There's a good split at Aero Club, between full and part-time residents. We have a lot of people who have second homes elsewhere, including other hangar homes in different airpark communities. The outer streets of Aero Club are not taxiway homes, but they account for about a third of the homes here. These homes still have full access to the private airport and of course our fuel farm that has very cost-effective avgas and jet fuel.”

Even though Kopp laments that “horses and airplanes don’t really work together,” the community’s focus on her more recently discovered passion in life makes up for the fact that only one home in the community has horses. 

“What makes Aero Club so exceptional and unique is firstly its location. It's located so that you can be in The Bahamas in less than an hour; more like half an hour, depending on your plane and your destination island of course. So, from door to door, you could literally, within an hour, have your feet in the Bahamian sand. Also, you can get anywhere up the Eastern seaboard easily as well. And South Florida is a huge winter hotspot for those Northeasterners that we call snowbirds. How great would it be to be a pilot and for your winter home to have a runway?”

Paved Runway

Kopp says that the private airpark has become more attractive to pilots in recent years for one key reason.

“What really put Aero Club into its own unique luxury niche is when eight years ago, approximately, we paved our 4,000-foot lighted runway. That allows us to have jets with a max gross weight of 12,500 pounds. So now we have a good array of aircraft that are based here, from jets to aerobatic planes, to turboprops, to warbirds, to single engine pistons, and we’ve also got a sizable number of helicopters. We probably have 12 or 13 helicopters in the community now.”

One of Kopp’s neighbors’ Huey helicopter, which is one of the fly-in community’s many head turners.  [Courtesy: Kirsten Kopp]

There isn’t just a good mix of aircraft, but residents as well.

“Aero Club is an extremely sociable neighborhood. I have never experienced a community quite like it! Every Sunday just before sundown, we gather at the pilot house and share stories and cocktails. Often neighbors will bring some potluck items. And we talk and watch the planes taking off and landing. A lot of families have moved here in the last few years, so it’s a very family-friendly feel,” Kopp explained.

“If someone acquires a new plane, neighbors will turn up to admire it. A neighbor recently acquired a Huey helicopter, and as soon as we heard the signature ‘WHAP’ ‘WHAP’ of that helicopter, it was like a siren song. Everyone hopped on their golf carts and gathered to have a look.”

Being that she is so familiar with both, Kopp is privy to say that both equestrians and pilots are unique breeds.

“Equestrians and pilots both share a love of adventure and are mostly adrenalin thrill seekers! They usually have spent many years dedicated to perfecting their craft and love to share their passion with others. Also, because Aero Club is just a one-mile golf cart ride from the Wellington International horse show grounds, we have a lot of equestrians here as well—including Olympians. And a lot of families who enjoy both horses and airplanes, like our family. I ride, and we are both pilots. It’s very niche, but if you are one of us, Aero Club is an absolute paradise. There is nowhere else I would rather live than here.”

Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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