How to conduct a new development “takeover”

From Victoria’s Secret model photoshoots to a smorgasbord, brokers share their the tricks on how to sell the unsellable

Ryan Serhant, Kirk Rundhaug and 550 Vanderbilt
Ryan Serhant, Kirk Rundhaug and 550 Vanderbilt

UPDATED, May 22, 1:20 p.m.: Your new development has been on market for almost two years, and barely half of the stock has sold. Maybe it’s time to bring on a new sales team, or maybe your broker wants out. Regardless, you’re going to need a new approach — one that sells.

So, what strategies do brokers employ when they “take over” a new development?

Recently, Douglas Elliman’s Kirk Rundhaug, discussed the marketing plan he pieced together with his colleagues, Madeline Hult Elghanayan and Jade Chan, to move units at Atlas Capital Group’s 42 Crosby Street.  The trio took over sales at the 10-unit, Annabelle Selldorf-designed building in November from CORE, which had sold four units in two years.

“A lot of people thought it was sold out because it was hush-hush,” Rundhaug said. The building had previously been marketed around its attached parking spaces, a rare find in Soho. “But I don’t think that works these days. [Buyers] want a little more glitz, they want drama going on.”

To draw in prospective buyers, the team hosted a showcase in the building for Hervé Pierre, a designer and dressmaker for Melania Trump.

“It brought a lot of uptown people downtown,” Rundhaug said. “And we ended up selling one of the apartments to one of the women who came.”

The brokers have since held photoshoots for Victoria’s Secret models, and also fitted out the apartments in a way that “staged the Soho world.”

Two apartments were sold within the first two weeks under the new sales team, and two more have been sold since, according to Rundhaug.

Broker takeovers happen for number of reasons. Sales are too slow, the broker burns out or a contract is up. But Andrew Gerringer,  the managing director of new business development at The Marketing Directors, said takeovers tend to pick up when the market is slow.

“I would say it’s happening a large amount,” said Gerringer, whose firm is currently involved in marketing around 20 projects in Manhattan, New Jersey and Boston. “The market is not as strong as it was a couple of years ago. But the spring selling season has picked up a bit from what we’ve seen.”

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While a strong social media presence is key for brokers to effectively market a site, he warned that choosing well-known brokers with large teams aren’t always the best option.

“When brokers take on too many projects, and they’re the strong mechanism for the sale, they start bringing in junior members on their team,” Gerringer said. “You’re not getting that name broker who you think you’re getting.”

However, Ryan Serhant, the Nest Seekers International Realty broker and TV personality on “Million Dollar Listing New York,” has near-unmatched exposure in the city. One developer said Serhant attends weekly meetings and is heavily involved in projects that he and his team are marketing.

His team took on 277 East 7th Street from Compass in 2014. To market the six units, his team drew up cartoons and gave the building a new name: 7 East Village. After a sales launch attended by 600 people — and where a Vespa was given away — the building sold out.

Serhant’s first “broker switch” was soon after he started his real estate career. In 2009, the broker landed 99 John Street, TF Cornerstone’s 442-unit rental-to-condo conversion which had been rebranded as 99 John Deco Lofts.

“It’s always kind of happened,” said Serhant. “I definitely have sometimes become known as ‘the closer’, and am very talented at becoming that.”

Serhant’s team took over Forest City New York and Greenland USA’s 278-unit condo 550 Vanderbilt in July, after the developers’ contract with Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group expired. At the time, the building was 65 percent sold.

The Nest Seekers team organized a community smorgasbord to be held at the property and invited vendors from nearby restaurants along Vanderbilt Avenue. Five units were sold that day, according to Gene DuBrovin, a vice president at Greenland USA.

The building is now 80 percent sold with almost $90 million in sales by Serhant’s team, according to DuBrovin.

“I think there’s a big difference between onsite agents and what I do,” Serhant said. “The residential brokerage model is changing and there’s something to be said for pure hard work and mass exposure.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Ryan Serhant did not rebrand 99 John, but that the development was rebranded and then assigned to him. 

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