Flashy cars offered as incentives

By Marc Ferris | January 18, 2008 03:15PM

When the market turns down, developers tend to roll out incentives, including trips, pools and the waiving of payments and fees. In Demarest, N.J., American Properties Realty has launched a unique promotion: buyers at the gated Bellaire Townhome Community will find a new Maserati Quattroporte in their garages if they close before Jan. 31.

The company offered the $130,000 car as part of its sponsorship of the Corporate Leader magazine launch party, held at the Four Seasons in Manhattan.

“They had a lot of high-profile sponsors, so it seemed like a good way to try and stick out and give us a ‘wow’ factor,” said Deborah Deck,project director at the Bellaire. “It’s more of a promotion than an incentive, but we have two appointments scheduled.”

Homes at the complex start at $1.9 million; in late December, around a third had been sold. So far, no one has bought a unit during the promotion, which probably won’t be repeated.

Nationally, such enticements are appearing more frequently and a common theme is wheels: MJW Investments, developer of Santee Village lofts in downtown Los Angeles, will pay for a three-year lease on a MINI Cooper for those who buy through Feb. 3.

And in Manhattan, one listing agent with a $2.2 million condo to move dangled a Mercedes 500SL AMG to the buyer’s broker who closed the deal after making a full-price offer.

Even so, New York City and some of its wealthier suburbs aren’t deluged with incentives just yet.

“I haven’t heard about any incentives up here,” said P. Gilbert Mercurio, CEO of the Westchester County Board of Realtors. “We’ve had lots of new development but we’re in good shape. Our market is driven by people from New York City and when they’re in good shape, we get that flow of buyers to the north.”

Doug Fenichel, spokesman for K. Hovnanian Homes in New Jersey, said that although incentives are almost always on the table for qualified buyers, they are generally modest.

“With our homes, we’ve gone through the whole process of determining the right pricing and we’ve always offered incentives on specific homes at the top of the market, forgiving fees, perhaps, or upgrading a granite countertop to next the level of granite,” he said. “In the end, though, people figure out that quality and value are a lot more important than any gimmick.”