It seemed that in November, after the Big Four in New York commercial and residential real estate—CB Richard Ellis, Cushman & Wakefield, Prudential Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group—cancelled their firm-wide holiday parties, other companies would follow suit. Not so, according to an Observer poll of 10 more of the city’s top brokerages.
Every last one is going ahead with holiday party plans.
"As a management team," said Jane Bayard, an executive vice president at Warburg Realty, "we had a question of whether it was going to be appropriate or inappropriate, but the company chose to represent strength, not weakness."
Ms. Bayard considered the Warburg celebration more of a "gathering" than a party – it will involve 125 brokers and staff members in a party room – and felt that anything more elaborate this year would be in bad taste. "We’re very aware of the economic times," she said, "but this was something that we felt wouldn’t be good for morale to give up; it would be sort of giving in."
Morale-boosting was the most commonly cited reason for fêting an otherwise abysmal season real estate-wise. It seems platefuls of hors d’oeuvres, moderately priced booze in plastic cups, and awkward employee chit-chat is more precious than ever.
"[Sotheby's International Realty] was not planning to host a party this year," wrote a company spokesperson in an e-mail, "and our agents were supportive of that decision, recognizing the importance of corporate fiscal responsibility in the current economic climate." Instead, however, the agents donated their own money and manpower to host a "casual, festive get-together" at Tony’s DiNapoli on the Upper East Side, which is owned by a partner of one of the agents.
The Clarett Group will hold its soirée in the penthouse of their own Sky House condominium, a development that is now, reassuringly, over 90 percent sold. Brown Harris Stevens plans to go ahead as scheduled with a bash at Cipriani on 23rd Street (said a spokesperson for the company: "Brown Harris Stevens believes in celebrating the holidays.”) And the New York office of Williams Real Estate (formerly called GVA Williams) will be throwing its standard celebration this year at Fred’s at Barneys.
"Sure, we’re cognizant of what’s going on in the economy," explained Barbara Nelson, director of marketing and communications at Williams, "but the employees – you know, you don’t want to cut out those types of things, which are beneficial to the employees and to the company."
But others are toning it down this year. Silverstein Properties has scaled back from a sit-down dinner to a cocktail party, cutting its costs by a little less than half. Bellmarc Realty scrapped its company-wide event and will host more "intimate" gatherings for 35 to 50 people at the firm’s five neighborhood offices.
"We’re mindful of the current economics right now," said Jo-Anne Sinnott, Bellmarc’s director of media and marketing, "and it’s really not the time to be splashy."
Stribling & Associates and Halstead Property (and another firm that asked not to be named) are also throwing holiday parties, according to our poll.