Have a Drink, Buy Some Art, Get a Condo

Posted on Wed, 03-14-2012

The New York Times reported a few weeks ago about an art show that doubled as an open house in an apartment building in the Chelsea neighborhood. The art on display was the work of Eve Plumb, the actress who played Jan Brady on “The Brady Bunch” in the early 1970s. The location was Carriage House, a new building on West 24th Street designed by Broad Mill Development Group, which had set up the showing. And the purpose of the event was, as Mrs. Plumb bluntly told the New York Times, to “have a drink, buy some art, get a condo.”

This art showing is only the latest in a new trend real estate brokers have started, the practice of jazzing up showings as a way of luring in wealthy clientele. While buildings like One57 and W New York Downtown have become darlings of the press and have had no trouble finding buyers, many other high-end Manhattan apartment buildings have trouble getting noticed. So brokers have begun staging increasingly elaborate events in open houses that they can bill as entertainment in themselves.

A few weeks before the Eve Plumb art show, a building at 123 Third Avenue hosted a “bundled luxury event” it called “Shop at the Top.” The event featured venders from several top of the line retail stores such as La Maison du Chocolat, Aaron Basha Jewelery and Illuminum perfume, as well as wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a psychic. While guests shopped and schmoozed with one another, brokers led tours in groups of four to multi-million dollar penthouseson the upper floors of the building.

The trend has become so popular that one company recently expanded its scope to include a branch that plans parties for house showings. Divalysscious Moms, a company founded nine years ago by Lyss Stern, is a company that hosts networking events. Recently the company added a real estate division, that focuses on connecting buyers with brokers. Divalysscious Moms has hosted several events in several buildings, including Carriage House, as well as the neighborhood's Chelsea Mansion. Stern told Crain's New York that developers are willing to pay as much as $5,000 for a first class party that may bring in interested buyers.

Brokers who have participated in this practice freely admit that they are willing to do whatever it takes to increase the level of interest in a listing. Simply listing the amenities on a high-end condo building isn’t enough to draw a crowd anymore, which is a source of frustration to sellers. But it is on another level a sign of stability in the high-end housing market. Wealthy buyers have so many housing options to choose from that they must be enticed to new buildings with the promise of parties and celebrities. While this trend demonstrates the heights of competition between brokers, it also indicates there is a safety buffer for buyers of Manhattan condos.

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