Would you buy a condo at a book signing? I pondered that very question the other day after attending one for Laurie David, ex-wife of Larry David, who has written The Family Dinner, a how-to guide on reclaiming the family dinner hour. It was an intimate event, held in a posh highrise apartment near Wall Street in Manhattan, and cohosted by Divalysscious Moms, a company that organizes social events for mothers who can still afford Jimmy Choos and actually wear them to playdates.
The funny thing is that no one in the room owned the apartment; in fact, it's up for sale.
The other cohost was the Ordover Group, a developer trying to position 20 Pine, The Collection – which features Armani-designed common spaces and views of the New York Stock Exchange – as a family-friendly condo community. (After all, what says child-friendly like pale gray, luxury-brand couches?) The hope was that one of these well-heeled moms would come for Laurie David and stay to put money down on a $2.4 million "oversize" two-bedroom.
There were coffee and croissants and plenty of agents on hand to talk about the private school opening right nearby, the supermarkets hidden among the investments banks and the gaggles of strollers you can see all over the financial district (I saw nary a one on my way to and from the subway).
It's the same sales pitch Realtors have been giving about downtown Manhattan for easily a decade now. While the story is old, the delivery -- sneaked in amid an event that promotes a lifestyle rather than the property itself -- is becoming more common.
These events might target single professionals, hip young couples, retiring boomers or families, depending on the size and location of the property the Realtor wants to push.
Ordover also held a "MyPad" open house to attract tech savvy young people to the Marquis Residences, a Miami highrise where owners have onsite access to a rooftop pool, cocktail lounge and upscale restaurant. Visitors who "checked in" (you know, like Four Square) at each of several apartments being shown had a chance to win an iPad at the end of the event.
Celebrity chefs might do a cooking demonstration to draw young couples' attention to the designer kitchens in one building, cupcakes parties might celebrate the stroller parking in another. In Hopkington, Mass., an agent at Hallmark Sotheby's International Realty wanted tocolonial expanse. She staged an elaborate "holiday shopping soirée and fashion show" to raise money for breast-cancer research and showcase the home as "a wonderful space for entertaining," according to Leslie Mann, an agent who helped to stage it.
But these fêtes aren't just for high-end homes. Realtors offer beginner-level courses in how to get a mortgage to lure first-time buyers to affordable spaces. Talks on managing your money in retirement might be the pull for downsizing boomers.
In Pittsburgh last weekend, one developer held a flea market that featured crafts made from re-purposed materials to highlight the artist friendly space in the new Glass Lofts development. At 30 Devoe Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., another artists' enclave, a Realtor turned loft-style apartments into popup galleries where the local talent could show their work.
Do these events actually sell homes?
Mann said her fundraising extravaganza "generated lots of interest" including a fair amount of local press, but the home is still on the market. One of the handful of moms at the book signing was interested in 20 Pine, which is within spitting distance of her husband's office and would save him a daily commute uptown. But even if she never makes an offer, it's probably okay. The point of these events is less to get a buyer on the spot than to use the publicity and word of mouth to position the home in a particular way for a specific demographic.
With its golf simulator, two-lane lap pool, private spa and Wall Street locale, 20 Pine calls out to single, privileged investment bankers more than it does the sippy-cup crowd, which is probably why the studios and one-bedrooms are sold and bigger apartments are still available. If coffee, croissants and Laurie David's black-bean soup recipe can get uptown families to even consider parking their strollers in the lobby, it will no doubt have been worthwhile.
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