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Condo builders butter up brokers

AT FIRST GLANCE, the gloSSV, fllU-

color, fiill-page ads for 45 Park Ave. look like countless others tr\ing to drum up buyer interest in yet another deluxe Manhattan condominium tower. But instead of the usual images of marble-clad bathrooms and sweeping views, ads for 45 Park feature the brokers who are selling those packages.

One ad features the smiling face of Halstead Propert}' broker Julia Jaing and her stor}' of satisfied West Coast clients. "I showed them 45 Park Ave.," says Ms. Jaing in the ad. "From the moment they saw it, they fell in love."

The ads, which appear in real estate trade publications, are designed to lure brokers, not buyers. The building's owner, SJP Residential Properties, makes that point abundantly clear on the on the very next page.There, in enormous black t}'pe, the message reads: "5% commission."

In a residential property market suddenly gone slack, developers can no longer afford to simply sit back and wait for brokers to bring buyers to their door. Instead, developers now routinely woo the selling class

viath everything from prizes, parties and perks to cold cash.

"We're their major source ofbuy-

ers, and they're schmoozing all the way," says Sonia Stock, a Prudential Douglas Elliman broker, who was featured in a similar ad.

SJP Residential has plenty of company. The owner of 123 Baxter St., American Development Group, last year offered a BMW as a sales incentive. Millennium Partners, developer of several luxe properties, is

offering trips to Miami. Meanwhile, 20 Pine St. developer Leviev Boymelgreen has enlisted singer John Legend to perform at parties for brokers.

"These are all way's of saying,'We need you. We want you. We respect your reputation,' " says Louis Phillips Forbes, a Halstead senior vice president.

Aggressive response

WHILE NOT EXACTLY pushing the panic button, developers are responding aggressively to a cooling market as new units pour onto the block. At the end of the third quarter, the number of units listed on the Manhattan market jumped to more than 8,000—up from about 5,000 in the third quarter of 2004. Meanwhile, the average number of days apartments linger on the market climbed to more than 150, compared with about 100 days during the same period in 2005, according to Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers.

Developers say that brokers' importance always rises in a slowing market as walk-in traffic dries up and buyers become choosier and

more aggressive in bargaining. But many of today's crop of developers simply were not around in the last down cycle in the early 1990s. That inexperience is making them more likely to do whatever it takes to grab sales.

Some owners increasingly fmd themselves turning to firms such as Marketing Directors Inc., which specializes in marketing residential development through brokers. Marketing Directors has seen a sharp uptick in its business lately as developers shift their sights upstream and focus more effort on brokers to drive traffic.

"Owners need to keep their face in front of brokers every single day," says Adrienne Albert, the firm's president.

In the contest for brokers' attention, some developers are now playing their trump cards: cash.They are offering 1 percentage point of their commission at contract signing, instead of making brokers wait months for a closing.

Brokers have even noticed a difference in tone. Prudential Douglas Elliman Vice President Victoria Shtainer says that a couple of years ago, brokers sometimes found themselves locked out of hot new developments. No more.

"Now, you can get an appointment right away," she says. "And they're really nice to you."



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