He who must not be named: Amid political controversies, some brokers grow wary of Trump brand

Developer’s moniker tougher to spot in high-profile listings

Apr.April 12, 2016 10:30 AM

As Donald Trump’s quest for the White House continues to attract controversy, some luxury real estate brokers are downplaying or even omitting the Trump brand in marketing efforts.

The trend, identified by well-connected brokers and market observers, raises new questions over the potentially detrimental effects of Trump’s presidential run on his highly lucrative luxury brand.

“If you were a wealthy Latino, would you be concerned about going to a building where [the developer] thinks you’re bringing drugs and crime?” said one broker. “How can that not cross their mind?”

In Manhattan alone, 10 buildings carry the Trump name. But one wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell from marketing materials for their priciest pads. Brown Harris Stevens’ current $26.5 million penthouse listing at 1 Central Park West, for example, describes the tower and the apartment over seven paragraphs. But not once does it mention that the apartment sits atop Trump International Hotel and Tower, and it only mentions the name Trump in passing in the final sentence.

A Corcoran listing for another penthouse at the tower, which sold for $14.2 million in November, also didn’t mention the name Trump in the headline or the promotional text.

A source familiar with the building said that the omissions are mere coincidence, adding that the Trump brand continues to appeal to many buyers. And most listings at Trump-brand buildings in Manhattan – such as Trump Tower, Trump World Tower and Trump Palace – prominently mention the developer’s name.

“I think it’s a trade-off,” said one broker, arguing that while some buyers are put off by Trump’s politics, others are drawn to it.

Still, some market observers notice growing anxiety among brokers that Trump’s name could do more harm than good.

“There’s a lot of concern,” said one, adding that he regularly gets calls from brokers who are worried that Trump’s rabble-rousing could harm their sales.

While few listings omit Trump’s name altogether, many bury it at the bottom. A Corcoran listing for a $5.4 million apartment at 167 East 61st Street, for example, starts off with “THE EPITOME OF LUXURY & GLAMOUR,” but mentions the building’s official name – Trump Plaza – only at the very end of the text.

All who discussed the potential of the Trump brand to hurt sales in interviews with The Real Deal did so under the condition of anonymity, with some pointing to the developer’s well-known propensity to sue.

The real estate professionals’ comments add to broader concerns that Trump’s controversial policy positions – dismissing Mexican immigrants as rapists, proposing an entry ban for Muslims, endorsing the deliberate killing of civilians, etc. – may have tarnished the developer’s brand when it comes to luxury real estate. A December consumer survey by BAV Consulting, a division of Young & Rubicam, found that Trump’s brand has taken a hit among higher earners since he announced his presidential run.

In one highly publicized example, TV anchor Keith Olbermann listed his Trump Palace pad on the Upper East Side because he said he couldn’t bear to live in a building carrying the candidate’s name.

Brokers interviewed by TRD argued that the Trump campaign’s overall impact on sales at his buildings is unlikely to be dramatic. At any rate, the consensus is that it’s too soon to tell if there will be any impact on sales at all. Olshan Realty’s Donna Olshan said “we’re right now in a period of wait and watch on the optics of his name.”

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