Dose of Reality Helps to Sell Condos

The Wall Street JournalApril 07, 2011
A converted office building on lower Fifth Avenue sold its final two condo units, ending an unusual marketing campaign that relied on a reality television show and social media to sell apartments in the luxury building.

Final condos sold at 141 Fifth Ave.

The 12‐story loft building known as 141 Fifth Ave. was featured on two episodes of "Selling New York," which airs on cable channel HGTV. One of the episodes showcased a penthouse apartment that is topped by a copper‐dome cupola with a wrap‐around terrace, the property's signature feature.

There's been some debate in the brokerage community over how much new attention or additional sales can be generated by an apartment's appearance on a cable‐television show. Many brokers remain skeptical.

But Core, 141 Fifth's selling broker, counted on the show to raise the building's profile, supplementing that exposure with Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Core also took advantage of curiosity about the restored cupola, which can be spotted blocks away from its location at 21st Street and Fifth Avenue, by hosting parties, fund‐raisers and open houses in the penthouses.

A developer can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and more to pay for a traditional print advertising campaign to market a luxury building.

Core Chief Executive Shaun Osher said the alternative approach is the future for the industry, and he is preparing a similar campaign for his next building.

"We made a very strategic decision to avoid an expensive print campaign," he said.

The cupola apartment and a neighboring penthouse were the last two units to be sold. The deals closed on Wednesday, with a buyer who wasn't identified paying $12.9 million for the two apartments.

Overall, total sales for the building's 34 units came to $112 million, with an average price per square foot of about $1,700, according to Core.

The beaux‐arts building, which was completed more than a century ago, was bought for $54 million in 2005 by a partnership of developers led by Savanna. The developers spent more than $40 million on an extensive restoration and gut renovation that left the property covered in mesh for three years.

While many of the units sold quickly—and two have already been resold—the final units took time to move. Core vastly overpriced the cupola apartment compared with the deal price. The initial asking price was $12 million, which amounts to about $1 million less than the buyer actually paid for that apartment and the one next door.

"It was hard to value that apartment because there is no comparable one in the city," said Mr. Osher.