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Read the Book, Buy the Condo

The New York Times // Nov 16, 2012

ABOUT 60 women gathered inside a condominium on Liberty Street in the financial district on a Sunday evening not long ago to hear Dana Adam Shapiro read from his newly released book, “You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce,” a journalistic investigation into why so many marriages fail. The women were also there to buy lingerie, get a psychic reading — and inspect the $2.68 million triplex condo for sale.

The topic had relevance to Heather Knapp, a 29-year-old marketing executive, who is dating a divorced man. “My boyfriend’s an open book, he tells me a lot,” she said, “but I was interested to hear someone else’s take on the experience.” In addition to the apartment, Ms. Knapp, who lives on the Upper East Side, was curious about the increasingly residential financial district.

This event, mixing an author and a condo, is just one of many such gatherings that have taken place at buildings across Manhattan in recent months. Many have been organized by Divalysscious Moms, a company that puts on events for New York-area mothers. Founded by Lyss Stern five years ago, it has 465,000 members. Ms. Stern hosts a book club, exclusive shopping events, makeovers, and other occasions for moms with and without their kids.

In the last year she has brought E. L. James, Kathie Lee Gifford, Laurie David, Soleil Moon Frye and other authors together with the mothers in her network for readings in multimillion-dollar apartments for the purpose of selling books and real estate. “Authors are selling books and the books give such value to the events,” Ms. Stern said. “There is no better way to get buyers into these beautiful apartments.”

Indeed, others are following suit. The designer Jonathan Adler is scheduled to present his new book at 225 Rector Place this winter, and 400 Fifth Avenue is hosting an event for the photographer Evan Joseph’s new book.

Randy Rastello-McManus, a 42-year-old jewelry and graphic designer, said she had been attracted to the Liberty Street reading by both the apartment and the subject. She lives in the Country Club section of the Bronx but is often in Manhattan for work. As she looked at the oversize chandelier hanging from the double-height ceiling, she said the triplex could work well for her family.

It required a little imagination to make that assessment, because the apartment was unfurnished except for the rows of folding chairs that had been set up for the reading. A resale whose owner provided guests with wine from his collection, the unit has been on the market for about four months. Deborah Lupard, the Warburg Realty agent handling the listing, described the event as a good opportunity to get potential buyers and brokers through the door. Bringing people in, she said, is important because it allows her to explain that even though monthly maintenance is $11,600, the apartment is priced low on a per-square-foot basis, something potential buyers might miss just looking at the listing online. (Also, she can emphasize that the owner will contribute to the maintenance for three years, reducing the buyer’s monthly cost to $7,995.)

Ms. Lupard says author events can work for most apartment listings. Because the Liberty Street event was taking place in a large triplex, she arranged for the psychic, the lingerie and the wine tasting in addition to the reading. A smaller apartment might book just one attraction, to reduce overcrowding. “Anything, an art show or poetry reading, anything that entices as many people to view the property is a good thing,” she said.

The Azure on the Upper East Side, which has three-, four- and five-bedroom units, has hosted three events with Divalysscious Moms. But they were just part of the larger marketing strategy for the building, said Douglas MacLaury, a senior vice president of the Mattone Group, a sponsor of the Azure along with the Dematteis Organizations. The building has also hosted wine-and-cheese gatherings, as well as events on how to find the best doctors and how to get into private preschools.

“We try to choose an author who appeals to the people that we are trying to attract to the building,” Mr. MacLaury said. “If you are trying to appeal to higher-end clientele who can afford these apartments, something to do with fashion, high-end food, those seem to be the topics that bring people to the table.” Kathie Lee Gifford read her children’s book “Party Animals” in the building playroom. Other events have taken place in the lounge and in the four-bedroom model apartment. The building, which has been on the market since mid-2010, is over 60 percent sold, according to Mr. MacLaury.

Authors also benefit from the arrangement, said Jennifer Gilbert, who wrote “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events — the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t,” about her recovery from a violent attack. Her first reading was at One Museum Mile, on Fifth Avenue and 110th Street. Many of the women attending the event had already started the book and were interested in Ms. Gilbert’s story of recovery. The event was held on the roof deck, which has views of Central Park. “We had a nice group of moms,” Ms. Gilbert recalled. “We had tea and talked about the book.”

Author events can be an easy way to draw potential buyers to a building in an unfamiliar neighborhood, said Natalie Rakowski, a managing director of the CORE Group, the brokerage handling One Museum Mile. “We had three or four moms who came from TriBeCa and were pleasantly surprised,” she said.

Though Mr. MacLaury was unaware of anyone who attended an event who ultimately bought an apartment, he said the events helped generate interest among friends and associates of those who do attend. One recent buyer, he said, is a friend of a reading participant.

Dana Haddad, a 40-year-old educational consultant and a voracious reader, came to Ms. Gilbert’s event just to see her. “I was really just interested in being around like-minded people who enjoy reading,” she said. “I also happened to be looking for an apartment, and it had not even occurred to me to look at the building.”

Ms. Haddad, whose fiancé has three teenage children, has been back several times since, to look at apartments.

Original Article: The New York Times