Century 21 hopes to follow the Yellow Brick Road to sales

By Candace Taylor | June 16, 2009 06:14PM

Century 21 hopes Ashanti’s singing can entice people into buying a home

Aiming to generate more brand recognition in New York City, Century 21 Real Estate will host a performance by “The Wiz” star Ashanti in Grand Central Terminal Monday during the morning rush hour.

The Grammy-winning R&B singer, who plays Dorothy in the Encores! Summer Stars production of “The Wiz” at City Center, will sing the appropriately themed song “Home” from the show, in Vanderbilt Hall at 11 a.m.

Century 21 Real Estate President and CEO Tom Kunz will then present a check for $221,000, to be used toward the purchase of a new home, to the winner of Century 21’s recent “Path To Your Dreams” sweepstakes.

Century 21 Real Estate, a subsidiary of Realogy Corporation, is the franchisor of independently owned New York City sales and rental firm Century 21 NY Metro.  

The splashy event comes just weeks after the shuttering of another Realogy-operated franchise, Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy.

The demise of CBHK, a 21-year-old company that was founded in 1988 as Hunt Kennedy, has been attributed in part to the lack of weight the Coldwell Banker name carries in Manhattan, with COO JoAnne Kennedy saying just weeks before the company’s closure that many New Yorkers “associate the Coldwell Banker logo with the suburbs.”

Century 21, too, is “misunderstood as being a suburban-only brand,” said Beverly Thorne, senior vice president of marketing at Century 21 Real Estate, noting that urban areas make up some of the areas where the company has the most market share.

She denied that the event was prompted by the closure of CBHK, but said it is intended to help build brand recognition of Century 21 in New York City.

“This is an ideal opportunity to showcase to consumers that Century 21 is a company that can help them [with] their homeownership needs,” she said, adding that Grand Central was also a desirable location for the “home”-themed event because of the many commuters that pass through each day.

“It’s An Iconic Place to catch people at the crossroads of home and work,” Thorne said.

Ashanti will perform in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall on a stage designed to look like the Century 21 logo against a backdrop of a yellow brick road, meant to symbolize both the “Wizard of Oz”-based musical and the “Path to Your Dreams” sweepstakes. The performance will be shown on video screens throughout the day. Meanwhile, Century 21 agents will be on hand near the stage from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to speak with passersby, and to provide information about the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, she said.

Thorne said the company also hopes to impart the message that “the dream of homeownership is alive and well, despite the downturn in the economy.”

Homeowners all over the country are going into foreclosure, she said, but for some qualified buyers, now is a good time to buy a home because interest rates and prices are low.  

“It’s an unprecedented good time to purchase a home for a sub-segment of the market,” she said. “[Buyers] shouldn’t be deterred by a national headline.”

The event is co-sponsored by the non-profit Organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which donates money to AIDS and family service organizations across the country.