Firms promote the ‘value’ of real estate

By Candace Taylor | April 21, 2009 11:51AM

alternate textLeft to right: Diane Ramirez, a Halstead “Value Factor” unit and Pamela Liebman

“Value” has now so thoroughly eclipsed “luxury” as the buzzword that real estate firms are now tweaking their Web sites to feature it.

In a bid to lure bargain-hunting buyers, Halstead Property and the Corcoran Group have started promoting certain properties on their Web sites as “value” listings.  

“Value is what buyers are looking for,” said Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead. “We’ve taken that to the next level.”

Her company recently introduced the Halstead Value Factor, a program that identifies properties that are particularly well-priced for their location and size, and highlights them on the company Web site.

Ramirez came up with the idea after being asked by the New York Observer what home buyers are looking for these days. Realizing that home seekers are primarily looking for good value, she found herself wishing there was a more efficient way for the company to promote its best deals. That’s especially true since value is more than just price, Ramirez said: it also includes intangibles like location and quality.

“We wanted to somehow quantify what a value is,” she said. “We felt you had to have a vetting process to it.”

Enter the new program. In order to have a listing anointed as a “value factor” property, a broker must submit a raft of information to Halstead executives, including a list of all accepted offers and contract signed listings in the building, all closings in the building within the past six months, and other comparable properties that have closed within the last 60 days. If a property passes muster, it’s posted in the “value factor” section of the Web site along with an explanation of why it qualifies.

For example, a listing for a $639,000 one-bedroom “value factor” property at 15 West 72nd Street comes with a note explaining that an alcove studio in the building was sold for $549,000 a year ago. The current listing recently went into contract, according to the site.

“I see it almost like the Good Housekeeping seal,” Ramirez explained. While it’s still up to the buyers to determine if the properly is a bargain, the program will “reassure them that they’re not guessing if it’s a value or not.”

To give the program more legitimacy, properties may be labeled “value factor” for only 45 days. If they’re not sold by then, the price must be reduced by 5 percent in order for it to remain a “value factor” property. If they’re still not sold after 90 days, the label is removed.

“If it’s just lip service, it will die on the vine,” Ramirez said. Sister company Brown Harris Stevens, which targets a higher-end market than Halstead, does not have a similar program.

So far, customers are responding well to the Halstead initiative: since it was launched in mid-April, two of the featured properties have gone into contract and several other offers have been accepted, according to a company spokesperson.

Halstead also recently introduced a special section of the Web site where buyers can browse among units reserved for those making less than a certain salary.

In a similar vein, in February Corcoran added a page to its Web site entitled “Corcoran’s Little Page of Big Values,” based on a similar print brochure, which features certain properties and explains why they represent good deals.

For example, a listing for #PH-E at 96 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights is tagged with a note explaining that the property has been reduced to $225,000 from $300,000, and that the seller is offering a 2-point rate buy-down for buyers offering full asking price.

In order to be considered a “big value,” a property must have been reduced in price in the last 30 days or be deemed by Corcoran managers to be “very well-priced,” said Christina Lowris, an executive vice president of marketing and advertising at Corcoran.

“People are watching their pennies and are not looking to overspend,” she said. “We’re responding to that culture.”

She said page views of the value section of the Web site, which is updated weekly, have increased each month.

Pamela Liebman, Corcoran’s CEO, said the initiative is part of a revamped ad campaign aimed at value-conscious, first-time buyers.  

“We want our customers to know that it’s not about the bells and whistles — it’s about value,” she said.