The Real Deal New York

Need a renter? Try giving away free bikes

In down market, freebies proliferate at rentals and condos

April 30, 2010
By Joel Marino

Prospective buyers playing hard-to-get? How about sweetening the deal with an iPad? Some developers and brokers are turning to quirky giveaways, hoping the extra incentives will help fill buildings during this tough economy. The freebies, often tacked on to traditional incentives such as fee eliminations or coverage of certain taxes, are the latest trend in attention-getting promotions.

In one online ad, a broker with Platinum Properties offered to throw in two custom suits worth $2,000 each with the keys to a penthouse apartment. The broker could not be reached to say if the penthouse had been rented.

Last month, Alchemy Properties gave away iPads and 42-inch high-definition televisions to anyone who signed a contract to buy units at the Griffin Court Condominium in Midtown. More than 150 people stopped by the property during the promotion’s first two weeks, said the president of Alchemy, Kenneth Horn.

“It’s definitely generating enthusiasm and helping people come into the building,” Horn said.

In March, brokers with aptsandlofts.com gave out the iPod Touch to renters at 60 Monitor Street in Williamsburg. They also offered free Huffy cruiser bicycles to anyone renting an apartment at 150 Johnson Avenue, also in Williamsburg.

“The idea was simply to touch base with our market, to give them something different, something interesting but specific to them,” said David Maundrell, the brokerage firm’s president. “We didn’t just want to give things away for the sake of it.”

Innovative incentives can also cut costs for developers with bare-bones advertising budgets, thanks to the word-of-mouth response they generate.

“We paid about $4,000 for the bikes, a fraction of what we might have paid for a one-shot print ad in the major papers,” Maundrell said. “We were able to catch people’s attention without blowing our budget.”

Renters and buyers aren’t the only ones taking note — brokers are also scoring giveaways, a practice that has become an industry norm.

Brokers who brought the buyers to the Griffin Court Condominiums were rewarded with gadgets; one broker went home with three flat-screen TVs, Horn said.

Looking to generate interest in Harlem’s 5th on the Park condo, the Griffin Real Estate Group raffled five iPads to brokers during two parties last month. The developer was looking to attract brokers as part of the building’s latest marketing push.

But the latest hot item can be tomorrow’s cold throwaway, meaning the hunt is on for novel incentives to offer buyers in upcoming promotions.

“I wouldn’t offer an iPad in six months,” said Carole Griffin, Griffin Real Estate Group’s director of sales. “But I’m sure there’ll be something that’s appealing, that’ll give us a little extra ‘oomph.'” 

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