NY mostly skips national open house event

From left: Salvatore Crifasi, founder and principal of Crifasi Real Estate, Susan Meliti, manager of Exit Realty Van Zandt, John Reinhardt, president of Brooklyn-based Fillmore Real Estate

Doors swung open across the country this weekend in honor of a coordinated open house event designed to raise awareness about the soon-to-be expiring homebuyer’s tax credit.

But in New York City, it was pretty much business as usual, brokers said, because the event, which was organized through a national trade group, was poorly timed.

In the city, about six weeks typically elapses between when a person checks out a home and signs a contract to buy it, brokers said, unlike in other national markets, where deals happen faster.

And with contracts having to be signed by April 30 to qualify for the credit, staging an event April 10, they said, does not offer enough time to lock in a sale.

“I thought it came way too late in the season,” says John Reinhardt, president of Brooklyn-based Fillmore Real Estate, of the concept, which originated with the Colorado division of the National Association of Realtors, the trade group to which most outer-borough brokers belong.

Instead, Reinhardt created a localized version: On March 20 and 21, 140 Fillmore listings were opened to the public, or about 75 percent more than on a typical weekend, which resulted in 40 percent more visitors. But the firm also enticed buyers by cutting prices at all the properties, with discounts of between $8,000 to $250,000, for co-ops, single-families and multi-family homes.

Though it’s “too early to tell” if that initial look-see resulted in any sales, Reinhardt’s event is being replicated every weekend until April 30.

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Besides timing, the extra costs associated with this past weekend’s event were also a deterrent, said Tracey Broadley, an assistant manager with Robert DeFalco Realty of Duncan Hills in Staten Island.

Indeed, buying advertising space in newspapers to trumpet the open house would have been too pricey, said Broadley, whose 173 brokers are already showing 40 different homes on weekends this time of year.

In some cases, local chapters of the national realtors association were picking up the tab for some marketing items, like balloons for lawn signs, “but we have our own in-house balloons and own helium tank here anyway,” Broadley said. “I guess it’s good for small brokers but not for us.”

The tax credit, which can be up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for current homeowners, may not have a huge influence at the market’s highest end in Manhattan, where the average home price is around $1 million. But it does play a role in selling homes in less expensive markets, like the Bronx, said Susan Meliti, the manager of Exit Realty Van Zandt there.

That being the case, Meliti was upset to learn from a reporter about the open house event, which the Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors never tipped her off about; the event could have been a good way to let her buyers know about the tax break.

“We are definitely pushing [the tax incentive] right now, especially because many of our agents are also tax preparers, and we’re telling out buyers it’s do or die [time], because it won’t be renewed,” Meliti said.

But even if April 10 was too late to have a meaningful effect on tax credit candidates, the open-house event had other perks, said Salvatore Crifasi, the founder and principal of Crifasi Real Estate, which appears to have been one of the few firms in the city to participate in it.

Even if they aren’t converted to sales by April 30, the 10 offers he received on some of the 11 properties he showed this weekend are promising: “We could always cultivate the buyers to buy something else.”

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